It was a packed-out Engine Shed in Wetherby for the LJHA (Leeds Jewish Housing Association) new homes fundraiser with Israeli writer and actor Lior Raz.
Best known for his role of Doron in Fauda, Lior Raz brought the house down in a recent LJHA event, but with no grenades needed.
Interviewed by Emma Portugal, herself having been raised on the Queenshill Estate, Raz talked about his own relatively poor upbringing, and his time in the IDF leading to his career path in to acting. Born in Ma’ale Adumim, his parents immigrated to Israel from Iraq and Algeria. His father served in Israel in Shayetet 13 and Shin Bet and his mother was a teacher. Raz grew up speaking Hebrew and also Arabic with workers at his father’s plant nursery.
After school, he enlisted in the IDF and became a commando in undercover counter-terrorism unit Sayeret Duvdevan where inspiration for Fauda came from. He talked openly about his unit days, and the tragedy of the loss of his then girlfriend, killed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian Arab.
In 1993, after his military service, Raz moved to the US, becoming Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodyguard: “For me it was the most glamorous thing, to be the watchdog of Schwarzenegger.” Having been inspired by actors like De Niro, he returned to Israel at age 24 and studied at Nissan Nativ Drama School in Tel Aviv for an acting career which blossomed late.
In his early acting years, Raz acted in various plays and films, but had been working with friend and journalist Avi Issacharoff on what has become the critically acclaimed political thriller television series Fauda, a reflection on his military service, in which Raz stars as Doron Kabilio, the commander of an undercover counter- terrorism Mista’arvim unit.
The audience wanted to know more about Fauda, with questions from how the show has affected Middle Eastern politics, how popular the show has become around the world, to even how many cigarettes
his character goes through. “It looks like I smoke 24 hours a day on the show, but actually I don’t smoke at all!” Raz talked about the hard sell of when he and Avi tried to find a TV station to take it on, until a contact within a marketing department led to the break. He even had to audition for the part he’d written for himself: “They wanted an A-lister to play the lead role so they could sell it on, I nearly told them to stick it but thought no, I’ll audition!”
Raz also discussed other roles. He co-wrote and starred in another Netflix success Hit & Run and plays a gay bus driver in an upcoming show. He also discussed how he sold his production company Faraway Road in 2021.
A funny, engaging, and inspirational guy with a truly explosive life, it was a brilliant evening and well organised by the LJHA team.
A Word from LJHA…
The event was only confirmed by Lior during Pesach, making it record-breaking in organising a fundraising event from scratch in five weeks! It was so popular that it did not even get to the stage of being advertised publicly, and within hours was sold out.
Meirav Sasson, who was appointed as the Head of the appeal for the duration of this campaign, spoke about how this event took a lot of work and could not have come to life without the small, yet mighty, committee of volunteers.
Lior came especially to Leeds and back in 48 hours, thanks to the generosity of four donors: Danny Rivlin, Daniel Lee, Ian Barnett and Four-Leaf Clover Classic Cars.
Hosted by Film Yorkshire’s Sam Warner, the event was the first fundraising experience for LJHA, and to many, it was an introduction to the work of LJHA, which has been carried out quietly for 70 years.
Jayne Wynick, Chair of LJHA Board, gave an inspirational appeal, asking the audience to stand if they know people affected by LJHA’s work – the whole room stood, showing the strong impact of LJHA, and the pride in its achievements.
Lior shared his life story alongside the journey that he went through as a co-writer of Fauda. His inspirational story was filled with humour and banter. In conversation with Lior was Emma Portugal, a former resident of LJHA, and together, Lior and Emma made the evening both entertaining and successful.
Over the past three years, LJHA have completed the biggest development in its 70-year history, building 85 flats for both younger and older members of our community. The final piece of the jigsaw is to create 28 homes for families to both grow and flourish. Our community is in dire need of family housing. For families who want to live within the Jewish community, it is becoming increasingly difficult due to the high property prices in North Leeds. The waiting time for a social housing family home is 10-15 years. Previously, LJHA received government grants to build new homes to replace old ones. That has changed due to government policy changes, and LJHA now needs to fund the gap on their own for phase two. There is a shortfall of £50,000 per house and building can only commence once the full amount of the project is in place.
Mark Grandfield, LJHA CEO said: “LJHA has been working for 70 years to enable every Jewish family to have a home within our community. Throughout this time, we have never asked the community to financially support our work. We now need the community to support us. We cannot do this without your support.”
Meirav added: “I have a lot of faith in our community and know that in the same way that the community stepped up to build the MAZCC and The ZONE, they will support this community asset and make sure that the next 70 years of Jewish housing are secured. So, when I contact you, please remember that this is for the future of our community and your future generations.”
To donate call Meirav on 0773 949 0579