Still Walking After All These Years...
UJA’s very first Walk was on May 24, 1970, when roughly 4,000 people raised $55,000 in support of Israel.
Today, five decades later, our community’s love and support for Israel is as strong as ever. In fact, the celebratory 50th anniversary Walk with Israel in 2019 saw our highest participation to date, with 30,000+ members of our community walking in solidarity with the people of Israel.
UJA’s Walk with Israel 2020, exactly 51 years to the day of that very first Walk, continues our tradition of celebrating the unbreakable bond between our community and Israel, and reaffirms the extraordinary unity of the Jewish people.
It’s a joyous event with a rich history. For instance . . .
- 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’.
- Today the UJA Walk with Israel is the biggest Israel solidarity Walk 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
- Israel Funwalk
- 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 ‘King of Kensington’ 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!
- 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."
- In 2019 the Walk celebrated its Golden Anniversary by returning to its historic roots on Bathurst Street in the heart of North York, where this soon-to-become signature community event originally began. The Walk was followed by the first-ever Bathurst Street Fest the largest Jewish street party anywhere in Canada!