TORONTO — Silvan Shalom, the deputy prime minister of Israel, spoke at Chabad’s ninth annual Spirit of Community Dinner, which raised funds for the Beth Chabad Israeli Community Centre in Thornhill, Ont.
At the event held on June 6 at the Terrace Banquet Centre in Vaughan, Ont., Shalom said that the Chabad movement narrows “the gap between religious and secular Jewish in Israel and in the Diaspora.”
Turning to the subject of the recent political changes in the Arab world, he said, “The Arab Spring is closer to an Islamic winter.”
He encouraged Jews all over the world to support Israel. “When Israel is secured, Jews all over the world are secured,” he said.
Shalom also brought a message of thanks and appreciation to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and to Canada. More then 1,100 guests from diverse backgrounds attended the event, among them officials from all levels of government.
Three people were honoured at the dinner, including Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird. Baird, in his absence, was awarded Chabad’s International Community Service Award in recognition of his service to Canada. Baird said in a video that Canada and the State of Israel have a special relationship.
Carlo Baldassarra, president and CEO of Greenpark Group of Companies, was awarded the Community Spirit Award, in recognition of his philanthropy and support of the community. His family, including his wife, his kids and his grandchildren, went on stage with him to receive the award and gave him many hugs.
Mordechai Ronen, a Holocaust survivor and 18-year Israel Defence Forces veteran, received the Community Heritage Award in recognition of his community service and activities in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as his support of Israel. Ronen made a touching speech, and his 12-year-old granddaughter read a greeting for her grandpa’s 80th birthday.
Rabbi Yisroel Landa, the spiritual leader of the Beth Chabad Israeli Community Centre, spoke about how the honorees demonstrate their concern for the welfare of others by actively supporting newcomers to Canada and “help them to integrate into the society.”
He praised Baird and thanked him. “The minister means a lot to us. He is the one that publicly stated that there is no better friend to Israel than Canada,” Rabbi Landa said.
The evening ended with a live auction with high bidders winning such items as the opportunity to name a street in Markham, Ont., a dinner for 12 with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, luxury vacations and hockey jerseys from the greatest players in the National Hockey League.
Proceeds from the dinner go toward programs and services for the Israeli immigrant population in the Toronto area, including classes, social services, emergency aid, job networking, counselling, educational programs, lectures, women’s group activities, religious services and cultural events. These programs help Israeli immigrants to adapt to their new lives in Canada.