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May 10, 2021

Famed Israeli actress Shira Haas, star of the popular Netflix series ‘Shtisel’ and ‘Unorthodox’ has been busy in recent months. Not only is she preparing to take on the role of a young Golda Meir in the upcoming series, ‘Lioness’ executive produced by Barbara Streisand, but she is also the featured guest at the Canadian national virtual gala in support of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) on July 7.

“An ‘Unorthodox’ National Virtual Gala for Brain Research” organized by Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University (CABGU), BGU’s Canadian fundraising arm, will raise money for the Canada Fund to Advance Brain Research. “We are thrilled to share this exciting announcement with our community,” says Mitchell Oelbaum, National President of CABGU. “According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 50 million active cases of Dementia worldwide with an estimated 10 million new cases being added each year. Ten million people battle Parkinson’s each year globally. And according to the World Stroke Organization, 13 million people suffer from stroke annually. We wanted to do our part to help improve the chances of finding a cure for these debilitating diseases.”

The numbers are staggering, and there are no signs of a slowdown. That is why the fund was established by CABGU with the goal of supporting ground-breaking and cutting-edge research for neurodegenerative diseases at the university’s Zlotowski Centre for Neuroscience.  "We are getting closer to determining the causes of age-related neurodegenerative diseases," explains Dr. Debra Toiber of the Department of Life Sciences in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at BGU, "It's an exciting time to be a scientist and uncovering the mechanisms of aging."

Dr. Toiber is one of 67 researchers at the Zlotowski Centre. Her lab recently made a revolutionary discovery finding that the SIRT6 protein is critical for the prevention of neurodegeneration which can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Her colleague Dr. Shelly Levy-Tzedek’s lab studies the impact of age and disease on the control of body movement and how best to employ robotics to facilitate a fast and efficient rehabilitation process. Meanwhile, Dr. Claude Brodski, also with the Zlotowski Centre for Neuroscience is currently conducting a study, albeit in its early stages, that may offer a disease modified drug target to address the devastating impact of Parkinson’s. While these findings are revolutionary, more research needs to be conducted.

“CABGU launched The Canada Fund to Advance Brain Research at BGU in April,” says CABGU CEO Mark Mendelson. “Our team has been hard at work ever since and there is a strong appetite for this subject matter here in Canada. The sad reality is that we all know someone, whether it is a relative, a friend or a neighbour, who is struggling with one of these devastating brain diseases.”

The national virtual gala is already 50 per cent sold out. To learn how to become a sponsor or to purchase tickets head to

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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.