More than 550 guests were in attendance on Oct. 23 at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim for the Ben Weider Educational Centre and Chaya Mushka Seminary’s annual Feast of the Nations gala, honouring retired citizenship court judge and former Hampstead town councillor Barbara Seal.
The sold-out event featured an encounter with Lior Raz, the star of the hit Israeli Netflix series Fauda. The evening, which began with an elegant dinner and lively auction in the synagogue’s social hall, was the seminary’s primary fundraiser for the year. Some of the proceeds went toward the Barbara Seal Scholarship Fund, which subsidizes tuition for needy students in the educational institute.
“The beauty of the Ben Weider Educational Centre is that it educates educators,” said Seal in her acceptance speech, after being presented with the seminary’s Chai Life Award. “In addition to yielding beautiful fruit that are a testament to the finest in Jewish studies and social enrichment, this seminary produces seeds that yield other fruit, as most of its graduates go on to become teachers, principals, directors, rebbetzins and leaders in communities all over the world – from Monaco to Alaska, the Congo to the Australian Outback.”
Gala committee chairman Nochum Segal introduced video greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a longtime friend of Seal. “Barbara, every time I’ve run into you over these years, you’ve been a voice for young people and a force for inclusion,” he said.
Trudeau also praised the faculty and supporters of the Ben Weider Educational Centre, saying, “You help your students build confidence to pursue their dreams and change the world.”
The prime minister’s remarks served as the lead-in to Chana Matusof, an alumnus of the Chabad Seminary, who, along with her husband, Rabbi Tanchum Matusof, now serves as co-director of Chabad’s educational and outreach activities in Monaco. Matusof’s story of building a new Jewish community from the ground up illustrated what the seminary is trying to achieve.
Although Matusof was born and raised in Montreal, the seminary’s students come from all over the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia. While many go on to pursue other career opportunities, most of the seminary’s graduates gravitate to leadership roles in Jewish education.
“By supporting this centre, you are cultivating the Jewish leaders of tomorrow and helping build strong and supportive communities across the globe,” said Rabbi Abraham Cohen, the Ben Weider Educational Centre’s director of development.
Later in the evening, Andy Nulman and professional auctioneer Eddy Rogo presided over a spirited auction.
The dinner guests then joined some 250 audience members in Shaar Hashomayim’s upstairs auditorium, where they were treated to a medley of klezmer favourites by the band Klez Kanada.
There was also a presentation by Raz, who served in an Israel Defence Forces elite unit that conducted undercover operations, in which agents were disguised as Arabs and embedded in populations beyond enemy lines. Raz drew on his real-life experiences to write and star in the popular and critically acclaimed show, Fauda, which is known for its gritty realism.
“It is now being seen in 192 countries around the world,” he said. In addition to showing scenes from the first season, Raz shared an action-packed trailer for the next one, which debuts in March.
In the words of Rabbi Cohen, “The common thread running through all the elements of this evening is Jewish survival, strength and continuity. Or, to sum it up in three words, “Am Yisrael Chai!”