There’s an old adage that says if you’re going to host an event you should always “leave ’em laughing.”
And on May 17, at the fourth annual Spirit of Community Dinner, a fundraising awards gala hosted by the Beth Chabad Israeli Community Centre to benefit the growing Israeli community in the GTA, that’s exactly what what they did.
More pictures in the Extended Article!
More than 800 people attended the dinner hosted by Rabbi Yisroel Landa, Chabad’s local spiritual leader. They were treated to an evening of speeches, auctions, food and song before the closing guest speaker, popular U.S. radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, took the podium and served up some yuks.
Organizers for the event called the $200-a-plate event the most successful they’ve had, raising nearly $40,000 from the auctions alone.
Sold were the rights to a street name in Vaughan, the use of a private plane for a day, a mini-motorbike, a health club membership for two, a pair of Maple Leafs tickets and catering for 100 people.
“Chabad provides assistance to immigrants in all aspects, creating a home away from home,” he said. “You are all a part of this accomplishment,” Rabbi Landa told the audience.
He then helped to lead a prayer for all the Israeli, Canadian and U.S. soldiers “who sacrifice daily to protect life.”
Joyce Frustaglio, regional councillor for the city of Vaughan, received Chabad’s community service award for her commitment to help her city’s less fortunate. She thanked the audience for “sharing their hard-earned dollars” with Chabad.
Daniel Chai, a soft-spoken mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, accepted an award for his philanthropic efforts.
“I believe in Rabbi Landa’s cause… he wants us to be part of a strong whole,” Chai said.
Pediatrician Gideon Koren received the humanitarian award for his tireless efforts in children’s medicine at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
Koren, who also composes music, played guitar and led the audience in a sing-along to a song he composed for the event called Ve’ahavta.
“I believe each one of us has the ability to do good in our community,” he told the crowd.
After all the awards were presented and the auctioneering was done, it was time for Prager.
In his booming, radio-friendly voice, the bombastic Prager told the audience he normally speaks about “serious” issues, such as war, religion, life and death, but decided instead to use the opportunity to opine about happiness.
“I support Chabad but I don’t look like or am a Chabadnik, but I finally figured out why,” he said. “Because Chabad’s rabbis are happy. Worship God in joy, that’s the motto of [Chabad], which is why it draws people to it.”
Prager went on to give what amounted to an hour-long discourse-cum-stand-up routine on the perils of unhappiness and what he called everyone’s moral obligation to “bring happiness” to the world.
“The older I get, the less sympathy I have for the unhappy,” Prager said. “We who sympathize with the unhappy are enablers. Do you think the happiest among Muslims want to kill others and blow themselves up? No.”
He exhorted the audience to examine their lives and choose to leave self-pity and bitterness behind.
Using a biblical analogy, Prager likened complaining to evil.
“God seems to have limitless patience for almost anything. But in the book of Numbers, why was God so angry at the Jews in the desert?” he asked rhetorically. “Not because of false idols and such… because they kept complaining.”
The quip was met with uproarious laughter.
Prager then segued into his finale, a morality tale about the seduction of false satisfaction.
“God made us dissatisfied for a reason. Because satisfaction leads to no achievement,” he said. “Why do we keep searching for a cure for cancer? Because we’re dissatisfied. Only cows are completely satisfied. Don’t be a cow, it does injustice to your humanity.”
In closing, Prager praised Chabad again, calling its approach to religion and life something that increases people’s happiness.
“And any organization that does that is doing something right.”