It was our honour once again to photograph the incredible Chabad UK Dinner, this year held at the Lancaster London Hotel. Enigmatically chaired by Lana Saffrin Betesh, this event was another incredible success.
An evening involving divine inspiration, high-energy entertainment, fine-food, and of course a little education pretty much encapsulates what Chabad do – they reach every Jew with love and their work shines bright as a beacon of positivity.
The dinner was enjoyed by 550 people, all in aid of such a fantastic cause. It is easy to forget, whilst in a plush central London venue, that Chabad is a vital ‘Jewish lifeline’ to many smaller communities around the UK, where Shluchim (Emissaries) and their families relocate (away from their own families and own communities), purely to maintain the connections between those Jews and their Judaism. They strengthen communities, provide families with links to their heritage and ensure that Jewish children living outside of large Jewish communities can also grow up with intensely positive Jewish experiences. We’ve seen it, it is astounding.
Back to the dinner, the Loyal Toasts to Her Majesty the Queen and the State of Israel were made by Amelia Becker and Dovi Krok respectively, this is such a sign of tradition and gratitude that proudly graces every communal Jewish event.
Instead of one keynote speech, there were 7 incredible ‘pop-up’ speeches, the ages of the speakers ranging between 11 and 94, followed by an appeal. Each speaker told their personal story, and explained how the magnificent work that Chabad UK carry out had deeply affected their lives. They included Jodeci Joseph, who didn’t know he was Jewish until he was ten years of age and has since found the wonderfully supportive and inspirational Chabad to help him navigate his own path. Also speaking was Gabriel Gendler, President of the Jewish Society at Cambridge University, who in an increasingly challenging climate for Jewish students on UK campuses, spoke about how vital Chabad were to Cambridge students. West Hampstead resident Aubrey Nelson summed up the zest for life that Chabad bring to everything they do when he joyfully told guests “It took me 90 years to discover Chabad. Now I’m 94 but I feel 24. Chabad has given me a new lease of life!”
Bentzi Sudak, CEO of Chabad UK, gave an insight about how this remarkable organisation is planning for the future, disclosing to guests that “we plan to hire a new, talented and ambitious CFO who will enable us to take the organisation to the next level, as well as putting us in a position to establish an endowment fund that will ensure that Chabad will be there for your children and grand-children and great-grand children.”
Entertainment was provided by Ari Lesser, a man whose own story is as fascinating as his music. He attended the University of Oregon, where, despite being “fairly liberal” and minimally observant, he found himself shocked by the intense anti-Israel sentiments on campus, particularly in a class called “Israel-Palestine”. Lesser stayed with the class, even after several Jewish friends dropped out, saying he “had to stay in it just to be a voice of reason”. After graduation in 2008, Lesser worked as a musician in LA, where he became known in the “hippie jam band” scene.
While working on his first album there, his financer, a Rastafarian selling medicinal marijuana, gave him a copy of Psalms. Lesser found that he related to King David as a songwriter and started rhyming the psalms; this ultimately led him to a deeper interest in Torah and his Jewish roots. He visited Israel on a Birthright trip that he ended up extending to ten months, during which he studied at Yeshiva Temimei Darech in Tsfat and Mayanot in Jerusalem.
It was a pleasure for us as always to work alongside the professional team at Uptown Events, who planned and executed the evening perfectly. To find out more about the unique approach in which Chabad UK, under the immense leadership of CEO Bentzi Sudak, carry out their vital work, please visit www.chabad.org.uk