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Israeli musicians entertained and energized delegates as the 74th annual General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities convened in Toronto this week.
Throughout the three-day conference, Israeli superstar Idan Reichal strolled around the Metro Toronto Convention Center, where the GA was being held, talking to delegates, posing for pictures, and signing autographs before his Monday night performance.
In a sea of delegates wearing suits and ties, this 6-foot tall performer with long dreadlocks and baggy pants stood out like a sore thumb, yet Reichal appeared quite comfortable.
During the Idan Reichal Project's performance, which took place before over 3,000 people, student delegates were on their feet, singing and dancing to the music and feeding energy to the band. After the show, GA delegates of all ages rushed from the giant room to buy the band's CDs.
Reichal said he was proud to represent his county in the Diaspora.
"When we are performing in North America and Europe it is good PR for Israel," he said. "It shows a social and cultural side of Israel that you don't see on CNN."
Hillel of Greater Toronto hosted an Ivri Lider concert on Saturday night for the Toronto community and for the hundreds of students attending the GA as part of the international Hillel delegation.
As Lider began to play, the students immediately rushed the stage. He said he was surprised to see so many students singing along as the concert was only his second in North America.
"It was a great feeling," he said, "I felt like I was at home."
Lider put on an amazing show, even impressing those who were unfamiliar with his music, despite his admission that the energy was different for the band because of the long flight to Canada and the unfamiliar venue.
After the show, Lider spent some time with the students signing CDs and taking pictures.
"I really enjoy meeting and performing for students. They are great fans," Lider said. "They are very attentive, open-minded and energetic."
Israeli music has always been popular in the Diaspora, however, the last couple of years have seen an invasion of musicians from Israel to North America. Along with the Idan Reichal Project and Ivri Lider, Ha'dag Nachash and Shotei Ha'Nevuah have all performed recently for audiences there.
This is part of a campaign, funded in part by the Jewish Agency and Jewish Federations, to expose different sides of Israel to audiences in North America, especially on college campuses - the battlefield for supporters and advocates of Israel.
Like Reichal, Lider said he was also happy to promote his country abroad. "I'm a private person, not political, but when you come and play outside of Israel, in some way it is political. People don't see all aspects of Israel," he said.
He added, however, that "My generation doesn't use politics in art as much as the generation before us. There is this feeling of we don't want to do deal with that any more."
Yet, this generation of Israeli musicians is turning heads outside of Israel and making people rethink their views of Israel. Reichal believes his music resonates well with Canadians because of the multi-cultural sound produced by the blending of over 50 musicians, from different backgrounds, and ages 16-84, on his two CDs.
Reichal's performance at the GA, which consisted of his signature intermingling of Israeli and traditional Ethiopian music, echoed perfectly with the UJC's pledge to bring the rest of Ethiopian Jewry home to Israel in "Operation Promise."
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