Fran Drescher, best known for the TV show The Nanny, among other comedic roles, enraptured audience members at the Jewish Federation annual campaign launch Sept. 8. She offered deeply vulnerable descriptions of being raped and of surviving cancer, and the related mental health impacts these life-altering events sparked.
The presentation was the centrepoint of an evening dedicated to the topic of mental wellness. Actor, neuroscientist and Jeopardy host Mayim Bialik joined live from Los Angeles along with her partner and podcast cohost Jonathan Cohen. Their podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, is focused on myths and misunderstandings about mental health and emotional well-being. They were interviewed by Globe and Mail reporter Marsha Lederman.
A panel of local experts completed the evening. Alisa Farina, Federation’s new child and youth mental health worker, Danya Rogen, a social worker who specializes in mood disorders, Dr. Annie Simpson, a clinical psychologist focused on childhood anxiety, and Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Services, shared reflections with Dr. Sandy Penn Whitehouse, a pediatrician and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia and medical director at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Lana Marks Pulver, chair of the campaign, opened the event. Candace Kwinter, chair of the Federation board, introduced a video on mental wellness. Sue Hector, chair of women’s philanthropy, introduced Drescher. Federation chief executive officer Ezra Shanken closed the event. King David High School Vocal Ensemble led the Canadian and Israeli national anthems.