'Never give up hope'

Hundreds attend NYC gala for Jerusalem disability nonprofit Shalva

Son of organization employee who was held hostage in Gaza for 54 days addresses gathering, says ‘never give up hope’

Hundreds of supporters attended a gala dinner in New York City last week for Shalva, a Jerusalem nonprofit center that supports people with disabilities and their families, hearing the testimony of a released Israeli hostage whose father serves as the manager of the organization’s sports center.

“[Hamas] told us that they don’t want us in Israel, that the families don’t want us, and that we won’t be back even in another year,” said Ofir Engel, 18, who was taken captive on Oct. 7 while visiting his girlfriend, Yuval Sharabi, who survived the attacks.

The “Color Our World with Hope” 34th anniversary dinner of Shalva was held at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall last Tuesday night.

Speaking to the crowd of roughly 500 people, Engel, who lives in the Kibbutz Ramat Rachel near Jerusalem, described his capture by Hamas terrorists and his time in captivity, including the death of his girlfriend’s father, Yossi Sharabi, who was killed inadvertently in an Israeli airstrike on a building next to the one where he was being held. 

“We need to believe that anything is possible, and to never give up hope for a bright future,” Engel said.

Standing next to him, Engel’s father, Yoav, thanked the organization for its support during his son’s 54 days of captivity.

“Without the wonderful people of Shalva who stood by me the whole time my son was in Gaza, I wouldn’t have made it,” Yoav Engel said.

Shalva’s CEO, Yochanan Samuels, presented the Engel family with the organization’s 

“Spirit of Hope Award.”

At the gala, the nonprofit also named longtime donors Debbie and Steven Shapiro as guests of honor and gave the “Pillars of Hope” award to Marion and Stanley Bergman. Shalva also named Eshter and Nelson Goodman and their son, Rafi, and his wife, Alison, “L’Dor V’Dor” honorees for the two generations’ support for the organization over the past 10 years.

Kalman and Malki Samuels founded Shalva in 1990 as a way to provide support to their own son, Yossi, who became disabled as a child. After operating in a small facility for years, in September 2016, the organization entered its current 220,000-square-foot headquarters in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood, near the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Following the Oct. 7 terror attacks, Shalva continued its usual work with hundreds of children and adults with disabilities from the Jerusalem area and also began offering its services to displaced people with disabilities and their families, as well as allowing a boarding school for at-risk youth to operate on its campus.