Federation’s annual Champagne Brunch to honor Israel at 70 with a nod to Herzl and Meir
BY ERIN COHEN
Women’s Division Director
The Jewish Federation of Jacksonville continues the recognition and festivities in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday year with its annual Women’s Division Champagne Brunch on Sunday, Jan. 7, at 10 a.m., inside Maggiano’s at the St. Johns Town Center. The community will host two very significant and inspirational figures in Israel’s history, Theodore Herzl and Golda Meir. The authentic portrayal of these remarkable individuals will be played by Michael Lifshitz and Gail Byer, who will take us through significant speeches and moments in Israel’s history as we learn more about Herzl and Meir and how they left their permanent mark in Israel’s creation and development.
Theodore Herzl was born May 2, 1860, in Budapest, Hungary and died on July 3, 1904. He is considered the founder of the political form of Zionism, a movement to establish a Jewish homeland. His pamphlet, ‘The Jewish State’ (1896), is considered one of the most important texts of early Zionism, in which Herzl envisioned the founding of an independent Jewish state in the 20th century. He organized a world congress of Zionists that met in Basel, Switzerland, in Aug. 1897 and became first president of the World Zionist Organization established by the congress. Although Herzl died more than 40 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, he was a tireless organizer, propagandist, and diplomat who had much to do with making Zionism into a political movement of worldwide significance.
Golda Meir was best known as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel and the first woman to hold the title. Meir was an Israeli politician born on May 3, 1898, in Kiev, Russia. She and her family immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisc. where she became an active Zionist. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Meir worked for the Israeli government in various roles including as Minister of Labor and Foreign Minister. In 1969, party factions appointed her as the country’s fourth Prime Minister, thereby also becoming the world’s third woman with that title. She died in Jerusalem on Dec. 8, 1978.
The brunch and program is $36 to attend and in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday, a minimum pledge of $70 to the Annual Campaign is required to attend. This annual fundraising event is chaired by Michelle Pargman and Lauren Rickoff. The committee includes: Arlene Adelson, Ellen Balotin, Sue Elinoff, Karen Gare, Faye Hedrick, Risa Herman, Claudia Margolies, Marcy Rudowitz, Rebekah Selevan, Lauren Setzer, Haley Trager and Talie Zaifert.
Kindly RSVP for the Champagne Brunch by Dec. 29 by calling (904) 448-5000, ext. 1201 or go to jewishjacksonville.org/cb2018. Kosher meals are available upon request. For more information about the event or to make your annual campaign contribution, contact Erin Cohen at (904) 448-5000, ext. 1205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Actors
Michael Lifshitz is an actor, director, choreographer, producer, and believe it or not, accountant. Coming from a Federation family, and as a former member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, he recognizes the importance of Jewish continuity and how our past defines our future. He has been portraying Theodore Herzl throughout the country, both solo and in tandem, with Gail Byer, who portrays Golda Meir. From Carbondale, Ill. to Lake George, N.Y., he has thrilled in the opportunity to present and educate people about the life of the ‘father’ of the Zionist movement. "Many people know of Herzl only as half a quote... I love giving the story behind the man,” Lifshitz explains. “He's a fascinating individual who never stopped working for what he believed in."
Byer is known by audiences all over the world. Her portrayals of wonderful women include both Golde and Yente in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Anna in ‘The King and I’, and Nellie in ‘South Pacific’. But the most meaningful role she has been privileged to portray, is that of Golda Meir. “It is an honor and a mitzvah to speak the words and impart the philosophies of one of the most admired Jewish leaders of all time,” Byer said. “It is vitally important to keep alive the legacy of Golda Meir for all future generations.”