Netta Barzilai, the Israeli winner of Eurovision 2018, made her first-ever Canadian appearance Thursday, headlining a fundraiser for Hillel Ontario.
More than 300 students and community members turned out for “Out of Sync,” a lip sync battle held at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. The evening, hosted by media personality Shai DeLuca, featured an opening VIP reception, student and celebrity performances and an after party featuring DJ Kings.
The audience pulsed with excitement as they watched nearly 100 Hillel students from Queens University, Ryerson University, University of Waterloo, McMaster University, University of Toronto, York University and Guelph University take to the stage to perform choreographed renditions of popular songs by Lady Gaga, Disney and Queen.
After the student performances, the audience voted online for their favorite performance. As the results were being tabulated, Netta Barzilai performed her hit song “Toy.”
As Netta walked out on stage, the audience in the Isabel Bader Theatre erupted. When the singer reached center stage, she flashed a huge smile to the crowd. “I am so happy to be here! Thank you, Hillel Ontario. You are incredible!”
Netta’s performance of “Toy” had everyone on their feet, singing along with the Israeli pop star whose presence and dynamism made the moment feel larger-than-life.
When Netta left the stage, Marc Newburgh, CEO of Hillel Ontario, opened the golden envelope and declared the students from Guelph Hillel the winners of the lip sync battle. All the Guelph students in the audience were then treated to a VIP meet and greet with Netta herself. Backstage, Netta congratulated the students and posed for photos.
Elena Levy, choreographer of the Guelph team, said, “I feel really great to be a part of something [like this]. I think everyone feels that way, too. Tonight, everyone should feel proud.”
Another student, Yehuda Maes, from the University of Toronto, said, “There is so much talent within the Jewish student community in Ontario. Students deserve to be given the spotlight, and I was thrilled to be able to see my fellow students shine on stage.”
The evening’s fundraising goals were met, said organizers, but the event’s impact went beyond dollars and cents. It brought the Ontario Jewish community together for an evening of music and bonding like few had experienced before.
Said Dana Ellner, a student performer from Guelph: “I learned tonight that we’re a huge Jewish community, and, even though we come from all different schools all over Ontario, we are united with the same values and goals. When we can come together like this, it is really beautiful.”
-- Adina Samuels