November 19, 2010
For 17 years, Chicago’s Sidney Friedman has used his mind-reading talents to help organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver with fundraising.
Friedman first learned at age five that he could find things his mother had misplaced around the house and, a lifetime later, his exclusive job title is “mentalist.” Earlier this month, his stunningly accurate predictions were the featured attraction at this year’s JFGV Men’s Night Out event held at the Cellar nightclub in downtown Vancouver. Friedman showed that what he does is more than a party trick and that achieving Federation’s fundraising goals is a “mind over matter activity.”
Though many watchers may still have been unsure whether his demonstrations were smoke-and-mirrors manipulation or legitimate extrasensory perception, Friedman’s cosmic rejoinder was, “Whether you believe in what I do or not, I don’t care. I am here to show you that when you open your mind you can make the impossible possible, the unattainable attainable and the inconceivable conceivable.”
Friedman is often hired to perform for corporations, universities and private functions. His knack for premonition is one part entertaining spectacle and one part training, as he gets his audience in the mood to become lay intuitives, turning something esoteric into something practical. In this case, the practical matter of fundraising.
Friedman has performed at more than 40 federation events around North America in the past few years, the majority of them as campaign kickoffs at the beginning of the fundraising season and or at thank-you dinners for large donors.
“In the current economic climate of the world, it can seem, at times, impossible to meet campaign goals,” he told the Independent. But with his training, he continued, fundraisers are better able to understand the people to whom they are pitching, helping canvassers find an interesting and effective way to draw people in, despite the poor economic climate.
“I am always working in the theme of giving, because most of us give sometimes with the intent of getting something in return. We do that with people, we do that when we give to charity. But just giving for the sake of giving, when you do that, then somehow it does come back to us magically anyway, in some other way at some point,” he said.
Transparent about what he does, Friedman penned a bestselling book, Your Mind Knows More Than You Do, in which he explains what he does and how he does it to the curious reader. Intuition is a sense that all people share, said Friedman, a collective consciousness into which people can tap. For example, when a parent senses there is something wrong with their child and, indeed, there is, or when we receive a phone call from someone in the moment we think of them.
It is easy to see how, in the wrong hands, Friedman’s techniques could lead to problems. But Friedman is sure to keep his power in check when he brings his shtick to the masses, learning from the examples of history’s master hypnotists, people who, he said, held great sway over large groups of people.
“As a cause for good, Martin Luther King Jr. was a master hypnotist who got an entire nation to change something that was so ingrained for the side of good. On the side of evil, you have someone like Hitler, who basically got an entire nation to follow his evil ways,” he said.
For his own work, Friedman makes sure never to “enter” someone else’s mind without permission, adopting an “invitation-only policy” to inspire people to use their minds in new ways. But many in the Men’s Night Out audience were wondering aloud what it would be like to have such awesome power at their disposal. After completing a particularly impressive guessing game involving a card hand, Friedman tuned into this sentiment and said, “You’re wondering why I’m not in Vegas or Atlantic City.” His gift, he said, is not with inanimate objects like chips and tokens, but with people; precisely why he prefers working with Jewish federations.
Jeanie Keogh is a Vancouver freelance writer.