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Friday, September 19, 2014

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UJA campaign ahead of last year’s pace

Tags: Canada Canadian Jewish News Jewish Richard Lewis Toronto UJA Federation
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Richard Lewis, Barbara Bank and Gilbert Palter [Caley Taylor photo]

TORONTO — UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has raised more than $50 million in unrestricted gifts and almost $54 million total, in its 2012 campaign, Gilbert Palter, UJA Campaign 2012 co-chair with Barbara Bank, announced at last week’s campaign closing.

The campaign is “almost $2 million ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Palter told an audience of more than 700 people. The event, held Feb. 9 at Events on the Park, featured comedian Richard Lewis of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Bank noted that, this year, the campaign has 1,500 new donors and donors who had not made gifts in recent years. Together, they provided more than $1.7 million to the campaign.

Palter said one of the most profound things he learned this year is that “the high quality of Jewish life that we all enjoy in Toronto exists largely because of the strength of our UJA campaign.

“UJA helps people in need here in Toronto, in Israel and around the world, and builds the Jewish identity of our youth.” As well, he added, it provides them with Jewish education, and advocates for Jewish and Israeli causes.

Co-chairs for the 2013 campaign will be Sarena Koschitzky and Bruce Leboff.

Speakers at the closing included Alison Himel, chair of Campaign 2012 operations; Felicia Posluns, outgoing chair of UJA women’s philanthropy, who also introduced Lewis, and Elizabeth Wolfe, chair of the board of UJA Federation.

A brief tribute was paid to Reform Jewish leader Rabbi Gunther Plaut, who had died the previous day.

Posluns introduced Lewis, whose hour-long act featured a disclaimer on the program. “While we have made every effort to ensure this event is suitable for all ages, please keep in mind that UJA has no control over the content of Richard Lewis’ program,” it read.

The New York-born, Hollywood-based actor/comedian, 64, recalled meeting Curb creator Larry David as a 12-year-old at a summer sports camp. They hated each other, he said.

The enthusiastic audience applauded at Curb references, and also when Lewis, a self-admitted drug addict and alcoholic, said he’s been sober for 18 years.

His stream-of-consciousness routine included numerous Jewish references. He also made a point of mentioning that his wife, who he married in his late fifties, is Jewish.

“Judaism is so beautiful,” he said. “I don’t have a big family, so to be with a lot of Jews… I like it. I can’t always share anecdotal stories.”

As well, Lewis incorporated material on aging – some parts more family-friendly than others. “I’ve been really restrained up here. You have no clue,” he said.

“If you’re young, have a blast,” he advised those in their 20s and 30s. “It really flies.”

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