Let’s Make a Mitzvah!
In the nonprofit circles, former "Let’s Make a Deal" host Monty Hall has built a reputation for being a "tireless" fundraiser, having helped raised nearly $1 billion over the years for a lengthy roster of charities, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. Yet "tireless" might be too weak an adjective for the 80-year-old Hall — try "unstoppable."
Just a few weeks ago, Hall hosted back-to-back banquets for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and for Aish HaTorah before breaking a hip on June 5. By July 9, with cane in hand, Hall was walking again at the Jewish Home for the Aging’s (JHA) 90th anniversary gala in Hollywood, where he and wife, Marilyn, were on hand to share in accepting a life achievement award. A week later, Hall hosted an annual three-day Cedars-Sinai Medical Center-sponsored diabetes fundraiser that bears his name.
According to Hall, it’s all in a day’s work, for he draws much of his energy from his interaction with Los Angeles’ Jewish community.
"There’s a certain warmth about being Jewish," Hall said. "There’s a joy about seeing the face of a Jewish grandmother at the Jewish Home, the Jewish heartburn in the food, Jewish jokes, everything has a ta’am, a taste."
Hall’s decades of tzedakah were inspired by his grandfather, who emigrated from the Ukraine in 1901, bringing over relatives to help build the Jewish community in Manitoba, Canada. Hall also watched as his mother, Rose Halperin, became involved in Young Judea, rose to the vice presidency of Hadassah and traveled coast to coast as the national chair of Youth Aliyah in Canada.
JHA has been a special cause for Hall, who helped raise money to finance an Alzheimer’s building at JHA’s campus in the early 1990s. The money was redirected to a general fund after the Northridge earthquake and ultimately helped build the new JHA campus.
"My joy has been to go every Chanukah and Mother’s Day to the Jewish Home," Hall said, "and we light the candles, sing the songs, say the prayers, visit the residents and end up in the dining room and they entertain me. I’ve taken friends, and they have been so impressed. If they were not devotees, they certainly were after attending. For me, year after year, time after time, to visit again and again, it warms my heart."
Hall found his match in Marilyn, who herself has been very involved in the community. She has written and produced documentaries for Tel Aviv University and the United Jewish Welfare Fund. She currently sits on the board of governors of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Together, Marilyn and Monty Hall sponsor the Statesman Club, the highest level of JHA donors, which has raised more than $3 million for the JHA.
It has given Hall much nachas to see his three children — Joanna, Richard and Sharon — and five grandchildren follow in his sizable philanthropic footsteps. In the Hall family, giving is a given.
Hall recalls a quote from "Fiddler on the Roof": "We all know who we are and what God expects of us."
"Well," Hall said, amending the adage, "we all know who we are and what we expect from each other."
Times have changed, and Hall said he would like to see more Jewish entertainment figures give back to their community. Hall laments the fact that the days are gone when big studio moguls would sway young Jews in showbiz to contribute to Jewish causes.
"It left a vacuum," Hall said. "I know there have been one or two occasions when we tried to gather all the young people in the industry to be addressed by important people, who laid it on the line. But nothing came of it. Therein lies the failure."
Still, Hall hopes to see new generations carry the torch of philanthropy. He knows that Los Angeles’ Jews have the potential.
"I went to a United Way meeting once," Hall said. "As I sat there, I looked around the room and there were a lot of Jews. And I started to smile because everyone there was the head of something in this community. Not just Jewish organizations, but secular ones, too."
"When I was a kid," Hall continued, "I went to the movies, and you knew who the good guys were. They rode white horses and wore white hats. Sitting around the table were guys in white hats. And thank God we have so many white hats in this community."