From Spoon Bending to Miraculous Start-up Culture



By: DAN VERBIN  
Published: February 17th 2010


Dan Senor
Pic: UJA
Mentalist Haim Goldenberg
Pic: UJA
UJA campaign chairs with Senor (centre)
Pic: UJA

 

Where else but the UJA Campaign 2010 Closing Event could you see a mentalist, a half-Jewish four piece band from Collingwood and Dan Senor, co-author of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, all in the same evening?

 

Opening the night, which took place on February 16, was the Midway State, a band well-known for its unique take on piano-driven rock. They seemingly burst into performance onstage halfway through their Campaign 2010 theme song, which they played for the appreciative audience.

 

Next, Israel’s Toronto Consul General Amir Gissin spoke about the pride and relevance of Israel to Canadian Jews. He mentioned the reasons that Israel makes us feel proud, while hoping that in the future the community can bring this feeling to the next level by passing the message on to the rest of our friends and fellow Canadians, instead of focusing so much on the conflict.

 

He said that he was especially proud of Israel as a “start-up nation,” as well as the partnership between the Israeli Consulate and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which for him was the “leading Federation in North America”.

 

Campaign co-chairs Debbie Kimel and Ken Tanenbaum spoke about all the hard work that went into this year’s campaign, saying that the Jewish community “literally moved mountains” and that it was a “success in particularly hard times.”

 

Tanenbaum was pleased to note that the campaign raised $64 million at which point the room erupted in applause. Kimmel said she was happy to announce that 2,100 new donors and previous donors were welcomed back, totalling $2.5 million.

 

One of the highlights of the evening was spectacular mentalist Haim Goldenberg – one of the “top 10 mentalists in the world.”

 

He opened by asking audience members to think of numbers, which he wrote down on a pad of paper, correctly guessing what was in their head. Next, he invited an audience member on stage, at which point he promptly blindfolded himself with duct tape and coins over his eyes. He asked her to place a razor sharp knife inside one of five paper tubes. While she did so, without sight, he twisted a Rubik’s Cube so that one side was all white squares. Then he thrilled the audience by successfully smashing the four paper tubes that did not contain the knife.

 

Goldenberg, who used humour as well as his superhuman mental ability to easily win over the audience, finished his routine by bending a spoon like his childhood hero, fellow mentalist Uri Geller, in front of the hushed room. Everyone looked on in disbelief. Much head scratching ensued.

 

Next, UJA Chair Alan Winer spoke about how the Toronto community and Israel embody the values of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”). He noted that UJA and the community raised $800,000 for IsraAID, with donations matched by the Canadian government until February 12. But, he said there are still “incredible needs” in Haiti.

 

In one of the most moving moment of the evening, Kelly Jean Baptists, a Haitian-Canadian from Toronto spoke. She said she was “proud to consider myself an honorary member of Toronto’s Jewish community.”

 


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