Every year, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa holds a Kickoff event to launch the Annual Campaign. The 2019 Kickoff – Sunday, September 16, 7 pm, at Centrepointe Theatre – promises to be a unique, fun event. Instead of a speaker, talk, or movie, this year’s Kickoff will be a “lip-sync battle.”
In a lip-sync battle, performers pretend sing recorded songs. This “battle” will be a friendly competition featuring performers from our community, including rabbis, agency directors and young people. This means great music and fun choreography performed by enthusiastic, but amateur, stars.
Stuntman Stu will MC the evening. Joining him is a panel of celebrity judges to add extra humour and entertainment to a show that families will be sure to enjoy.
The Zaret Family – Debi, Neil, Adam, Josh and Jen – are co-chairs of Kickoff and I spoke with them at the Gemstone office, where Neil and Josh work, about the family’s desire to make a difference and about what they hope Kickoff will achieve.
Explain how your family became co-chairs of Kickoff.
Adam: We were asked based on the generations that we represent and are connected with. Josh and Jen are young parents, and along with our own parents, we represent a broad demographic. When Sharon [Sharon Appotive, past Annual Campaign chair] and Micah [Micah Garten, Federation’s director of development] met with us, they explained they wanted to reach people who were being missed, and to recognize there is probably a shadow community in the Ottawa Jewish community.
Debi: To give you more background, Neil and I were asked to chair Kickoff a few years ago and we declined. It wasn’t in our comfort zone. When Josh, Jen and Adam came to us and said they had been approached to chair the event, and would we consider doing it as a family, it was really hard to say no given the commitment that our children have to the event and to the community.
How did you come up with the idea of a lip-sync battle?
Jen: Josh was talking to his friend Dan Vigderhous, an event producer who has done this type of event before. He also knows what it takes to make this type of event successful. Given that we were tasked with thinking outside the box, we challenged Dan to find an event that would engage the community, push people out of their comfort zones, and show people that we can look within our community for creativity and entertainment. We immediately hired Dan and engaged him to work his magic. We also liked the idea, as it will hopefully bring people to Kickoff who had never been before.
Neil: I had never heard of lip-sync battles before this … and my only condition when I heard the idea was that I would not be performing!
Jen: When you go to hear a speaker you may or may not know them, but when you go to this event you are going to know someone who is up on stage.
Josh: Our goal was to create unity by creating one event that serves all the generations. This is an event for the young to old.
Jen: It’s also going to be nice to see diverse members of the community performing together on stage. I think seeing different heads of supplementary schools, all working together, will be great.
Debi: We are also excited to see the diversity of our community represented – whether it is people with disabilities, seniors, rabbis, school kids, young people and old people – the whole community will come together.
What is the format for the lip-sync battle?
Jen: It will be similar to “Dancing with the Stars” with Stuntman Stu as the MC along with three local celebrity judges – Lawrence Wall, Lianne Lang and Abigail Bimman. Each group will perform their act and then there will be a short Q&A for each group to explain their relationship and relevance to the overall community.
Debi: There will also be a People’s Choice Award. That’s very important. The audience will get to vote and there will be lots of prizes to be won.
You are a busy family and yet you have made this huge commitment. What would you do to encourage others to get involved?
Adam: To use a message from my father, if the next generation, like us, doesn’t support the Jewish community, then it’s going to disappear. Our generation has to get involved with time and money. Yes, we are busy. We have jobs, we have work travel, I have a significant other in another city, sports, fitness and all this stuff – if we can do it, then everyone can.
Josh: Also something that I know Adam, Jen, and I all practice is that you can’t complain about something if you don’t actually get involved yourself. For people who criticize the day schools – well, have you even gone for a tour? Or for those who say shul doesn’t do anything for them – well, have you even gone to any programming? Until you actually try…
Jen and Josh: You can’t complain!
Tickets for the Annual Campaign Kickoff Lip-Sync Battle are now available at the Centrepointe Theatre box office. Visit www.meridiancentrepointe.com or call 613-580-2700.