Chabad of Delaware, one of the state’s largest Jewish outreach groups, marked its 25th anniversary Sunday night with a round of honors for its biggest supporters.
Henry Topel, one of Chabad’s first benefactors, received the Founder’s Award. Gov. Jack Markell also awarded Topel the Order of the First State, the highest honor for meritorious service the governor can grant.
“Every job I’ve ever held, Henry has been by my side, giving me advice,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who ran for state treasurer in 1976 when Topel was chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Other speakers noted Topel’s “principled involvement in public service” and his “quietly generous” nature.
“He made me feel like I wasn’t lost” when Chabad of Delaware was launched in 1987, recalled Rabbi Chuni Vogel, co-director of the group with his wife, Oryah.
When it was his turn to speak, Topel turned things around, thanking the hundreds of people gathered at the Brandywine Country Club for their support and encouragement over the decades.
Topel, a World War II Navy veteran, was a real estate entrepreneur, a vice president of Beneficial National Bank, a chairman of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau and active in many other organizations.
The anniversary dinner also included a videotaped message from Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who congratulated Chabad of Delaware for “bringing the light of the Torah to Delaware.”
Chabad of Delaware also presented three other awards at the dinner.
Toni Young received the Friend of Israel Award. Young was chairwoman of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy and the first female president of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, and is the author of books on Jewish history in Delaware.
Meier Gelley, principal at Nationwide Healthcare Services, received the Community Builder Award. The group noted his “professional ethos of care and excellence.”
David Schechtman received the Blue and Gold Award for his work with Chabad’s outreach program at the University of Delaware, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sunday evening.
The dinner also raised about $165,000 for the group’s youth and family education fund.