As we prepare to close the book on the year 2019, allow us to look back to November an extraordinary Remembance Day ceremony held at the Veteran’s Memorial Park, C # 19, Field of Honour, Baron de Hirsch Cemetery and coordinated once again by Larry Rosenthal.
Participants included Rabbi Asher Jacobson, Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko. Lt. Col Alain Cohen, Janice Rosen from the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives, Harvey Levine and Ya’acov Bauerof B’nai Brith Canada, Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Dorothy Zalcman from the Montreal Holocaust Museum, Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA President Rick Rubin, Frederick Kisch Branch #97 President Allan J. Levine and Bugler, Corporal Justin Forte.
“I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces,” commented Rosenthal. “We recognize your strength of character. You are an inspiration to us. You keep us safe. We honour those who made the supreme sacrifice in the prime of their lives for democracy, freedom and justice. We need to do our share to assure that they did not die in vain. We need to pay homage…. performing acts of kindness in their names to perpetuate their memories. They fought and died for us.
“We remember those who served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War We also recognize the 158 warriors who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Purposely I try to stay away from the detail of the various military Campaign as the number of loses are staggering and difficult to cope with. For example, on D-Day, 14,000 Canadian troops went ashore. On that very day, 359 lost their lives. B the end of the Campaign there were more than 5,000 fatalities. That also meant there were 5,000 broken -hearted families left behind with shattered dreams, and many tars. We must do what they cannot. We must recognize …we must appreciate what they fought for and too many died for.”
Rosenthal then told the story of his brother, The late Gunner William Gunner Rosenthal OBM who was killed in action on July 25,1943 “A young man wanted to stop fascism from coming to our shores he wanted to keep his family safe,” Rosenthal said. “Prior to his enlistment, he had worked for the Canadian Press. He had been an editor of the Fortnightly Review.He perished for his caus and he is buried near Mount Etna, Sicily not far from his last battle. He was 21 years young.”
Rosenthal wishes to advise everyone that the next Erev Yom Tov Memorial Service will take place on Sunday, August 30, 10:30 am, at the same location.
When the city shuts down on December 25, we know families are looking for something to do. The Bialik High School Foundation is organizing a fun family outdoor activity up-north to raise funds for Ellie White and to get the community together to play. Join the Bialik community at Adventures Neiges for tubing and adventure at 11 am on Dec 25. Tickets are $30 for a two hour window. Tickets for Children aged 4 to 12 are $25. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ellie White campaign.
Ellie White underwent experimental treatment to combat Leukemia earlier this Fall in Columbus, Ohio as the hospital there was the only one to do this type of procedure. She had already undergone a bone marrow transplant in Montreal in February of 2019, but it did not work and her Leukemia came back on the first day of school this year.The family has asked for help to collect the $1,000,000 required to cover the cost of her treatment and we are all working hard to make sure the family gets there.
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.
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.
Seeking Justice after Genocide was a bilingual and free event that took place at the Museum. It highlighted the search for justice after the Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda and featured a keynote addresses from Fannie Lafontaine and Irwin Cotler
There was also a panel discussion featuring Nolsina Yim (Centre Khemara), Dr Lalai Manjikian ( Comité National Armenien du Québec), Audrey Licop ( Montreal Holocaust Museum), and Jacques Rwirangira (Page Rwanda).
Karen Aflalo, one of Montreal’s most dynamic young community leaders, has been confirmed as the Jewish National Fund of Montreal’s new President at its recently held Annual General Meeting.
“It’s a very humbling feeling to see the names of all the community giants who have previously served as President of JNF Montreal,” explained Karen. “I feel blessed to have this incredible opportunity to continue to give back to the people of Israel and to lead JNF as we go from strength to strength.”
Previously the Chair of the JNF Future Division the past four years, Karen is a graduate of the esteemed Wexner Heritage Program, and is a recipient of Federation CJA’s Gertrude and Henry Plotnick Young Leadership Award—an honour given to outstanding young members of the Jewish community.
Jeff Hart, the Founder and Managing Partner of the world-class Victoria Park Medispa, was enthusiastically announced as Montreal’s 2020 Negev Gala Honouree. The past Executive Vice President of Hartco, Jeff is a generous philanthropist who works with many non-profit organizations including ORT, Federation CJA and the David Suzuki Foundation, which he helped launch in Quebec. Stay tuned for exciting details about a forthcoming game-changing project to tackle the scourge of climate change.
Outgoing JNF Montreal Chairman, Michael Goodman was presented with JNF Canada’s highest honour— the Bernard M. Bloomfield Medal for Meritorious Service. Among his many achievements at JNF over four years as Chairman, Michael helped to raise millions of dollars to greatly impact Israel’s most vulnerable citizens.
JNF extended thanks and appreciation to Joel Segal from Decarie Motors for hosting the event.
TECHSHUK SET FOR JANUARY 27
Meanwhile, an array of Montreal’s most exciting innovators and start-ups will be competing for up to $500,000 in investment funds as they showcase their unique business plans before a Hall-of Fame roster of “Lions” at the Jewish National Fund’s TechShuk 2020. (Shuk is the Hebrew word for market). This sensational event will take place on Monday, January 27, 2020, at Evo Montreal.
Geared towards entrepreneurs and start-ups, TechShuk 2020 is a once in a lifetime opportunity to present their ideas in front of Canada’s most powerful and influential industry leaders, including:
Anne-Marie Boucher: Co-Founder of BCF Business Law
Mitch Garber, C.M.: Chairman of both Cirque Du Soleil and Invest in Canada
Jonathan Goodman: Co-Founder and CEO, Knight Therapeutics Inc.
Jeff Hart: Founder and Managing Partner of Victoria Park Medispas
In addition to the Lion’s Den investment competition, Tech Shuk 2020 will feature a Demo Pit/Showcase Expo where companies may demonstrate their products and services in front of tens of venture capitalists and hundreds of potential clients. If you’re looking for the break of a lifetime, apply to TechShuk and Demo Pit/Showcase Expo 2020 today and be part of Montreal’s preeminent networking event! To apply for the Lion’s Den competition, or to reserve your spot in the Demo Pit, please visit jnftechshuk.ca, or contact Phil Frai (514-934-0313 ext. 233 (email@example.com).
The deadline to apply for the Lion’s Den Competition has now passed.
Deadline reserve your spot in the Demo Pit/Showcase Expo January 20, 2020.
MADA, a non-profit community center with a mission to care for people in need by providing basic necessities, today announced a new approach to fundraising for ‘Shabbat to Share’.
‘Shabbat to Share’ is one of MADA’s core services. Each week, volunteers deliver kosher Shabbat meals and offer friendly visits to members of the community who are usually elderly and often alone. Older individuals may be socially isolated due to family, health, financial and other challenges. For these people, ‘Shabbat to Share’ represents a nutritious meal and, as importantly, a sense of belonging and connection to the community. The relationships that develop between patrons and volunteers enrich the lives of all concerned. MADA delivers an average of 650 boxed Shabbat dinners each week at an operating cost of approximately $500,000 per year.
“While we are delivering a large number of Shabbat meals every week, we estimate that we’re only serving around 40% of those in need,” explains Rabbi Chaim Cohen, Executive Director, MADA. “Levels of poverty and loneliness continue to rise in our community. We must do more. In the Chanukah spirit of light, warmth and community, we are launching a new approach to fundraising for ‘Shabbat to Share.’
“We are entirely reliant on financial support from the community. We need new donors and no donation is too small. For those unable to make a financial contribution, we also rely on volunteers, including people to prepare and deliver Shabbat meals. In compassionate observance of Chanukah, we ask all members of the community to find a way to contribute that reflects their abilities, no matter their limitations,” adds Rabbi Cohen.
Founded in 1993, MADA is a volunteer-based organization that relies upon private donations from individuals and foundations. Based on the vision that protecting individual dignity is inseparable from the provision of care, we provide our patrons with social and crisis services free of charge and serve as a safe haven for those in need. MADA’s mission is to help people with the basic necessities of life, while helping them to become self-sufficient. MADA’s food bank feeds more than 4,500 people, on average, per month. Our cafeteria ends the loneliness and indignity of hunger in an uplifting environment. Friendly volunteers bring delicious meals directly to patrons’ tables, restaurant style. MADA also delivers meals and friendly visits to elderly patrons with limited mobility. Rooted in Jewish tradition and founded on a vision of caring, MADA welcomes, supports and embraces all people, irrespective of religion, race or nationality. MADA is committed to treating all people with dignity. Feeding people is often the end result but the approach involves opening hearts, acting as an extended family and treating people with respect. For more information on these and other services, please visit www.madacenter.com.
Every year Infinithéâtre proudly presents a selection of its newest discoveries in PIPELINE, an annual series of free public play readings where the audience takes centre stage, offering valuable feedback that furthers script development and helps choose future seasons. Guy Sprung, Infinithéâtre’s artistic director, invites the public to be part of the excitement and share their views from Thursday, December 5 to Saturday, December 7 at the Rialto Studio and Sunday, December 8 at KIN Gallery. Pipeline is four plays in four days, including the Kevin prize, first place winner from Infinithéâtre’s annual Write-On-Q! script writing competition, named in memory of the late Kevin Tierney, renowned Canadian film producer, MontrealGazette columnist & Infinithéâtre Board Member. The playwrights will be in attendance.
This marks the 14th year for the Pipeline reading series. In its ongoing mandate, Infinithéâtre seeks innovative and challenging new works by Québec and Indigenous playwrights to bring to the stage. The Write-On-Q! competition feeds much of the series. Submitting their work are not only produced playwrights, but also unknown writers including students in writing programs at universities and theatre schools, along with plays coming from CEGEP & university professors, journalists, editors, actors, screenwriters, poets, directors, novelists and various literary award-winners. The winning and runner-up scripts are selected by an independent jury, chaired this year by playwright/actor Alexandria Haber, which included Gerry Lipnowski, Patricia Saxton and Marianne Ackerman. Juries receive their copies with the names of the playwrights redacted.
Artistic Director Guy Sprung is very pleased with the over 35 high-quality Write-On-Q! entries this year and invites audiences to hear some of Montreal’s finest actors led by talented directors read scripts that could become future local productions, adding relevant, Québécois theatre to the landscape. Over half of the submissions this year are from culturally diverse Quebeckers. Said Sprung, “I’m looking forward to the public readings of four differing, very powerful pieces of new writing. These are potent, pertinent, controversial and fabulously written pieces of theatre for audiences to dissect.”
Pipeline professional readings include the winner of Write-On-Q!’s First Place $3000 Kevin Prize— Jewish playwright Oren Safdie for Colour Blind and the Second Place prize, $1500—Divide and Rule by Vishesh Abeyratne.
Pipeline gives the public a unique opportunity to voice their opinions through lively talkback discussions following each reading—an important part of any play development. Providing invaluable input for the playwrights, talkbacks allow the audience to address questions or issues that the text generates, in a relaxed, open forum with the authors, directors and actors. Pipeline successes include Battered and Book of Bob by Arthur Holden; Oren Safdie’s Unseamly and Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv; Michael Milech’s Honesty Rents by the Hour; Conversion, Progress! and Trench Patterns by Alyson Grant; Marianne Ackerman’s Triplex Nervosa; Michaela Di Cesare’s Successions; Alexandria Haber’s Alice and the World We Live In; and Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Playwriting Prize winner Paradise Lost by Erin Shields.
Sat. December 7, 7pm at the Rialto Studio—Write-On-Q! first place winner, Kevin prize
Colour Blind by Oren Safdie, directed by Philip Akin Cast TBD
Colour Blind is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The Jury ultimately chose David Adjaye to design the building. The play lifts the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering, and invites the audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. The jurors consist of a racially diverse cast of characters that include the museum director and his associate, an architecture critic and starchitect, and the museum’s treasurer and a community organizer. Can they all put their personal politics aside and agree on one design?
Oren Safdie helmed the Malibu Stage Co. where his off-Broadway/London hit Private Jokes, Public Places debuted. His next play, The Last Word also moved off-Broadway, starring Daniel J. Travanti. Other productions include Unseamly, Checks & Balances, The Bilbao Effect, West Bank, UK, Jews & Jesus and La Compagnie, which he developed into a pilot for CBS. Four of his plays garnered a New York Times Critic’s Pick. As a screenwriter, Oren scripted the film You Can Thank Me Later starring Ellen Burstyn, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Newport Film Festival; and the Israeli film Bittersweet. He has taught playwriting and screenwriting at the University of Miami, Douglas College in Vancouver, and California School of the Arts. His most recent play, Gratitude, will open in New York in 2021.
“Infinithéâtre’s Write-On-Q! playwriting competition has been a great motivator to my writing,” Oren says. “Color Blind is my 4th play set in the world of contemporary architecture, but has the least to do with architecture, dealing with issues of racial identity that have recently flared up in the United States and Canada. Things that were appropriate years ago—or even yesterday—are highly inappropriate today. There are those who would disapprove of anyone addressing issues in a culture other than their own. I believe there can be value in getting an outsider’s point of view, if done properly. If not, let the writer pay the price; if writers are restricted from imagining, society will pay the price.”
Sun. December 8, 2pm at KIN Gallery
Mazel Tov by Marc-André Thibault, directed by Ellen David
With: Alex Weiner, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Elana Dunkelman and Howard Rosenstein
Isabelle is Jewish, Patrick isn’t. They are getting married. During the celebration, Phillip, Patrick’s best friend, makes a gesture that is perceived as anti-Semitic. Several guests are angry, in addition to Isabelle, who strikes Phillip, and seriously harms him. The wedding is not the one we hoped for. The marriage is even worse…
Since his actor’s training at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, Marc-André has been very active in theater as an actor, an author, translator, director and producer with the company he created, Théâtre Bistouri. He likes to tell stories that mix humor and drama, and he stands out with his frank plays and his sharp dialogue. He also wrote Tout craché, and translated from English to French, A skull in Connemara, Conversations with my Penis, Madra, Being Norwegian and Straight.
On Sunday afternoon, come for the play reading, stay for the holiday party!
PIPELINE 2019, Thursday Dec. 5 to Sunday, Dec. 8, Discussion to follow each reading Thurs. to Sat. 7pm at Rialto Studio, 5711 Park Ave.; Sun. 2pm, at KIN Gallery, 397a Saint-Catherine St. W.
Sheer joy and a strong sense of Canadian pride fueled the atmosphere at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts on opening night at the Montreal premiere of the acclaimed Broadway musical Come From Away brought to Montreal by evenko and Broadway Across Canada (November 26-December 1 inclusive).
This true story shows how inclusiveness and kindness prevailed in Gander, Newfoundland, when faith in humanity had reached an all-time low following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed thousands, destroyed U.S. buildings and downed airplanes loaded with people from around the globe. As a result, U.S. Federal Aviation shut down airspace forcing 4,000 planes to land at the nearest airport. Despite Gander’s minuscule population and spartan means to feed, house, and meet other immediate needs, residents, along with Newfoundlanders from surrounding regions, rose to the occasion. They welcomed 7,000 weary passengers seated in 38 huge airplanes that had landed at Gander’s aged airport.
This story is brought to life by Canadian co-authors Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who created the book, music and lyrics. The co-authors are married and share Jewish roots. They worked in tandem with Tony award winning director Christopher Ashley and numerous other key players.
Twelve charismatic actors serve as raconteurs on stage adapting accents and dialogue to re-enact actual personalities and situations. They are accompanied on stage by a host of versatile musicians. Moreover, the actors, sing, dance, crack jokes, shed tears, and it’s a fast-paced show. The ambience is infectious and the orchestra brings a resounding conclusion to the performance, when musicians take centre stage and the audience rises from their seats and joins in the action. They united in swaying to the music, humming, clapping incessantly and relishing harmonious vibes.
A highlight of the show involves stranded passengers emanating from different cultures following diverse customs and ceremonies. The respectful Newfoundlanders tirelessly scramble and succeed in responding to requests. In one instance, a rabbi seeks kosher food, a scarce commodity in town but people of many persuasions pitch in and the rabbi koshers pots, pans, sources produce and makes it work. The heartwarming Oseh Shalom resonates among the orchestrations that run the gamut from folk and country to popular classics.
Every Come From Away performer, musician and member of the crew merits praise for enlightening and entertaining Montrealers, who thrive on joie de vivre in this cosmopolitan, friendly city.
Dr. Zukor is the chief of Orthopedic Surgery at the Jewish General Hospital. His medical career has already spanned more than three decades. His specialization is hip and knee replacement. He will be joined by Dr. Ruth Chaytor, an assistant professor of surgery at McGill University and the chief of the foot and an
kle surgery for McGill. She established and is head of the diabetic foot clinic at the Jewish General Hospital, which currently cares for approximately 300 diabetic patients. She is also chief of surgical services at the JGH.
The focus of the presentations will be broken down into two themes: Hip and Knee Arthritis and Treatment and Common Foot Problems. Like last year, some young TBDJ members presently in medical school will be part of the presentation: Rachel Szwimer, Med I (Supplements and other “Natural” Therapies/treatments for arthritis); Jack Rudski, Med II (Plantar Fasciitis’) and Alexandra Cohen, Med III ( Injections for Arthritis).
Dr. Zukor is an orthopedic surgeon whose particular area of interest involves hip and knee arthritis, including both medical and surgical treatment. He has been chief of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Jewish General Hospital since 1991, is an associate professor of surgery at McGill University and an active consultant at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Center. Born and raised here, he attended Hebrew Academy elementary and high school followed by a one year program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He attended McGill University as an undergraduate and for Medical School, receiving his MD in 1976. His residency training was at McGill followed by two years of fellowship at the University of Toronto. In addition to a busy clinical practice, he also is very involved in teaching and research.
Dr. Chaytor is a founding member and the Canadian representative on the International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot, passionate about establishing multidisciplinary clinics for diabetic foot care and reducing the current amputation rate in diabetics by 50 percent. In 2013, she was appointed Chief of Surgical Services of the Jewish General Hospital. Dr. Chaytor grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and graduated with Bachelor of Medical Science and M.D. degrees from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She completed a rotating internship at The Montreal General Hospital, McGill University before returning to the east to complete an orthopaedic residency at Dalhousie University. She has a clinical trauma fellowship from Dalhousie, a foot and ankle fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh, and a prosthetics and orthotics fellowship from the University of Montreal. Returning to Montreal in 1995, she initially worked at Notre Dame Hospital and the Université de Montréal, before moving to the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in 1997.
There will be a question and answer period at the conclusion of the event.
Last year’s event focused on cardiology and attracted a standing room only audience.
Anybody who has watched the hit television show America’s Got Talent no doubt remains a big fan of 2014 winner, master magician Mat Franco. I was thrilled to hear that he would be the featured performer at the 2019 ORT Montreal Ted Wise Gala for Jewish Education on Sunday, December 8th at Place des Arts.
The event will feature a cocktail dinatoire at 6 pm, followed by his performance at 7:30 pm. Honoureees this year are community leaders Jonathan Goodman, Jeff Hart, Dean Mendel and Gideon Pollack.
For close to 140 years, ORT has supported more than three million students around the world, helping to unleash the potential of young people so that they can lead fulfilling lives and have a positive impact on the world around them. Today, ORT is active in 35 countries across five continents, providing a staggering 300,000 plus students annually with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become successful members of 21st century society, economically self-sufficient, and imbued with the values needed to support others. In addition to supporting ORT activities across the globe, the 2019 ORT Gala will help raise urgently needed funds for the following schools and programs in Montreal: Akiva School, Azrieli Schools Talmud Torah/Herzliah, CBB Ottawa, Chabad NDG, Ecole Maimonide, Hebrew Academy, Hebrew Foundation School, JPPS-Bialik, JPPS ONE, March of the Living Montreal, and Solomon Schechter Academy.
As for Mat Franco, he takes an innovative approach to magic-making that’s driven by pure joy. Almost entirely self-taught, the 29-year-old Rhode Island native began staging his own shows before the age of 10 and quickly cultivated a performance style that highlighted his natural warmth and wit. Following a triumphant victory on America’s Got Talent and his first-ever primetime TV special, Mat Franco’s Got Magic, Franco is now headlining his own show, MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY at The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Named “Best Show” by Las Vegas Weekly and twice voted “Best Magic Show” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Best of Las Vegas Awards, MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY has continued to receive rave reviews from fans and critics alike, paving the way for the renaming of the LINQ Theater to The Mat Franco Theater in summer 2017.
Growing up in Johnston, Rhode Island, Franco first became fascinated with magic at the age of four. “I basically spent my whole childhood teaching myself by taping magic shows off the TV and watching them over and over in slow motion, trying to figure out all the tricks,” says Franco. At age 12—after years of sharpening his craft by practicing for his family and friends and delivering on-the-fly performances at his older brothers’ wrestling matches and football games—Franco headed to Las Vegas to join a three-day program that allowed him to study under a host of magicians previously featured on NBC’s The World’s Greatest Magic. Thanks to an act he developed on his own and honed through an ever-growing number of gigs at local events and parties, Franco returned to Las Vegas three years later and took the stage at the Riviera Hotel & Casino as part of the Society of American Magicians National Convention.
After finishing high school, Franco began studying business at the University of Rhode Island, balancing his coursework with a steadily flourishing career powered by word-of-mouth marketing. In performing for his peers during his time as a student, he soon discovered that the college crowd provided a perfect audience for his humor-infused take on magic. “When I was younger I was a little more serious, partly because I was trying to emulate the magicians I saw on TV, who tended to have a dark, mysterious element to their act,” he says. “But after a while I found my own voice as a performer and moved toward a style that’s much more lighthearted, where I’m interacting with the audience in a laid-back way that lets those more comedic moments happen.”
Over the next four years, Franco toured the country performing for colleges and universities, fast earning recognition as an in-demand act and eventually winning the 2013 Male Performer of The Year award from Campus Activities magazine. Then, in early 2014, he decided to expand his reach even further by auditioning for America’s Got Talent. “People had been telling me to try out for years, and finally I just auditioned on a whim,” he said. “I had no intentions of actually getting on the show—mostly it just seemed like a fun challenge to try to put together a piece of material that could work for a live audience but also engage the people watching at home.” Noting that his time on America’s Got Talent went a long way in fine-tuning his performance skills, Franco says he hopes that his triumph over 100,000 aspirants might have a broader impact on his chosen field. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to see any magician win the show,” he admits. “Magic requires a different kind of attention than what’s needed for something like music, and sometimes it can be a challenge to get people to connect. My hope in all this is that I’ve done something that will help move the art of magic forward.”
Claiming his victory in mid-September 2014, Franco went on to host the America’s Got Talent Live show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas later that month. Along with appearing on shows like Today, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and Access Hollywood Live, Franco also immediately set to work on refining brand-new material for his headlining act with MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY. With the aim of taking his audience on a “shared adventure,” the full-scale production allows Franco to execute his magic with a grander sense of spectacle than ever before—all while maintaining the easy intimacy that’s long been central to his performances. “One of the most important things to me as a performer is really connecting with the audience, so it’s like we’re all just hanging out in a room together,” he says. “I love to change things up as I go and let the crowd guide what we’re doing. That way it keeps it fresh for me every night, and makes it so each show is special for everyone in the audience.”