UJA Federation’s Walk with Israel was first held in May 1970, when it was called the UJA Walkathon. The first walk was organized quickly with no advance publicity, yet it still raised $55,000. In the early years, funds raised in the walk went into UJA’s Israel Special Fund. Since then, the money has supported particular projects in Israel that often involve children, since children are the main fundraisers in the event. The Walk with Israel has grown into the largest event in the Toronto Jewish community, with over twenty thousand people participating as volunteers or walkers and funds raised reaching as high as $400,000. The event has had several name changes since 1970: Walk for Israel (1978–1993); Community March for Israel (1994–1996); Israel Funwalk (1998–2002); and the current name, Walk with Israel.
The Walk with Israel is one of the programs mounted by the Annual Campaign department of UJA Federation. It is planned by a Cabinet Committee, with one or two laypeople as chairs, and numerous sub-committees. The main UJA staff undertaking the planning and execution is the walk coordinator. Each year, sub-committees are formed for recruitment, logistics, marketing, and public relations, the festival, food, entertainment, etc. The walk also involves many outside entities: companies approached for prizes, donations or sponsorship; entertainment groups; the Toronto police force, which provides traffic control, marshalling and a parade permit; city government, for park use permits and outdoor signage; community groups mounting displays; costumed character rental companies; and manufacturers of the T-shirts, hats and buttons produced each year for walk participants.
In addition to being a major fundraiser, the walk fashioned itself initially as a fitness challenge to children and athletes, with a route as long as thirty-one kilometres in 1976. Over the years, this length has been reduced significantly, with the event evolving into a more manageable and family-oriented event. In the last decade, with periods of tension overseas, it has been framed as a demonstration of solidarity with Israel. Alongside the main event, alternative fundraisers such as a large raffle, dance-a-thon, aerob-a-thon and learn-a-thon for Eitz Chaim day schools, have been held in some years to encourage more people to contribute. Incentives for those who collect sponsors have grown over the years, from free T-shirts to a succession of prizes depending on the amount of funds raised. The grand prize draw for many years was two El Al airline tickets to Israel.
The location of the walk has moved from the Bathurst Street "corridor" of the Jewish community to a downtown route that for some years went through the historic Jewish neighbourhood of Kensington Market and, more recently, begins and ends at Coronation Park by the lakeshore and winds around the downtown streets. There is now also a kick-off party at the walk’s starting point. Since 1984, the walk has culminated in a big festival, featuring rides, petting zoos, a barbecue, musical entertainment, clowns, and other attractions. This was usually held in a park or the BJCC parking lot. When the walk route moved downtown, the festival shifted to Ontario Place, and, more recently, it has taken place on the CNE grounds by the lakeshore. Since 2007, the festival has been sponsored by RioCan, and "yogen fruz" became a major sponsor of the walk in 2008. Other walk sponsors have included Roots Canada (supplier of T-shirts), Shopper’s Drug Mart, Henry’s Camera Centre, Canada Trust, National Bank Financial Group, and the Canadian Zionist Federation.
Scope and Content
Sub-series contains records that document the planning and coordination of the Walk for Israel each year, as well as photographs and other records from the day itself and post-walk evaluation and wrap-up activities. The records include meeting notices, agendas and minutes, information sheets, lists, schedules, sitemaps, correspondence, school presentations, permits, press releases, design work, invoices, flyers, and photographs. Materials distibuted to participants include walker passports that had to be verified at each checkpoint, sponsor books, collection envelopes, tickets, and other ephemera.
Most of the records have been arranged by year, broken down by function, in the following order: walk oversight (the Walk Committee and chairs); recruitment of participants; volunteers; logistics such as route and police/security coverage; publicity and public relations, design of memorabilia (e.g., hats); sponsorship and prizes; financial management; the walk event itself; the festival; related fundraisers, particularly the Eitz Chaim Day Schools Learnathon; and post-event evaluation. The festival records document the planning of food, entertainment, displays, amusements, and volunteers, and include photographs taken on the day of the event.
Sub-series 17-1 also includes individual files containing photographs from ranges of years. These were added to this series after the major portion of the "Walk" records had already been processed.
Physical description note: Includes ca. 4513 photographs (1948 negatives, 431 jpgs), 8 videocassettes, 4 optical discs (videos), 12 posters, 13 T-shirts, 4 buttons, 2 shoelaces, 1 jacket and several hats.
Reproduction restriction note: Though there is no textual evidence indicating ownership of copyright, it is believed that all rights to the Graphic Artists negatives in this sub-series were transferred to UJA Federation (Communications department), since they were the ultimate possessors of the negatives. Copyright for photographs by Stephen Epstein remains in his possession. Other UJA staff photographs by Eve Marks are the physical and intellectual property of UJA Federation.
Copyright may not be held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission prior to use.