The SAFE Foundation’s 12th Annual Gala Dinner began with a beautiful sunset and a deliciously catered meal at the home of Ester and Joey Jerome in Elberon, New Jersey on Tuesday night, August 26th. Guests arrived, one after the other, with a desire to support an organization that has served the community for 12 years. 

First on the agenda was an awards ceremony, and the first award was The Sonny I. Gindi A”H Merit Award for Outstanding Dedication to Helping Those in Need. Each year since the passing of SAFE’s good friend, Sonny I. Gindi, A”H, SAFE has given this honor to one who has gone above and beyond in terms of dedication to the community. This year, it was proudly presented to Trina & Joe Cayre and their family. Presenter of the award, Nancy Tebele, stated that the Cayre family has been there to support the community in a multitude of ways. She said, “The Cayres always goes the extra mile- whether helping us through difficult times, supporting recovery, brainstorming on new business ideas, advising on how to mentor our children – The Cayres have been a constant source of support.”

The next award was the Employee Appreciation Award presented by the Executive Director of The SAFE Foundation Ike Dweck to the Director of the Project SAFE School Program Shira Berkowitz. Ike said, “Before Shira started, our community had very little substance abuse education in our schools and just a small amount of prevention programs for our children in Brooklyn and Deal. We had a vision to bring SAFE into our community schools, and what we have accomplished with Project SAFE is a direct result of Shira’s outstanding work. Currently, we reach 6,000 students each week.”

Shira humbly accepted the award and explained a bit about Project SAFE. She told the audience how the school program teaches life and prevention skills to thousands of community students in the Tri-state area, as well as in South America. She also shared the good news about the program being sought after by other yeshivot in America. She said, “Schools all over the country are hearing about the prevention program in the Sephardic community. Just this week I received calls from schools in Florida and Atlanta. My goal is for the program to be in every community school and every Jewish school in America.”

A very touching moment was when Shira expressed her gratitude to Ike Dweck and the team at SAFE for being incredibly supportive when she lost her first husband to cancer. She said, “SAFE stood by me and helped me through that very difficult time.”

The ceremony closed with the NY ‎Regional Vice President of Caron Treatment Centers, Todd Whitmer addressing the crowd. Caron is the one of the oldest and largest drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers in the United States. Todd said, “Caron doesn’t have too many partnerships like the one we built with SAFE. I can confidently say that there’s not another organization like SAFE. Professionals in the field of addiction consider SAFE to be like a Swiss Army knife – a multi-purpose one-stop shop for everything to do with addiction and its prevention.” Todd also told of how SAFE trained staff at Caron to be sensitive to the needs of Jewish Orthodox clients, from understanding kashrut to the laws of Shabbat.

The SAFE Foundation is grateful to the hosts of the evening, Ester and Joey Jerome, to The Bank Hapoalim for sponsoring the evening, and to all of the donors who help keep SAFE in the position to help those in need.