UJA’s very first Walk was on May 24, 1970. Approximately 4,000 people raised $55,000 in support of Israel. Today, five decades later, much has changed.
Woodstock has given way to Coachella. Transistor radios are obsolete, and survival without our smart phones is practically unthinkable. The Age of Aquarius has surrendered to the Selfie Generation.
But for the past 49 Walks, one fact of life has never changed: the unbreakable bond between Toronto’s Jewish community and the people of Israel.
In support of this enduring relationship UJA anticipates more than 20,000 people will participate in the 50th annual Walk with Israel. Together we will raise more than $1 million to support the Israeli people through innovative educational programs.
It’s a joyous celebration of Jewish unity and peoplehood. And, just as our community has changed with the times, so too has the Walk. Did you know . . .
The first Walk with Israel in 1970 was called the “Walk for Jewish Survival.” Funds raised on the 35 km (22 mile) Walk were earmarked for the ‘UJA-Israel Special Fund’.
In addition to becoming the largest single Jewish community event in the country, the Walk has grown into the biggest Israel solidarity event in all of North America.
The Walk with Israel has been known by several other names since 1970, including:
Walk for Israel
Community March for Israel
Canada-Israel Friendship Walk
Walk for Jewish Survival
Walk for the Youth of Israel
In addition to its fundraising role, the Walk was also designed as a fitness challenge for children; the 1978 Walk followed a 30 kilometre route to honour Israel’s 30th birthday.
In 1979 12,000 participants marched in the ‘Canada-Israel Friendship Walk’, which featured sports and show business personalities like XX and Al Waxman signing autographs
The 1981 ‘Walk for the Youth of Israel’ featured a supplemental, 15-hour Danceathon fundraiser. The dance marathon ran from 11:00 p.m. on the day of the Walk to 2:00 p.m. the next day.
Guests at the Walk throughout the years have included Polkaroo, Mr. Peanut and a troop of performing elephants!
In addition to the Walkathon, participating organizations have hosted a number of different “a-thons” including Eitz Chaim’s Learnathon, which raised over $18,000 in 1993!
Beginning in 1976, community groups were responsible for staffing various checkpoints along the Walk route, truly reflecting the community effort required to make the Walk successful!
In 2005, the Walk with Israel introduced its first-ever mascot. A city-wide competition to name the lion brought in 250 suggestions from children; the winning name was Arr-yeah, a combination of a cheer and the Hebrew word for lion, "Aryeh."