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November 21, 2014  RSS feed
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Unmasked! Story behind Bibi-signed auction item

Eric Lynn Eric Lynn During the Masked Ball next spring to celebrate Menorah Manor’s 30th anniversary, there will be a silent auction of masks signed by a host of celebrities, but the biggest coup and the mask with the most historic value undoubtedly will be the one former Seminole resident Eric Lynn brought back from Israel.

The mask was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top two national security leaders on the day of the 2014 ceasefire in Gaza. It bears the signature of Netanyahu – in both English and Hebrew, – plus those of Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’Alon.

Lynn was in a unique position to obtain those signatures. He serves as special advisor to the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and has traveled to Israel and the Middle East more than 50 times in six years. His mother, Shelley Lynn, gave him the mask to try to get the signature.

Among the completed masks for the Menorah Manor Masked Ball auction is one signed by Angela Bassett, who grew up in St. Petersburg, and decorated by Maira Rivera. The other one is from Joan Baez who both signed – and unsolicited – painted it, too. Among the completed masks for the Menorah Manor Masked Ball auction is one signed by Angela Bassett, who grew up in St. Petersburg, and decorated by Maira Rivera. The other one is from Joan Baez who both signed – and unsolicited – painted it, too. Eric describes how the mask signing came about:

“On the 50th day of the Gaza conflict, Aug. 26, 2014, I was scheduled to have dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We had been in Israel consulting with our Israeli colleagues in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Ministry of Defense.

“Because it has saved countless lives in multiple conflicts, my work as the Department of Defense lead on Iron Dome since its inception in 2009 is one of my proudest accomplishments in serving almost six years in the Pentagon. While in Israel on that trip, I spent time in shelters during rocket fire targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that Iron Dome successfully intercepted.

“An hour before the dinner was scheduled to start, a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict was reached. Typically, the US-Israel diplomatic dinners are formal 16-person events at the Prime Minister’s Office. This dinner, however, Netanyahu wanted to be smaller and more intimate – he invited only a small group of us to his home. Three Israelis and three Americans sat around a small round table in the Prime Minster’s residence.

“Netanyahu was joined by Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, and IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Benny Gantz (Benny is a friend of mine from when he was the Defense Attach√© at the Israeli Embassy in Washington in 2009- 2010.) Our U.S. delegation was myself, Gen. John Allen (4-star retired Marine General, who is our formal Commanding General in Afghanistan and now serves as the head of the counter-ISIL coalition) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

“The dinner was scheduled for an hour, but with the ceasefire and the range of Middle East issues to be discussed, the dinner lasted until almost midnight. At the end, while thanking Prime Minister Netanyahu for his hospitality, I asked him if he would mind signing a mask that would be auctioned to support a Jewish nursing center in my hometown of St. Petersburg. He said he would be happy to sign.

“While signing, MinisterYa’alon and Gen. Gantz inquired about the mask and as I explained it to them, they also wanted to sign, making the mask quite historic as it is the only object with the signatures of the three top leaders of Israel’s national security on the day of the 2014 ceasefire.

“I truly appreciate that Prime Minster Netanyahu, Minister Ya’alon and Gen. Gantz were gracious enough to sign in support of the meaningful and caring work of Menorah Manor,” Lynn said.

About 70 national celebrities so far have signed masks for auction include Johnny Mathis, Adam Levine and Maroon 5, George Strait and Cyndi Lauper along with local personalities such as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. The signed masks are being decorated by local artists, including Netanyahu’s mask, which will be painted by clay artist Sue Shapiro, co-owner of Shapiro’s Gallery of Contemporary American Crafts.

The Menorah Manor Masked Ball will be held on Sunday, May 17 at the St. Petersburg Coliseum, chaired by Susie Berman and Betsy Englander.

For more information about the event and to see some of the celebrity masks that will be up for auction, go to

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