Home Culture Arts & Entertainment The Beatles return to the Gardens for fundraiser, sort of

The Beatles return to the Gardens for fundraiser, sort of

Members of the Classical Mystery Tour to perform in a community fundraiser.

If you missed seeing the Beatles when they played at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in 1966, you’ll have a second chance next month, when a tribute band takes the stage in a creative fundraiser for Toronto’s Jewish schools and camps.

The gala will bring the Beatles look-alike band Classical Mystery Tour, backed by the University of Toronto’s 26-piece student symphony orchestra, to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) on March 26. In a further nod to the past, the band is playing the same set as the Beatles performed in 1966 and staying at the same hotel, the Omni King Edward, which is one of the event’s sponsors.

The gala is a fundraiser for ORT Canada, which runs vocational schools in Israel and 37 communities around the world. But thanks to a unique model, it will also be raising funds for other Jewish organizations.

The fundraising model borrows from a well-established formula in Montreal, where philanthropist Jonathan Goodman got tired of seeing empty seats at ORT’s annual gala. In 2008, he bought 1,200 seats and offered them to Jewish schools to sell.

Since then, the ORT gala has raised over $11 million for Jewish education, with $8 million going directly to Montreal schools. In November, a similar concert raised $450,000 for ORT and $850,000 for Montreal schools, said Ricky Wellen, ORT Canada’s national director of development.

Goodman, the CEO of Knight Therapeutics, is raising funds for the Toronto concert and intends to start an endowment fund for the Toronto gala, much as he did in Montreal, Wellen said.


The gala fits the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education’s mandate “for schools to work together and raise funds independently,” he noted.

Nine day schools – Associated Hebrew Schools, Leo Baeck, TanenbaumCHAT, Netivot HaTorah, Robbins Hebrew Academy, Bialik, Bnei Akiva Schools, Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School and the Toronto Heschel School – are all participating, as are two supplementary schools – JRoots and Kachol Lavan – and two summer camps – Ramah and Northland.

“We’re handing all these schools a gala and a fundraiser,” Wellen said. “The smaller schools have no fundraising capabilities. This is a huge opportunity for them with no risk.”

Tickets range from $100 to $360 and schools keep every dollar from every ticket sold, Wellen said.

TanenbaumCHAT is using the gala to reach out to its 8,000 alumni, said Frances Bigman, the high school’s director of advancement.

The school has a committee of about 25 alumni and hopes to sell about 500 tickets, Bigman said. “We’re thinking about this as one giant reunion.” The school is also covering the costs for teachers who want to participate, she said.

ORT Canada is not well known in Toronto, Wellen said. The concert is a way to introduce the charity, which started in 1880 in Russia, to the city’s Jewish community.

ORT’s profits from the gala will support its youth village in Kfar Silver, Israel. The high school there serves both residential and day students and aims to reduce educational gaps. The school also partners with the Weizmann Institute to give gifted students opportunities to explore math and science-related subjects. A number of ORT students will attend the Toronto gala to share their stories.


For tickets, visit ort-toronto.org, or call 416-787-0339.

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