Galas are essentially the same, and United Hatzalah’s First Annual Event is no exception. From the moment one rounds the circular driveway of the Beverly Hilton and steps onto the cobblestone, there is a feeling of glint and grandeur. Once inside, the expected hobnobbing and glad-handing of the well-shod is in full flaunt. Yet behind the spectacle lied much substance for a most worthy charity and the many lives it saves on a daily basis. If pomp be a necessary part of the fundraising process, then it was all the more uplifting to hear firsthand of the inspiring devotion of so many members to their mission. United Hatzalah is America’s largest volunteer ambulance corps comprised of a virtual army of civilian volunteers. They regularly and routinely achieve unimaginable emergency response times, often in dense or remote regions. With a presence in fourteen countries and ten states, United Hatzalah has well deserved their Hebrew translation of ”rescue”.
Hatzalah is well run and represented by Eli Beer, who turned boyhood trauma in Israel into his life’s work to formalize perhaps the most innovative ambulance corps in the world. Mr. Beer’s welcoming charm and ease were reassuring, given the nature of his work. Be it his innovative use of equipment with names like the Amubutractor and the Ambucycle, or his inclusive leadership (he added “United” to the name in acknowledgement of the multi-ethnic and religious contributors), one immediately got the impression that a true humanitarian was at the helm.
Additionally, he was in good company at this gala, because none other than Jay Leno was the Guest of Honor and recipient of their Humanitarian Award for his crucial and continuous support. It may have been five years since his final exit from The Tonight Show, but Mr. Leno was clearly in top form during his acceptance speech. He both entertained and enthralled the packed ballroom with equal parts grace, humor and humanity. From his grand entrance on stage driving an Ambucycle to his re-emergence in order to make a pledge, Jay Leno was the epitome of class and craftsmanship. Finally, to add another scoop of celebrity sparkle to the celebration, actor Jon Voight and former NBA player Matt Barnes made appearances to show their support.
To conclude, the evening garnered some $5,000,000 for United Hatzalah’s worthy cause. The mere fact that Mr. Beer’s little army of volunteers regularly out performs the paid professionals in so many parts of the world is truly telling. For more information on this notable non-profit, please visit their website at: https://israelrescue.org.