The America-Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF) may not be the biggest or best-known Jewish philanthropy in the United States, but on the Israeli creative arts scene it is one of the most influential players.
Some 250 local AICF supporters gathered last week at the Bel Air home of Art and Dahlia Bilger to listen to two superb musicians and to celebrate the organization’s comeback from a near-death experience.
Owing to Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme, AICF’s $14 million endowment was wiped out, but thanks to the organization’s loyal supporters, among them many of Israel’s top artists, AICF has survived and is hoping to make a full recovery.
Such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Miriam Fried, Yefim Bronfman and Daniel Barenboim got their starts through AICF scholarships early in their careers.
Another alumnus, the superb violinist Gil Shaham — in town to perform with the L.A. Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel — was the big name attraction at the Bel Air gathering, and his renditions of Bach’s Italian dances awed the audience.
But the show was nearly stolen by Maya Tamir, a 9-year-old, pony-tailed piano prodigy and the youngest recipient ever of an AICF scholarship. Her legs barely reached the pedals, but she blew the audience away with selections from Haydn and Chopin.
When the applause died down, Shaham instructed his young colleague in how to take a proper thank-you bow.
The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles did yeoman work in organizing the event, with kudos particularly to cultural affairs officer Lior Sasson.
Consul General Jacob Dayan opened the proceedings and credited a Journal editorial on AICF’s role in Israeli life for the original impetus in organizing the event.
AICF Executive Director Orit Naor flew in from Israel and foundation President William Schwartz came from New York to laud the organization’s work in launching the careers of Israeli artists in music, dance, theater, cinema, design and painting.
For additional information on AICF, still in need of contributions and now celebrating its 70th anniversary, visit aicf.org. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor