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Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most well-known architects, was honored by the American Friends of the World’s Jewish Museum at the inaugural gala Thursday night at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.
In addition to designing some of the most iconic buildings in the world, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, Gehry will serve as the designer for the World’s Jewish Museum that is being built in Tel Aviv, Israel.
While accepting his lifetime achievement award, Gehry spoke to how his Jewish identity contributed to his wanting to create and design great buildings.
“When I was a kid my grandfather read Talmud to me and that stuck with me because it started with the word why…the curiosity that we’ve been raised with, all of us from childhood is what makes us produce,” he said from the podium. “I think that to make things you have to be curious and wonder why and explore and be willing to take chances and risks, but it is from that basic curiosity that is so eloquently written about in the Talmud.”
The evening began with cocktails and tray-passed appetizers that included salmon cucumber cups and chicken empanadas. A large-scale model of the museum was also available for guests to appreciate the grandeur of the forthcoming building.
Howie Mandel served as the evening’s MC. He was “interrupted” in his opening set by a lost rabbi who introduced a group of black-robed dancers who performed with empty wine bottles balanced on the tops of their heads.
Mandel told THR why participating in this event was so meaningful to him:
“It’s an amazing cause. When people think of Judaism, particularly for museums, the first thing that comes to mind is the Holocaust, so to be involved with something that is going to be beyond that and a positive lilt on what Jewish society and culture adds to the world is a wonderful thing and to be involved in a small way with something that has to do with Frank Gehry, he’s an icon. You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate what he does.”
A violinist serenaded guests during the three-course dinner, and before performing the blessing of the bread, Rabbi David Wolpe spoke to guests about the larger purpose of what he hoped the museum would accomplish.
“What we’re going to be asking you to support tonight is a historic endeavor,” he said. “To show the accomplishments of the Jewish people throughout the generations to the Jewish people and to non-Jewish people who are around today to help restore the reputation not of what we have suffered, but of what we have done.”
Following dinner, Mandel entertained with a hilarious stand-up set and he skillfully dealt with a heckler who tried to insert himself into the show.
The evening’s other honorees were David and Sheryl Wiener who were recognized for their leadership in the fulfillment of the vision of the World’s Jewish Museum. David is a Holocaust survivor and he held the audience rapt with his tale of escaping the Nazis when he was just a boy.
All told, the evening raised $6.7 million to support the museum, including one jaw-dropping donation by Los Angeles philanthropist Stanley Black for $5 million, so that he could name a room after his deceased wife, Joyce Gottlieb Black.
The World’s Jewish Museum is scheduled to be completed by May 2023 and is intended to recognize the accomplishments of Jews from all walks of life, including science, entertainment, art and medicine.
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