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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to sing at Toronto event

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin participates in a Koolulam event.

How good a singer is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin? Those who’ve always wanted to know will have the chance to find out, when he sings Matisyahu’s hit song One Day at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto on April 2.

Rivlin will be accompanied by an expected crowd of 1,600, who will sing along with Israeli musical sensation Koolulam, which was founded by Ben Yefet, Michal Shahaf Schneiderman and Or Taicher in 2016.

“Koolulam is a social musical initiative that was established out of a communal sense of mission to connect people in a positive, hopeful and empowering manner. Music is simply the tool we chose to do so,” wrote a spokesperson for the group in an email to The CJN.

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At each Koolulam event, the group teaches a vocal arrangement to the crowd and, at the end of the session, the participants sing the song in harmony. Koolulam performances include a sign-language translator and often feature special guests, whether they be other musicians or politicians.

This isn’t the first time Rivlin has performed with the group. Last year in Tel Aviv, during Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations, he and Koolulam sang a rendition of Naomi Shemer’s classic song, Al Kol Eleh, with 12,000 Israelis.

When event hosts UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Israel Bonds Canada learned that Rivlin would be coming to town, they wanted to get him involved. Raquel Benzacar Savatti, the CEO of Israel Bonds Canada, said it was the president’s idea to do a community-wide event and he let the community decide what that would be.

“We’re very excited about this, we really felt the buzz in the community. And I think with the president of Israel, given that Israel Bonds are the State of Israel, it just made so much sense for us to be a part of this. So I’m glad we’re doing it together,” said Benzacar Savatti.

“President Rivlin is very much about bringing the Jewish people together in unity and, of course, galvanizing the community is core to UJA’s mission, so we felt that creating an event that is powerful and memorable for the community would be great, and we just thought Koolulam would be an amazing fit,” added Patrick Erlich, UJA Federation’s senior director of communications.

“We know President Rivlin is a huge fan of Koolulam and he’s joined them in the past for previous celebrations.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin participates in a Koolulam event.

The members of Koolulam say they are excited to perform in Canada. The concert in Toronto will be the third time the group has performed outside of Israel, after one in Johannesburg last year and a show in Washington, D.C., at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference earlier this month. Many more are planned for the future.

The members of the group say the president’s fandom is mutual. They have a deep respect for Rivlin, especially his message of tolerance and peace between people living in Israel, and between Israel and its neighbours.

Koolulam chose to sing One Day for similar reasons: beyond its musical beauty, it expresses a strong desire for hope and peace, which resonated with the group of Israelis.

“We, as well as every person who participates in a Koolulam event, are amazed by the fact that absolute strangers are willing to create something together, just for the sake of creativity and joy,” said a spokesperson for the group. “A Koolulam participant cannot help but feel more trusting of their fellow human after such an experience. This not only leads to people being kinder to one another, but to people being more hopeful, which leads to people being courageous. And our world needs kinder, hopeful and courageous people.”