The American Friends of the Rabin Medical Center (AFRMC) held its annual Luncheon on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan. This year’s event was transformed into a Broadway Luncheon to benefit Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) research at the Israel’s Rabin Medical Center’s Davidoff Cancer Center, and included a matinee performance of the new epic Broadway musical, Doctor Zhivago. The event, attended by seventy distinguished guests honored Phyllis Arnold and Dawn Effron for their years of leadership with the Luncheon and as members of the Board of Directors.
Anita Waxman and Lucy Simon, the producer and composer of Doctor Zhivago spoke about the new Broadway production, which opened last week. Anita became interested in Russian history and the story of Doctor Zhivago after she adopted a young boy from Russia. She called the Broadway show “beautiful, important, and still relevant.” Lucy Simon, whose daughter-in-law studied at the Sackler School of Medicine, an affiliate of Israel’s Rabin Medical Center, said that she was impassioned to compose Doctor Zhivago because she wanted to bring “Russian flavor to Broadway.” She described the theme of the show as “art and love surviving the chaos and destruction of war.”
Dr. Felix Benninger, a neurologist from Rabin Medical Center who made aliyah from Germany in 2006, spoke about the high quality Acute Myeloid Leukemia clinical medicine and research projects at the Davidoff Cancer Center. “Today we can only cure AML by bone marrow transplants. These are life-saving procedures needing an incredible amount of coordination and expertise that we provide at Rabin Medical Center.” He ended his speech by saying “Rabin Medical Center has become my home and you in the United States and the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center are my new family.”
This year’s Luncheon paid tribute to beloved AFRMC member Wendy Siegel who has AML. To help save the lives of AML patients, the AFRMC Luncheon concluded with a speech from Nicholas Hudson, a representative from the Gift of Life Donor Program. Nicholas donated bone marrow to a four year old boy with AML who is still living because of this gift. Nicholas explained, “The only chance of living is finding a ‘miracle match,’ and 75% of the time, it is a complete stranger.” He encouraged the guests to participate in the bone marrow drive present at the Luncheon and to get tested and registered because matches are based on genetic and ethnic background, yet there are too few Jews on the bone marrow database.
After the Luncheon guests enjoyed the performance of Doctor Zhivago at the Broadway Theatre. The show concluded with a rousing standing ovation by the audience, and then AFRMC donors enjoyed a private talk-back with members of the cast about the creation and performance of the musical. Overall, the event was extremely successful in funding AML research at the Rabin Medical Center.
As hundreds of white and blue balloons were released into the sky, the first cancer patients walked through the doors of the Davidoff Center on that beautiful Sunday of May 8, 2005.