America-Israel Cultural Foundation Gala Concert

The America-Israel Cultural Foundation, Israel's principal private funder of the arts dedicated to supporting and developing artistic life in Israel, will celebrate Israel's 60th birthday at its own 69th anniversary Gala on December 7, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall. Gala Honorees include: Lorin Maazel, music director of the New York Philharmonic; and Leon Fleisher, renowned conductor, pianist and teacher.

A special presentation of awards will be given by Emanuel Ax and Jonathan Biss, with a performance by Mr. Ax. Also performing will be two young virtuosos who are AICF scholarship recipients: Semion Gavrikov, top-prize winner of the Claremont and Aviv Competitions, on violin; and Roman Rabonivich, top-prize winner of the Arthur Rubinstein and Aviv Competitions, on piano. The Gala's second half will feature the All-Star Israeli Jazz Band, with Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Omer Klein, piano; Anat Cohen and Uri Gurvich, saxophones; Yaala Ballin, voice; Rafi Malkiel, trombone; Itai Kriss, flute; Gilad Hekselman, guitar; Tal Ronen, bass; and Dan Aran, drums. All members of the Jazz Band are AICF scholarship recipients.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the irreplaceable and indispensable work of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, " stated Leon Fleisher.

The Gala will celebrate both Israel's 60th, and the achievements of the honorees and thousands of young Israeli artists who were supported by AICF scholarships and other funding. In the past five years alone, the AICF has awarded more than $6.5 million in scholarships. The AICF has awarded more than $100 million to Israeli culture since the organization was founded in 1939.

"Perception of Israel is essential to her survival, and her arts and culture play a significant role in sharing who she is with other people and nations, " explained David Homan, executive director of the AICF since 2006.

"The AICF, which is older than the state of Israel, has guarded and nurtured Israel's cultural development through the toughest of times, " continued Homan. "Art enables and even softens the dialogue among Israel, her neighbors and the world. We are dedicated to increasing awareness of Israel's cultural soul." Homan gave an example of just how profound the arts have become in Israeli culture, citing the unique circumstance in which musicians, during the war with Hezbollah, traveled north to perform in bomb shelters.

The AICF has awarded more than 11, 000 scholarships to artists, including: Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Daniel Barenboim, Gil and Orli Shaham, Yefim Bronfman, Joseph Kalichstein, Ohad Naharin, Michal Rovner, Menashe Kadishman and Nir Bergman. Other than the Jewish Agency, the AICF is the principal private funder of the arts in Israel and has been the nation's primary supporter of art/design, music, dance, film/TV and theatre for 69 years. Founded on December 20, 1939, the AICF was led by the late virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern from 1964-2002.

Changing the World One Artist at a Time - Today, the AICF is stronger than ever and believes that investing in young artists will deliver more stars like Itzhak Perlman in the future. Violinist Semion Gavrikov, performing Brahms and Bartok at the Gala, is one of the countless examples of how the arts can change the lives of young Israelis. Two weeks after Gavrikov immigrated to Israel in 1998, he experienced a family tragedy. With no support or money, Gavrikov, his mother and his brother began a new life in Israel. The first year he auditioned for scholarships led him to study with the best teachers in Israel. After almost a decade of support, he is now a star student at the New England Conservatory thanks to the AICF.

"My goal is to find every artist who can truly help bring the live arts back into the forefront of culture, " said Homan, 29. Born in Gainesville, Florida, Homan is the youngest executive director to ever serve the AICF. A professional composer and pianist who received an MA in music composition at NYU, Homan began playing the piano when he was old enough to sit and touch the keys. He also writes musicals, directs plays and acts. For the last three years, Homan has traveled around the U.S. speaking on behalf of Israeli culture and seeking to increase awareness and fundraising for the AICF. "A society rich in culture is the foundation for a nation's spirit, growth and development, " said Homan. "Thanks to the AICF, Israel is a cultural mecca that is positively influencing other nations. Without organizations like the AICF, young Israeli artists wouldn't have the support to achieve their dreams, and thus, improving the quality of life for themselves and for their nation."

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