Disney Animator To Speak At Aish Minnesota Benefit

The chances are high that you have seen the work of Saul Blinkoff even if you’ve never heard his name. Blinkoff is an animator and director who has worked on Disney films like “Mulan” and “Tarzan” and TV shows like “Doc McStuffins.” He will also be in town Sunday, Jan. 29, as the featured speaker at the 2017 Aish Minnesota Benefit at The Metropolitan in Golden Valley from 5:30-9 p.m.

Rabbi David Fredman, Aish Minnesota’s executive director, first saw Blinkoff speak at the Aish partners conference in 2015, and was inspired to bring him to Minnesota.

“He has a very compelling life story,” Fredman said. “He overcame a lot of obstacles to be an animator, and it beautifully tied into his own Jewish journey. I felt that would resonate with a lot of people. It’s a very compelling story.”

Blinkoff is the president of Aish Los Angeles, an organization which Rebbetzin Giti Fredman said is a huge part of his Jewish journey. “He’s the real deal,” she said. “He’s really amazing.”

Blinkoff has spoken at events all over the world, and was one of the leaders of the Aish men’s trip to Israel last fall, although Giti Fredman said they didn’t know that when they got him for this event. Rabbi Fredman heard his story on the trip and said it’s very moving and compelling.

“His talk goes fast,” he said. “It’s about his life but the narrative moves along. He’s a great presenter.”

As part of the event, Aish Minnesota is honoring Alina and Alex Portnoy on their leadership and service with the organization.

“The Portnoy’s have been involved with Aish Minnesota for many years,” said Rabbi Fredman. “They are both paradigms of personal and spiritual growth ever hungry to advance in their commitment to their Jewish ideals.”

Fredman said that Alex Portnoy has lead discussions that have helped to shape the organizations’ direction, while Alina has been behind the scenes on dozens of Aish projects and helping to quietly steer the direction of Aish with her involvement and influence of the executive committee.

“The Portnoys are one of those unique couples who serve as a perfect example of bridging the dynamic and diverse Jewish population of the Twin Cities,” Rabbi Fredman said. “They are the ideal candidates to honor.”

Giti Fredman said the event will also serve as an opportunity for Aish Minnesota to rebrand itself. She said that the group’s new mission statement, “Empowering the Jewish Family,” will be formally rolled out at the benefit.

“America has become synagogue-centric,” she said. “And we have amazing synagogues. But the place we spend most of our time and life is the home. We want to make sure people understand that. We’re not taking people from the wonderful agencies they are involved with. We want to empower the Jewish family.

“It’s really not about observance. Our job is to offer growth, meaning and community. What they choose to do it up to them. We’re not pushy people – to a fault. We’re the opposite of pushy.”

For more information about the 2017 Aish Minnesota Benefit, check out the website.