By Alexandra Cohen
The 2019 ORT Montreal Ted Wise Gala for Jewish Education at Place des Arts was a massive success in more ways than one. More than 1,600 people were in attendance, helping to raise over $1.3 million for ORT’s schools in 35 countries across five continents.
Local Jewish day schools in Montreal that benefitted were: Akiva School, Azrieli Schools Talmud Torah/Herzliah, CBB Ottawa, Chabad NDG, École Maimonide, Hebrew Academy, Hebrew Foundation School, JPPS-Bialik, JPPS ONE, March of the Living Montreal, Solomon Schechter Academy and the Yaldei Developmental Centre.
ORT’s share was about $650,000 while the Jewish schools split about $750,000.
I was thoroughly impressed with the entire evening, from the delicious cocktail dinatoire catered by Ray Petrovic’s ‘Blossom by La Plaza’ to the outstanding event in itself. Gala Co-Chairs Debra Margles and Lorne Wiseman worked with executive director Valerie Abitbol, administrative assistant Carolyn Joffe, and committee members Gary Alexander, Jill Chandler, Hymie Fichtenbaum, Larry Fisher, Stella Gelerman, Mayer Ghouddoussi, Barry Kotler, Marilyn Krelenbaum, Martin Lucht, Barry Pascal, Brian Pinchuk, Dr. Marvin Steinberg, and Francine Wiseman. Jonathan Goodman, the true catalyst of this Gala, was honoured alongside Dean Mendel, Gideon Pollack and Jeff Hart. National Presidents Jacob Kincler and Arthur Silber were also on hand and among the organizers.
This being my first time attending an ORT Gala, I was surprised by the emotional nature of the live auction. Community leader Ross Paperman served as auctioneer with the help of a crew of young students, who acted as spotters in the audience and on stage. Paperman expertly attracted impressive bids for prizes including a 30 minute flight in a full-flight simulator from CAE ($2,000); a private box for a Habs game at the Bell Centre via McCarthy Tétreault ($6,250); a private shopping experience at the Michael Kors Ste. Catherine Street flagship store ($3,300); a tropical getaway to Acapulco courtesy of Frank Motter ($7,750); three weeks at Camp B’nai Brith Ottawa ($3,000); the Ultimate Gourmet Foodie Experience from renowned chef-owner Ariel Schor ($4,200); and a getaway in the mountains courtesy of Marnie and Richard Stern ($4,000). Then, for the final item, he suddenly veered off script. Investment advisor and philanthropist David Lisbona had assembled a package entitled “Carey Priceless,” and asked that the proceeds go to assist seven year-old Ellie White, who is battling leukemia for the second time. In order to give her a chance at life, her family has had to relocate to Columbus, Ohio to try an experimental treatment. Paperman, his voice cracking, called for a bid by appealing to the sense of compassion of those in the room. Shortly after this request, one gentleman shouted out “$10,000” to much applause. Then Paperman stopped in his tracks, asking for a show of hands as to how many people would give an additional $1,000 to this cause. What happened next was remarkable, as dozens of hands went up. When all was said and done, including the $10 k bid and a personal contribution from Paperman, more than $80,000 was raised for Ellie White.
With everyone on a high from what they had just seen, it was time to wipe the tears away and to experience true entertainment courtesy of feature performer Mat Franco. Franco is perhaps best known for being the first magician ever to win NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Watching him perform first-hand made it clear exactly why he won in the first place. He worked the audience perfectly, bringing many people on stage to take part in his tricks. His best skill is slight-of-hand, and the audience was clearly in awe of his abilities throughout the night. His tremendous storytelling talents are exactly what allow him to sell his own show in Las Vegas at the LINQ Hotel & Casino, where he has been performing since 2015. Bravo to ORT for choosing their entertainer so well. He was a real draw and everyone evidently appreciated what they saw.
Avi Ganon, who has been serving as Director General and CEO of World ORT since September 2017, attended the gala and addressed the crowd. “In 2020, ORT will celebrate 140 years of transforming life through education,” he said, noting that the largest ORT school in the diaspora is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with 9,000 students.
Major event sponsors were Dana and Jonathan Goodman and Family; Arlene Wise, Cheri, Jeff, Greg and Lucas Wise; and Jessica and David Baazov. Lead sponsors were Geraldine and Jeff Hart, PearTree Financial Services, and Heather and Lev Bukhman. There was also a very long list of platinum, gold, silver, and bronze sponsors.
ORT began in Russia in 1880 to help impoverished Jews acquire skills that would enable them to become self-sufficient. During the course of a remarkable 137 years, spanning revolutions and wars, ORT has endured and grown through its ability to adapt to change. ORT today provides skills-training and self-help projects throughout the world, using funds raised by its supporters, and matched by development agencies and national governments, to put people on the path to economic independence.
ORT Montreal depends on the continuing generosity and dedication of its supporters and volunteers and is always looking for new businesses and professionals who are interested in giving back to their community. Join a fundraising committee for one of ORT Montreal’s exciting events, notably the annual gala, by selling tickets, soliciting advertising for the program book, soliciting corporate sponsorships, and recruiting new team members.