NEW YORK — With "Fiesta" the theme of the evening, the mood was cheery in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Monday night, where the American Friends of the Israel Museum held its annual gala to benefit the Jerusalem-based institution.Despite the tough times in the Middle East in the past year, this was the organization’s best year yet, raising an all-time high of $1.8 million for the museum."People are really feeling sympathetic for what is happening in Israel," said Judy Steinhardt, chairman of the board for the organization. "There are so few tourists visiting Israel, so we need to keep the country abreast of what is happening in the arts."About 600 guests attended the gala, including John Pomerantz, chairman of the Leslie Fay Co., who attended with his wife Laura, principal of PBS Realty Advisors."It’s important for us to support charities like these in times like this," Pomerantz said. "We are supporters of Israel on a regular basis, but now we have to support cultural efforts more than ever."

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