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Howard and Hope Morry ad Jason Alexander
Photo by Keith Levit

Photo by Keith Levit

Photo by Keith Levit

Ab Freig and Howard Morry of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue
Photo by Keith Levit


by Rhonda Spivak July 28, 2013

Some 1000 people attended the Jewish National Fund's Negev Gala here in June honouring the Arab Jewish Dialogue at the Centennial Concert Hall, headlined by Jason Alexander who had the crowd chuckling throughout his performance.

Proceeds from this year's  Negev Gala, which is the organization's main fundraising event here, will be going to a schoolyard development project for Ilanot School located in Jerusalem’s Gonen (Katamon) neighborhood in Israel,  a public special education school with 70 students, aged 6-21, with severe motor and cognitive disabilities. The project will renovate the yards of the school to meet safety and accessibility standards, where both Jewish and Arab students attend.

Zev Kedem, a KKL- JNF emissary from Jerusalem, who used to be a shaliach for the organization in Winnipeg, spoke movingly at the event about one disabled Bedouin child  from a village in the Negev who  has learned how to paint with his foot at the Ilanot school and is in fact transported daily back and forth from the school to the Negev at the expense of the State of Israel.  Kedem said that the Ilanot School project was one of the ways in which JNF tries to give back to the community in  Israel.

Kedem also injected some political commentary in his speech, noting that his wife was a refugee from Egypt who was forced with her family out of Egypt with little warning in the 50's, and  arrived in  the State of Israel with nothing but the clothes on her back. (Editor's note: The Jews of Egypt began fleeing the country in 1948 with the onset of the Arab-Israeli war, and most of the remaining, some 21,000, were expelled in 1956.) Kedem noted that Israel didn't keep the Jewish refugees from Arab states as refugees but settled them, and they built a new life in Israel. This is to be contrasted with the situation of  Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, who have  been kept as refugees  in refugee camps to this day and  never been allowed to become citizens of  Arab states where they have resided since then, such as Lebanon and Syria.  

Prior to Jason Alexander's performance, Howard Morry and Ab Freig, co-chairs of the Arab Jewish Dialogue spoke about the group, and the trust that it tries to build. Founded in 2006 by Ab Freig and the late Harold Buchwald and co-chaired since 2008 by Ab Freig and Howard Morry, the Arab Jewish dialogue is dedicated to encouraging positive relations and respect between Arabs and Jews in Canada.

Both Jewish and Arab members, many of whom are well-known businessmen in the city, were present on the stage to accept the Negev Gala honour. (Members of the AJD as noted in the evening’s program are: Ahmed Abdoh, Ossama Abouzeid, Jim Carr, Neil Duboff, Ab Freig, Wadood Ibrahim, Bryan Klein, Mel Lazareck, Howard Morry, Anita Neville, Mohammed Rashwan, Ahmed Shalaby, Larry Vickar and Moe Zeid).

"If we were going to have any influence on events elsewhere we had to learn to trust each other," Morry explained.

“We meet and discuss issues in a safe environment

Freig noted that it was important for both the Jews and the Arabs in the group to hear each other’s narrative. He spoke about how the group had discussed the meaning of Zionism as “many people have different views of what a Zionist means.”

Alexander’s act had many humorous moments, which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.

For example, he spoke about his relationship with his wife of 31 years. He said it didn't feel like they had been married for 31 years. When asked what it  felt like, Alexander said he tells people it feels like he has been married for only 31 minutes...UNDERWATER.
Howard and Hope Morry were exceedingly good sports when Alexander called them onto the stage and proceeded to ask questions about their 28 (going on 29) years of marriage.
Alexander noted that there were so many positive things about being in a long term relationship, and then turned and said to Howard, "List them."
"Tell her why you love her? Alexander implored, saying "You stalled" when Howard was speechless for a moment.
He asked Hope if Howard snored and then showed her how to squirt him with a water gun at the first hint of a snore.
Alexander then began making amorous advances towards Hope, telling her "Let's get rid of Howard."
But Hope and Howard Morry was not the only audience member to receive Alexander's special attention.
Throughout the evening Alexander also made amorous advances to a Palestinian man,  whose father is a member of the Arab Jewish Dialogue. He began by saying that "under the right conditions" he could kiss him. Near the end of his show he put on lipstick and did in fact kiss him on the forehead.
Additionally, Alexander also focused attention on Keith Levitt, who was seated in the first row. Alexander asked Levitt what he did for a living and when  Levitt answered he was in the hotel business and also a photographer, Alexander responded , "Oh you're a hotel photographer" , "you've gotta find hotels to photograph", and then told Levitt that if  his wife Linda saw Brad  Pitt she wouldn't "need a hotel picture boy" but would go after Pitt.

Alexander's routine was filled with many zany and humorous antics, and included his description of how when he starred in a movie with a female orangutan she kissed him. "I got monkey tongue in my throat."
He spoke about a number of different diets he had tried, and his failures at exercising. He complained about the design of a bicycle seat, which he referred to as nothing but a "vinyl suppository", which "is why you should never buy a used bike."
Alexander noted that he had a tough childhood and that by age 8 when other kids barely had teeth "I had braces," which "I had for nine years."
Alexander spoke about how as a child his mother always dressed him in corduroy pants, which was a problem when he had to run away from other tougher children, since  he couldn’t run very fast in them since when the corduroy pant legs would rub against each other,  and build up enough friction that he was afraid he would ignite !.

In addition to telling jokes, Alexander also played the piano, sang (he has a very good singing voice) and even opened the show with a song  he wrote about  Winnipeg.

“Having the opportunity to visit Ilanot Special Education School in Jerusalem was truly a spectacular experience,” says Berkowits, “The students and teachers were incredibly inspiring and truly deserving of a functional outdoor space for both their enjoyment and learning and we're so pleased that we were able to put the proceeds of this year's gala towards this project.”

On August 11, 2013, the Jewish National Fund of Canada – Manitoba/Saskatchewan Region (JNF) will be serving up a traditional Israeli Breakfast at Lakeview Resort Gimli for a new fundraiser called Breakfast for Israel. Breakfast for Israel is a way to continue to engage JNF supporters who either spend their summers at the lake or just love to get away from the city when the mercury reaches the high 20s and 30s. Holding the event at a venue in Gimli, Manitoba is the perfect way to give cottage-goers the chance to attend even though they are away from the city for the summer. The JNF hopes to make Breakfast for Israel an annual event and this year, the proceeds will go towards restoring the outdoor space at Ilanot Special Education School, the same project that was supported at this year's Negev Gala in Winnipeg. The JNF is asking for a minimum $36 donation per person to attend. The event will be casual, with shorts, flip-flops and sundresses encouraged. The breakfast, consisting of an assortment of salads, baked goods and other Israeli foods will be served family style. While they eat, attendees will hear a presentation from Eliaz Luf, Minister-Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Israel, who is travelling from Ottawa to attend.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.