Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Israel Exchange (OKIE) held its annual gala at the Civic Center in mid-November, drawing several hundred supporters to prelude, fine evening meal and a series of award presentations. After the awards program, gala participants attended the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s classics concert, which featured members of the Israeli Philharmonic as guest performers.
The evening was topped off with a champagne and chocolate reception hosted by Lance and Cindy Ruffel to honor Shirley Shanker, recipient of the President’s Highest Honor for her decades of community involvement in a wide range of worthy causes.
Shirley’s husband Ben introduced his sweetheart of 67 years before the packed room of admirers. He introduced their children and many other family members who had traveled from across the United States and, in the case of one daughter, flown in from her home in Israel to honor the beloved matriarch of the extended Shanker family.
Among the political leaders attending the OKIE event were state Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, as well as Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony and Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan.
Also present to honor Mrs. Shanker and support OKIE were Governor Mary Fallin and her husband, Wade Christensen, former Gov. Brad Henry and his wife Kim, former Gov. Frank Keating and his wife Cathy, and former Gov. David Walters and his wife Rhonda.
The four chief executives and their spouses each supported close relations between the states of Israel and Oklahoma. OKIE was formed during Gov. Walters’ time in office, then garnered tax-exempt status during Keatwing’s governorship. Both and Henry and Fallin have maintained strong Israel-Oklahoma ties.
OKIE’s formally stated purpose is “to foster enhanced cooperation between the state of Israel and the state of Oklahoma in commerce, agriculture, culture and education.
Also in the crowd was Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry, a recipient of honors from OKIE for his advocacy of good Oklahoma-Israel ties.
Past OKIE honorees, including philanthropist Melvin Moran, came to the fete for Mrs. Shanker. Former state Rep. Joe Dorman, now running the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was there, along with another former Solon – Mark Liotta, who now is chairman of the Workers Compensation Commission.
During the event, attendees learned that OKIE Executive Director Susan Robertson had – in their words of her close friend, Edie Roodman – been “swept off her feet” by a lucky fellow, and would be marrying soon, returning to her home in Minnesota in January.
Roodman presented a gift to Robertson is recognition of her work for OKIE. Roodman, long-time executive director of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City City who retired this year, attended the event with her husband, Dr. Eli Reshef.
Roodman served on the gala committee along with co-chairs Richard L. Sias and Glenn Tenenbaum, and embmers Judy Austin, Teri Cooper, Ronna Davis, Emmery Frejo, Donna Frieberg, Linda Gardner, Jonna Kirschner, Elaine Levy, Amalia Miranda, JiJi Pollack, Kathy Powell, Cindy Ruffel, Debbie South, Gena Timberman, Robertson, as well as honoree Shanker.