In a year celebrating Jewish women around the globe making an impact, former Miss World and Miss Israel Linor Abargil proved to be an especially appropriate choice at the Federation’s annual It Takes A Woman fundraiser at the Skirball last Wednesday, May 20th. The hugely successful luncheon, chaired by Robin Cantz and Toby Koppekin, raised an additional $1/4 million, bringing the total amount raised by the women in attendance to $2 million.
Linor, subject of the Emmy®-nominated documentary Brave Miss World, paced back and forth on stage to lock eyes and connect with as many of the more than 400 women in attendance as possible. In her 40-minute, heart-thumping, breath-taking address, all was silent as she led the multi-generational audience on her journey from darkness to strength and resilience. As illustrated in the film, Linor suffered a brutal rape in Italy just weeks before winning her Miss World title. Since then, she has used her crown and the love and support of her mother and the men in her life to advocate on behalf of victims of sexual violence. She has encouraged women to speak up, seek punishment for perpetrators and resume lives of meaning and perseverance. The response to her appearance was overwhelming.
Just as Linor spoke of strength and empowerment, Valley Alliance Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair Kathy Guccione spoke touchingly of five women featured in a video presentation who are using their strength to lift others around the world. “These women are doing amazing work for their communities because of you. I have personally met three of them, having had the rare privilege of representing our community and delivering your message of support and hope,” Guccione said. “I have been inspired by their resiliency and their resolve as they have helped move people from hardship to lives of purpose because of the work we do together.” Guccione went on to say that because of the generosity of everyone in the room, the Federation was able to establish three resiliency centers in Israel this year in response to last summer’s Hamas terror attacks. “I remembered what Linor said about empowerment when I was in Israel last week to visit our three resiliency centers there,” said Becky Sobelman-Stern, Federation’s Chief Program Officer. “Meeting Israelis who had faced terror and were now able to get on with their lives thanks to our work was a profound experience. It happened because of the generosity of our community.”
Looking chic in a turban and floor length caftan, Linor had come to Los Angeles by way of Cannes, where she promoted the documentary and participated on a panel on the power of women in film. Cecilia Peck, director and producer of the film, which was seen by more than 200 at various Federation screenings, was also in attendance at the luncheon, as were several students from Cal State Northridge. The students received a micro-grant from the Federation to fund a program to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus.
Ellen Silverman, Valley Alliance Women’s Philanthropy Chair said, “The energy in the room was palpable as Linor spoke. She was the perfect representation of the difference each and every woman can make in the world, and I think we all felt that. It was an incredible day filled with friendship and philanthropy and I am so proud to be part of such a warm and generous community.”