Home News Canada Ray Donovan star, McGill student at centre of controversy speak at gala

Ray Donovan star, McGill student at centre of controversy speak at gala

Combined Jewish Appeal general chair Jimmy Alexander, left, presents actor Liev Schreiber, centre, with a personalized Montreal Canadiens jersey, with CTV anchor Tarah Schwartz. PBL PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

The 2017 Combined Jewish Appeal (CJA) campaign raised a record of just under $52 million, general chair Jimmy Alexander announced at its official closing on Nov. 20. It was a satisfying result for this, its 100th campaign, which had been launched a symbolic 100 days earlier.

When Alexander had said – privately – that he was aiming for $50 million, he was met with skepticism, he said.

The total breaks down this way: over $36.3 million for the regular campaign; more than $2.8 million in one-time, undesignated donations; close to $5.4 million in one-time donations designated for local or Israel-based projects; contributions of $492,000 made especially for the 100th campaign; and $6.9 million for a new fund for needy Holocaust survivors in Montreal.

There were approximately 15,000 donors and 600 volunteer canvassers.

In addition, the Centennial Endowment Campaign, created to ensure the community’s long-term future, raised $380 million.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled how it all turned out. This is a watershed moment in our history,” said Jack Hasen, who co-chaired the year’s centennial programming with Gail Adelson-Marcovitz. “Our future is bright and we will continue to shine for another 100 years.”


Jonathan Goodman will be general chair of the 2018 CJA.

Almost 700 people attended the closing gala, held at the Palais des Congrès de Montréal, the highlight of which was a conversation between Liev Schreiber, who plays Ray Donovan on the hit TV series, and CTV news anchor Tarah Schwartz.

The evening began with a three-screen video on the history of the Montreal Jewish community over the last century, as a live fiddler played.

The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, the forerunner of Federation CJA, was founded in 1917 to unite the fundraising efforts of the 30,000-member Jewish community under one organization.

Also speaking at the event was Noah Lew, the student at the centre of a controversy over being voted off the board of directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) at its general assembly in October. Lew maintains that he was targeted by pro-BDS students for his Israel advocacy and for being Jewish.

He received a standing ovation from the audience.

Liev Schreiber, right, and other actors celebrate the world premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Tempe, Ariz., in 2009. GRANT BRUMMETT PHOTO

Lew, who is from Edmonton, said he thinks “real change is taking root (at McGill), in response to the injustice I faced.”

First elected in June, he is still on the SSMU board, pending a review of how the vote was conducted. The university administration is conducting an investigation into the matter. Lew has met with the chief investigator – retired education professor Spencer Boudreau – and feels the matter is being taken “very seriously.”

He is also happy that students voted in favour of increasing the quorum for SSMU general assemblies from 100 to 350, which he believes will curtail the influence of “a small, but vocal, minority.” There were in excess of 200 people at the October assembly.

“My overwhelming Jewish experience at McGill has been phenomenal,” Lew said. “The last thing I want is for Jewish students to be discouraged from going to McGill. If anything, there should be more Jewish students who can get involved in student government.”

The evening ended on a lighter note, with Schreiber, 50, discussing his career and Jewish identity. “I am very proud to be a Jew,” he affirmed.

His mother was Jewish and, after his parents divorced, her father, Alex Milgram, became the biggest influence in young Schreiber’s life, an impact that he still feels today.

‘We couldn’t be more thrilled how it all turned out.’

“Every character I’ve played comes from him in some way or another,” said Schreiber, who had roles in such films as Defiance, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Goon. For the past five seasons, he has had the title role in the Showtime drama Ray Donovan.

Schreiber assured the audience that he is not the angry, intense, often violent character he typically plays, but says that his grandfather was “a tough guy, who taught me what it is to be a man.”

Schreiber grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, where his grandfather, who was of Ukrainian origin, was a bodyguard and boxer, and drove a meat truck.

His grandfather spoke little about his past and Schreiber is still searching for his roots. In 2005, he directed and wrote the film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Everything is Illuminated, which is about a young American Jew who returns to Ukraine on a similar quest.

“I wanted to know who I am. I knew I was Jewish, but thought Jews were nebbishy,” he said.

“That people said Jews went like lambs to the slaughter (during the Holocaust) upset me. They didn’t – they fought like demons. It’s important that people know that.”

Schreiber says he doubts he will be doing more Holocaust-themed works, like Defiance. “It’s a subject that can be trivialized unless done for a good reason,” he said. “Personally, I feel there are more effective ways for me to combat (anti-Semitism).”

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