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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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UJA campaign off to record start

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Howie Mandel headlined this year's UJA campaign launch.

TORONTO — Toronto’s 2014 UJA campaign has so far raised a record amount of more than $27 million, the drive’s chairs said at the Aug. 19 official launch.

Stephen Diamond and Lisa Draper were speaking to the almost 1,200 people who attended the annual launch, held this year at the Hilton Harbour Castle.

The evening featured Toronto native Howie Mandel, a comedian, actor, author and game show host, and a performance by the IDF Musical Band.

Steven Shulman, UJA’s campaign director and counsel, noted in an e-mail interview that the amount raised to date exceeds the $25 million that had already been collected at the launch of last year’s campaign.

“That’s a testament to great momentum and the hard work of our leadership, as last year’s campaign start was very strong.”

In recent years, UJA hasn’t set a goal for its campaigns, but last year’s drive raised $57.8 million, plus an additional several million dollars in supplemental gifts augmenting the core campaign, Shulman said.

“We seek to exceed the total for last year’s excellent campaign in order to meet the needs of a growing community, keep pace with inflation and facilitate new dynamic initiatives here in Toronto, Israel and around the world,” he added.

He said more donors have made their gifts at an early date this year, providing UJA volunteers an opportunity to meet with more new potential donors over the coming months.

“Donors have [continued] to respond, because they understand that the UJA annual campaign makes this community strong. [This includes] our social service agencies, day and supplementary schools, Birthright and March of the Living, programs at JCCs, our partnership with and impact on Israel, political advocacy and so much more,” Shulman said.

“Through more than 100 partner agencies here, in Israel and around the world, UJA unifies the community, strengthens Canadian society and contributes to a better city and country for all. The message of one gift making that impact, together with tens of thousands of others here in the GTA, is resonating,” he said.

Diamond said UJA, now in its 96th year, is a charity of many faces. “One face or one slogan cannot do it justice. You are [all faces]. Every gift is significant.

“Although we [have raised a record amount] for our city, our work is just beginning. If we do not increase the amount every year, we will not sustain our programs. We need the support to move forward.”

Referring to the videos shown throughout the evening that highlighted people who were helped by UJA, Lori Rosenthal, chair of UJA women’s philanthropy, said that an integral part of the campaign is “putting a face on the people we help and the people we care about. Each person UJA touches has a story.”

After a rousing performance by the IDF musical band that had shinshinim, participants in UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Israeli emissary program, singing and dancing in the aisle, a video featured clips of Mandel’s career, including his six-season stint on TV’s St. Elsewhere, a number of appearances on the Tonight Show, an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, and clips from game shows Deal or No Deal and America’s Got Talent.

Referring to his role as a judge on America’s Got Talent, Mandel praised the IDF Musical Band and told the performers, “You’re going to Jerusalem.”

In typical Mandel style, he talked about a recent physical check-up he had and asked if there was a doctor in the house. “With this many Jews here, who isn’t a doctor?”

Talking about the prostate exam that was part of his physical, he singled out one doctor in the audience and asked him about the most unusual item he has found during such an exam. After a little bit of prodding, the doctor laughed and told him it was a lipstick.

Mandel then wondered why in such a high-tech world, the prostate exam is so low tech.

He also said that on a recent trip to Israel, he attended a bar mitzvah on Masada, but was asked to leave because he hadn’t been invited. “I was crashing.”

Talking seriously at the end, however, he spoke about his Jewish upbringing and said that he’s proud of his three children for creating Jewish households.

He called UJA’s work “amazing” and said that it touches many lives. “You tell me you’re honoured to have me, but I am the one who is honoured. You don’t know how much this makes my life, my year.”

The campaign launch chairs were Yetta Bregman and Darren Sukonick.

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