August 16, 2006

"Art for Israel" To Benefit The Wounded

"If not now, then when?" asked Meredith Berkman and Sarah Sternklar, the women responsible for organizing and conceiving "Art for Israel," an emergency fundraising event that will be held at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons on August 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Berkman and Sternklar's mutual vision began humbly, and according to Sternkar, "quickly mushroomed into something much larger."

Originally, the women hoped to orchestrate a day in which children could create friendship flags for Israeli children staying in bomb shelters in Haifa. Now, the local Jewish community is involved, and what Berkman has dubbed a "grassroots movement" to raise support for Israel has taken hold. "People were so happy to volunteer. It was as if we were doing them a favor," Sternklar said. "People have been wildly generous with their time and donations. It's very heartening," Berkman added.

The women have certainly created a forum for people to lend a hand. Among those who figure prominently in the effort are Benay Lipstein, a teacher at the art farm, who will oversee the children's flag-making and an anonymous donor, who will match the amount of money the benefit raises. Professional soccer coaches from Long Island and Manhattan will donate time and shoot goals with children after the arts and crafts activities. One hundred percent of the fundraiser's proceeds will be given to the Code Red Crisis Relief Campaign sponsored by the American Friends of Magen David Adom and Israeli's First Aid & Disaster Relief Organization.

"Art for Israel" is not only for children, but for adults, too. A silent auction of fine art and luxury goods, featuring works by James Rosenquist, Jan Groover, Audrey Flack, Steven Klein and Jacob El – Hananni, along with front-row Knicks tickets, and a weekend at the SoHo Grand Hotel, will round out the day. Additionally, there will be a sale of Israeli jewelry made by artisans from northern Israel, which has been hit hardest during the recent conflict with Hezbollah, as well as bagels from Goldberg's Deli, and live Israeli music.

Although the revenue generated from the silent auction will be of profound significance, Berkman emphasized the children's role in the event. "This is a way for them to reach out to their counterparts in Israel. That's worth more than a Rosenquist." Sternkar echoed the sentiment, "It is a way of making them feel connected." The response and support of the local Jewish community has been strong. "We were just an army of moms with cell phones, committed to Israel," Berkman mused. Sternkar estimated that 50 people are currently involved. "And that's a conservative estimate. We started off as 2," she said.

It is a testament to the community's dedication that this event was planned in a mere two weeks, not months in advance like most big ticket events on the East End. A contribution of $180 is suggested per family, but anyone who wishes to attend may give as they can to show support for Israel. The contribution is tax deductible. For more information, contact:artforisrael@gmail.com.

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