One sensed from the outset that The Bash, a UJA-Federation of New York celebration of its centennial year, was going to be different than the charity’s usual evening fare of dinner and speeches.
The setting for the April 6 event was a hip, downtown warehouse, and at the urging of his staff, the chief executive, Eric Goldstein, was uncharacteristically greeting guests sans necktie as music blared from loudspeakers.
The scene was a vast, darkened space with several striking artistic installations that dazzled the crowd and had an experiential, interactive message — namely, bringing the many facets of UJA’s work to life in creative ways.
For example, a towering pyramid made from boxes of matzah was meant to suggest how the charity brings sustenance to Jews in need; one wall featured a large sign spelling RELIEF made from 3,000 cans of food; a giant birthday cake composed of pencils, crayons and containers of Elmer’s glue represented the educational work done for children; and a see-through sukkah decorated with flowers symbolized the charity’s goal of being a welcoming shelter.
All the components on display, from the matzah to the flowers, were later distributed to charity.
The event, more than a year in the planning, was produced by David Stark Design and Production, and catered by Peter Callahan/PCK Catering.
Perhaps most notably, the majority of the 1,300 attendees were in their 20s or early 30s — a visible sign of the success of UJA’s intensive efforts to reach and engage young professionals.
An evening of entertainment at Lincoln Center inaugurated UJA’s centennial year in January and was geared to honor and entertain its biggest givers, those who donate $25,000 or more.
“For The Bash we were seeking to hold a fun, celebratory evening that would bring together both our current and future leadership,” inspiring each group to recognize the accomplishments of the other, explained Mark Medin, a senior vice president of UJA. “We wanted to reflect the multigenerational element of UJA, with so many of our young leaders coming from families long committed to our work.”
He noted that millennials in the ELP (Emerging Leaders and Philanthropists) group, overseen by Generosity, a young leadership division, were deeply involved in planning and recruiting for The Bash, which featured a number of dinner buffet tables and culminated with performances by Gavin DeGraw, Valerie Simpson and DJ Abe Lichy.
About 15 of UJA’s professional staff, the single largest component, is focused on engaging young people, Medin said.
It paid off at The Bash.