The Jewish National Fund Gala was a grand event
Sitting on the stage of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts-facing the pit, orchestra, mezzanine seating areas and the balcony that seemed to rise into the rafters-was a once-in-a-lifetime-event for the 400 attendees (about 100 of whom were college students) of the Jewish National Fund's Gala and Backstage Tour. They had gathered to honor Jim Pugh and Chuck Steinmetz with JNF's Lifetime Achievement awards for their years of support of JNF and the Jewish community.
Not only are both men staunch supporters of Israel through JNF, they both had intricate roles in the building and development of the Dr. Phillips Center. Pugh is the chairman of the Dr. Phillips Center and Steinmetz is on the executive committee.
Event co-chairs Aaron Gorovitz and Mark Israel kept the evening light and lively, opening the program with Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer of Congregation of Reform Judaism singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and Debbie Meitin, JNF Orlando president, leading the attendees in Hatikvah.
The grand finale of the evening was an astounding performance by hometown-boy-now-national-stage-actor Davis Gaines. Many remember him as the Phantom of the Opera. The only thing missing, as Davis said in his opening remarks, was the grand chandelier. Although one audience member whispered to another, "He hasn't been in the ladies' restroom then." She was right. The restroom was opulent with two chandeliers and rose-colored glass raised sink bowls.