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The Spirit of Hope Benefit 2008

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Raises $1.9M from ‘Spirit of Hope’ Benefit
Annual Fundraiser Smashes Previous Attendance Records by 400

TORONTO—May 30, 2008—In celebration of tolerance, justice and human rights, more than 2,600 people converged on the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on May 29, 2008 to attend the annual ‘Spirit of Hope’ Benefit hosted by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC). The event raised over $1.9 million to support FSWC’s education initiatives around important issues such as racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide.

“Our annual Spirit of Hope Benefit has become the ‘must attend’ event of the year, evidenced by the increase in both the number of guests in attendance and the amount of money raised,” said Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of FSWC. “We are once again inspired by the overwhelming support we received and extend our gratitude to the members of the community who helped make this our largest fundraising event to date.” The Spirit of Hope Benefit has grown progressively since the inaugural event in 2004, which raised $600,000 and was attended by 750 people.

Among the guests in attendance at the May 29th event were 1,000 students from high schools across ten public and separate school boards of education in Ontario. “To foster a sense of tolerance for others in future generations, we need to begin by educating the youth of today. That is why, for the first time in the history of the Spirit of Hope Benefit, we opened our doors to high school students from across the province,” explains Benlolo. “By providing these students with an opportunity to hear from some of the most respected leaders and voices in our community, we can affect change today and in the future.”

Ron and Hedy Frisch co-chaired the 2008 Spirit of Hope Benefit. The co-chairs brought a wealth of experience to this spectacular event, having served on numerous committees and campaigns over the years. Hedy has co-Chaired the Mount Sinai Gala and the Baycrest Gala; while Ron Chaired the JNF Campaign and Negev Dinner, and co-Chaired the UJA Campaign.

This year’s event featured radio and television host Glenn Beck as commentator and moderator. Together with Democrat Richard (Dick) Gephardt and Republican Newt Gingrich, these headline speakers embraced a ‘Situation Room’ format to discuss a number of topical issues, including the American Presidential Elections, Nuclear Iran, the Middle East conflict, the threat of terrorism and America’s relationship with Israel.

Guests at the 2008 Benefit also had an opportunity to hear a dynamic and inspirational presentation from Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Los Angeles) and its acclaimed Museum of Tolerance. Rabbi Hier was a member of the Honorary Delegation invited by U.S. President George W. Bush to attend recent celebrations in Jerusalem in honour of the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel. He was also named by Newsweek in both 2007 and 2008 as the “Most Influential Rabbi in America”.

The Honourable Vic Toews, President of the Treasury Board and Canadian Member of Parliament for Provencher, Manitoba, attended the Spirit of Hope Benefit on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Toews, along with The Honourable Jason Kenney, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity), provided a uniquely Canadian perspective on contemporary issues affecting our communities today. Toronto-based Jesse Cook, a Juno Award-winning guitarist, was the special musical guest at the Benefit.

About Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies is a Canadian human rights organization dedicated to fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. It has 25,000 members across Canada, and confronts important contemporary issues including racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide. The Center is affiliated with the world-wide, Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, an accredited Non-Government Organization with status at international agencies, including the United Nations, UNESCO, OSCE and the Council of Europe. With over 400,000 members of all faiths around the world, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has offices in New York, Miami, Paris, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires and Toronto. Simon Wiesenthal died in 2005 after devoting his life to preserving the memories of the victims of the Holocaust, while simultaneously seeking justice for the war criminals. Visit: www.fswc.ca.