Young Israel of Jamaica Estates celebrated some of America's top Jewish activists during its 34th Annual Gala on Sunday night. The gala, which was held at the Sephardic Temple of Cedarhurst, was a veritable who's who of Jewish leaders from near and far. Among the former were New York State Assembly Members Dov Hikind and David Weprin.
Coming from a little further afield were senior Likud official Gershom Stav, an advisor to several of Israel's prime ministers, as well as Israeli millionaire philanthropist Sam Domb.
Honored at Sunday's event were Dr.Joseph and Karen Frager and Michael and Robin Appel. Both couples are active in the Young Israel community. The Fragers are known for their political activism and outspoken support of the State of Israel, whereas the Appels are more active in local Jewish causes, youth education in particular.
Prior to the evening's presentation, Dr. Frager spoke of Sam Domb as “the one who started me on my path to activism for Israel and America.” Domb, a Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, came to the United States, where he started out as a dishwasher and eventually rose to prominence as a hotel developer. Mr. Domb is a major contributor to several Jewish causes.
An English translation of Domb's autobiography, entitled “He Hath Not Let Me Die” was recently released.
Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, spiritual leader of Young Israel Jamaica Estates for the last 23 years, praised both the Fragers and Appels as “fully engaged and energized in every facet of their lives, as Religious Zionists, Modern Orthodox Torah Jews.”
He commented on Michael Appel's tireless devotion to the community, including his pivotal assistance in planning the expansion of the synagogue, as well as running the youth minyan. Robin, he noted, is an active member of the YIJE sisterhood, organizing numerous fundraising activities and serving on the shalach manot committee.
In addition to the above activities, the Appels have earned the esteem of their peers by their endless dedication to community education programs.
The Fragers were praised for their Israel advocacy. Dr. Ron Kahn, President of Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and a practicing pediatrician, recounted that when he first met Frager, a gastroenterologist, he thought the two of them would be able to discuss medicine. He drew an outburst of laughter from the audience when he recalled how a mutual friend warned him that, for Frager, “gastroenterology was really a sideline,” and that Israel was the doctor's real passion.
Kahn went on to laud the Fragers' multifaceted efforts on behalf of Israel. He noted in particular the Fragers' impressive ability to persuade high-level dignitaries, including chief rabbis and prominent Israeli and American politicians, to visit the community, acknowledging Sam Domb as the latest example.
Dr. Paul Brody, who works closely with the Fragers on numerous causes, such organizing the popular Israel Day Concert in Central Park every year, noted that Dr. Frager is a “very creative mind when it comes to doing things for the Land of Israel and people of Israel,” and that his wife Karen, “though she prefers to stay out of the limelight, is nonetheless a driving force behind their work.”
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and his wife Shoshana also had a great deal to say about the Fragers. “Joe Frager is a hero to me,” said the Assemblyman. He added that he didn't know when Frager finds the time for his medical practice, “because he is so busy being involved in so many causes, and making a difference.”
“He should be an example to all of us that you can do whatever you do in life – be a doctor, a lawyer, or whatever else, and you can still do remarkable things for the Jewish people.”
Frager then spoke, offering the audience a glimpse of his view of Israel-Diaspora relations. “Our work in America is never done. We are vital to the security and survival of the State of Israel,” he declared, looking to Likud representative Gershom Stav for confirmation.
Frager lamented how, in his view, the role of American Jewry in ensuring Israel's welfare has, since the administrations of Prime Ministers Begin and Shamir, been largely downplayed, if not completely forgotten. “Our work is never done, fighting the BDS [the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions] movement,” said Frager. “It's our job to fight them, and don't worry, we'll fight them – we'll beat them, too.”
Despite a laundry list of woes facing pro-Israel advocates, Dr. Frager inspired his audience, drawing on the great past accomplishments of the American Jewish community. “Remember, it was American Jewry that saved Russian Jewry; Bukharian Jewry too.”
“I look forward to continued success,” he said.