The Jewish community in New York City celebrated the Nov. 16 grand opening of Malka NYC, a kosher culinary destination founded by the celebrated Chef Eyal Shani, whose restaurant Shmoné was recently awarded a Michelin star. The event transcended gastronomy to support the humanitarian mission of La’Aretz.
While guests indulged in Israeli cuisine and wine selections, the evening’s deeper purpose was to support the families in Israel impacted by the unfolding war in Israel. La’Aretz, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing aid to Israelis and Jewish communities globally, was at the forefront of this event.
Following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel, La’Aretz redirected its efforts towards Israel’s defense and the immediate needs of affected families. The organization is offering $2,500 to each family impacted by the attacks, a direct aid initiative funded by the collective generosity of donors who have provided $1 million in contributions.
“The horrors of Oct. 7 resulted in the tragic loss of entire families, along with the complete destruction of their homes and belongings. These families, now grappling with the stark realities of displacement, urgently require our solidarity and support,” said Shelly Harel Pitman, founder of La’Aretz. “The grand opening of Malka NYC is more than a celebration of Israeli cuisine; it is an affirmation of our unwavering commitment to be our brother’s keeper, to uphold the value of tikkun olam as we assist families to rise from the ashes of the attacks.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan also attended the event.
The keynote speaker was Ofri Haggai, whose uncle and aunt, American citizens Gadi and Judith Haggai were living in Israel in Kibbutz Nir Oz. The couple has been missing since the Hamas attacks.
“No one knows what happened to them, and I am in the U.S. hoping to raise awareness and ask for help and support in bringing them back home,” says Haggai. “The last we heard from Gadi and Judith was that they were on their daily walk when they were ambushed by armed terrorists on a motorcycle. They were shot and badly wounded. My aunt was able to call the kibbutz’s paramedic to ask for help, which sadly never came. The paramedic lost contact with them, and this was the last time anyone heard from them.”
The benefit event also featured Omer Kaplan’s “Otef Gaza” art exhibition, showcasing works that document demonstrations in New York City, and connect deeply personal stories of trauma and war to the broader historical context.