When you read about terrorist attacks, large-scale accidents and natural disasters where many people are injured or killed did you ever wonder who’s first on the scene to deal with the injuries, administer first aid, take people to the hospital and do the terrible work of collecting body parts? In Israel where those things happen far too often the answer is ZAKA, Israel’s primary rescue and recovery all volunteer organization. They literally have thousands of volunteers on call 24/7 to respond to any and all such unfortunate circumstances.
They work on land and sea and even internationally in any country that needs their help, even countries that are not particularly friendly to them, through the U.N-recognized ZAKA International Rescue Unit. In 2005 thanks to ZAKA’s assistance at major international terror attacks in Mombasa, Istanbul, and Taba, plus natural disasters like the tsunami in Japan and our own Hurricane Katrina, they were granted this vaunted status.
This recognition enables ZAKA to offer emergency assistance even before the host country asks for help, and even when they have no diplomatic ties with Israel as when ZAKA aided in recovery efforts in Namibia after a plane crash. ZAKA trains emergency response teams in local communities worldwide in order to shorten response time, and is now in New York as well. Volunteers participate in a five day training program that prepares them for things like mass casualty incidents, honoring the dead, working with forensics, and simulation emergency drills.
Internationally known lawyer and lobbyist Brad Gerstman, the co-founder of Gotham Government Relations is the Chairman of the Board in NYC. I asked him what made him want to get involved with the organization and he told me that he was excited to become Board Chair because he’s grateful for his success and always looks for ways to give back in any way he can. He felt that not only could he share his expertise on several ZAKA related matters but he could also gain new skills, and with today’s current state of affairs, and the still-reverberating effects of Sept. 11th, he felt that it would be helpful to have ZAKA bring their expertise to New York.
They are holding their first fundraiser which will be a comedy open-mic show on April 24th at Keats Restaurant on 45th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan from 6:30 -8:30 P.M. Among other performers, Brad will be making his stand-up debut, as will his partner in Gotham GR, David Schwartz , who is also currently representing Pres. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. David said he is “excited to share some laughs with all those who will be in attendance.”
I saw David perform ar Brad’s 50th birthday Roast at The Friars Club, and they are both funny dudes.
I also spoke with Menachem Bar-Shalom, ZAKA”s U.S. Director of Development who visited the Comedy Matters TV office, and told me a great story of synchronicity about how he got involved with ZAKA. A longtime friend asked him to join him in a brainstorming session re: U.S. fundraising, with a man named David Rose, who happens to be ZAKA’s International Director of Development . At the end of the 90 minute meeting David asked Menachem what he was involved with lately and Menachem told him he was looking for a challenging fundraising position, to which David replied, “Good because I’m looking for someone with experience to be our U.S. Director”, and a week later he was hired.
I am honored to say that I am also on the Board of ZAKA, after a beautiful induction ceremony held at the Israeli Consulate with Dani Dayan, Israel’s Consul General in New York, and I will also be MC’ing the event on April 24th, which will feature raffles, prizes, networking, a cool auction, and a general good time. Oh, … and did I mention an open bar to go with the open mic?
The photo was taken at The Israeli Consulate where everyone on the Board wore their ZAKA hats except for me. They granted me special permission to just hold mine in deference to my hair! What a fantastic group!
Info is below on the flier, and this will sell out so please make your arrangements to attend. Tix are very reasonable, and I hope you will join us. It’s a great cause.