Treasure Trove remembers a star-studded fundraiser in Madison Square Garden for Jewish refugees

The “Night of Stars” was an annual fundraising event for the United Palestine Appeal. This is the program that was published for the 1939 version of the show which was held in November in New York’s Madison Square Garden, less than three months after the outbreak of the Second World War. Nine months earlier, a Nazi rally had been held in the same location.

The evening’s chairman was Nathan Straus, owner of Macy’s department store, and the namesake for the city of Netanya. He wrote in the program that “Palestine is a pillar of strength for all those desperate human beings who heartless oppression has reduced to helplessness.”

Described as an annual marathon of entertainment, the event began in the early evening and ended well past midnight. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle included a review by Arthur Pollock who reported that “the show goes on almost forever once it starts, there are so many entertainers ready to help the United Palestine Appeal.”  The featured guests included Abbott and Costello, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Durante and Irving Berlin.

Proceeds from the evening were used to aid the settlement of Jews in Palestine, reflected by the drawing by Alan Simon on the cover that depicts boatloads of refugees from Europe disembarking in the Land of Israel.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt included a greeting in the program which ended: “I trust as a result of your labor that hope and happiness may be brought into hearts that have known too much sorrow.” 

Eighty-five years later, hope and happiness are still needed both in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world.