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Sunday, August 31, 2014

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King of the interview to reveal his ‘Jewish soul’

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Larry King

TORONTO — The Family Shul hasn’t been operating at its Falkirk Avenue location for long, but it’s already scored two A-list celebrities for its fundraising efforts.

On Sunday Nov. 3, TV personality Larry King will regale shul supporters at an event dubbed “an intimate conversation” at the Eglinton Grand.

Last year, entertainer Paul Abdul debuted the shul’s “My Jewish Soul” format. The celebrities were recruited by Magen Brothers Entertainment, who along with Sole Power Productions, are organizing the event to benefit the Family Shul.

King, a longtime fixture on CNN, has conducted more than 60,000 interviews over the course of his career. Turning the tables on the host with the most, The CJN sent its own set of questions to King via email.

“I have always been openly culturally Jewish,” responded King, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., 79 years ago. “I don’t find it harder to identify today as Jewish. I’m not a religious Jew. I don’t buy that there is some god looking down on me and making judgments about me.

“But, I’m very culturally Jewish. I love Jewish food. I love Jewish writing. I love Jewish humour. I’m an outspoken supporter of Israel. Now if Israel does something wrong, I’m critical of it. Israel is in my heart. Best place I have ever visited is Jerusalem.”

Did his Jewish heritage contribute in some way to his career choices?

“Hard to answer. Jewish heritage is part of me, so obviously. Curiosity comes from Jewish teachings, of asking questions. Rabbis, at an early age, always told me to question [things]. I think my heritage comes with me. It’s part of my soul. I’d have to say the answer to that is, ‘yes.’”

King was asked if during his many interviews, he was offended or took personally a response that brought up Jews.

“I have not had many people over my 56 years of interviewing say things offensive to Jews. The worst moment I ever had was with [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran. He made the statement, ‘If there was a Holocaust,’ and I picked up on the ‘if’ part of that statement and we got into a kind of back and forth. Very uncomfortable situation.

“I could not accept that statement and I was aghast at it. Anytime I hear anti-Semitism or an anti-anything, I am upset.

“I think people who have a feeling of superiority over other people, attack other people, are anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Native American are silly and ridiculous. I think to discriminate is stupid. It’s making a judgment based on things that are irrational. The whole thing has always upset me all my life. I never understood it. I’ve never understood discrimination. Of the many interviews I have done, Ahmadinejad stands out.”

As to the art of the interview, King was asked what the future held in store and whether lengthy, in-depth conversations were becoming passé.

“That’s sad. That may be true. Maybe it is due to attention deficit disorder.  [I] don’t see many long-form interviews around – really long from.

“I used to do two-hour long interviews on the radio and [one]-hour interviews on CNN. I hope it’s cyclical. I hope what goes around comes around. I hope it comes back.

“Of course we have to have the talent to do it. You have to be able to listen. [You] have to be able to be fair. [You] have to be objective. I hope there is always a place for it.”

Proceeds from the event will go to support synagogue programming, including its preschool, Hebrew school and community events, said Rabbi Menachem Gansburg, the Family Shul’s spiritual leader.

The shul’s after-school Hebrew school program serves 150 children at two neighbourhood locations, while the pre-school is expanding from 40 youngsters this year to accommodate 60 children beginning in September 2014, and religious services continue to attract more and more people, with about 100 families joining the shul as members and close to 500 attending High Holiday services, he said.

To purchase tickets, go to www.Larryking.ca

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