|May 9th, 2014
NEFESH launched its building campaign with the help of a memorable guest last Wednesday, presenting Paula Abdul in a talk-show style interview in which she spoke candidly about her Jewish identity.
Approximately 400 people filled the Moshe Triguboff auditorium at Moriah College to hear from the dancer, choreographer, singer-songwriter and television personality, along with Chabad of Bel Air’s “rabbi to the stars”, Chaim Mentz.
Abdul, 51, has been in Sydney as a judge on popular reality series So You Think You Can Dance.
“I’ve fallen in love with the country, mainly because I’ve fallen in love with the people. It’s been above anything I ever expected,” she said.
Quizzed by Rabbi Mentz and Rabbi Ritchie Moss of Nefesh, Abdul talked about growing up, particularly her physical difficulties as a child having been born almost three months premature.
“I was really not the most functioning kid. But I had a will, and I had a passion to do lots of things,” Abdul recalled.
Describing herself as “a Jewish girl from the valley who just had a dream”, she said she was never the obvious choice.
“I’ve never been the very best at anything. But I’m wonderful at understanding my strengths and further honing in on those. And really recognising blatantly my weaknesses, and gathering people who can help me.”
Abdul was born in San Fernando, California. Her father came from the Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria, and her mother from Canada.
She spoke of her recent trip to Israel where she celebrated her bat mitzvah in Tzfat.
“From the moment I stepped my first step into the airport, I could already tell something feels different … every little experience I had – even if it was walking down the street – every little nuance was incredibly special to me and I soaked it all in,” Abdul said.
She drew particular attention to her meeting with Shimon Peres, who she described as “one of the most special, magical people”.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I said, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re so ‘sababa’ … It was just such a charming experience to be able to really get to know this wonderful man,” she enthused.
Rabbi Moss explained that Nefesh is bursting out of its current premises in Bondi and moving ahead with plans for a major renovation.
“We want to build a building the likes of which Sydney has not yet seen … we want to make sure that we are ensuring the future of the Jewish community here in Sydney,” he said.
For more information, visit www.nefesh.com.au.
Paula Abdul (left) with Rabbi Chaim Mentz speaking at the Nefesh Building Campaign launch. Photo: Elana Castle.
Courtesy of The Australian Jewish News
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