Founder of Friends of Israel Initiative makes friends in Toronto


By Daniel Horowitz-- “It is outrageous, a shame, that Canada lost its seat at the UN Security Council because of its defense of Israel. But you don’t need to feel sorry. On the contrary, you must be proud of having principled leaders like Mr. Harper as Prime Minister.”

Those are the words of Jose Maria Aznar, Spain's Prime Minister between 1996 and 2004, and the keynote speaker of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s recent Major Gifts Dinner, held in front of 400 of UJA’s top supporters at Events on the Park.

Aznar is the founder of The Friends of Israel initiative, and author of the Times of London article, If Israel Goes Down, We All Go Down.

“I have always thought that a politician’s actions speak louder than words, and that’s the reason why, a few months ago, I started to contact some friends in order to launch the initiative,” Aznar told the appreciative crowd. “Amid an increasingly hostile environment towards Israel, not only in Europe, but also on this side of the Atlantic, a certain sense of urgency shared among us all made possible that people such as Vaclav Havel, Alejandro Toledo, Marcello Pera, David Trimble, Andrew Roberts and John Bolton, just to name a few, got together to set the new project in motion very quickly.”

Chaired by Sherry Firestone and Jeff Rosenthal, UJA’s 2011 Campaign – which has reached $46 million - is raising funds to created new initiatives and programs to provide out next generation with the tools they need to successfully take on the difficult challenges confronting them due to the global attempts to delegitimize Israel, and to strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

UJA’s Women’s Philanthropy, chaired by Sarena Koschitzky, has raised $8 million towards this year’s campaign.

“If anyone here, even for a moment, needed validation about what we are trying to accomplish through UJA’s 2011 case for increased giving,” said Firestone, “consider these words, stated by Prime Minister Harper at the recent global conference on combating anti-Semitism, held in Ottawa. ‘When Israel, the only country in the world shoes very existence is under attack – is constantly and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand…’”

“Our leaders have been steadfast in their fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric announcing their boycott of the upcoming UN hate fest commemorating the Durban Convention in South Africa ten years ago,” said Rosenthal.  “And M.P. Irwin Cotler made it clear that society-at-large, not only Jews, will ultimately pay the price of anti-Semitism, when he recently said; ‘Anti-Semitism is the oldest and most enduring of hatreds – a “lethal obsession” as it has been called, which has caused untold catastrophes. As it has been said, while it may begin with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews. We ignore anti-Semitism at our peril.’”

The Major Gifts Dinner, chaired by Jennifer Brodlieb and Joel Flatt, also included a performance by musical group Deleon.

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