Montrealer Johanne Sternthal is a philanthropist with a deep love of the arts. In recent years, she’s directed that passion to help support an institution she cherishes: the Jewish General Hospital (JGH). It’s both her preferred hospital and place of birth.
Since 2019, she has helped to raise millions of dollars for the JGH, having been a volunteer artistic director for two successful fundraising events. For her, the cause of supporting the JGH is worth the time and effort of developing her high-octane concepts.
“The JGH is beyond,” she said emphatically. “It has the most incredible doctors and the best service.”
Her start in fundraising for the Hospital came when Dr. Walter Gotlieb, Chief of the JGH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approached the Foundation to ask about creating a fundraiser for the department. The Foundation approached Johanne, whose past fashion shows with their creative visions and choreographies had gotten her noticed.
THE BEAT OF THE STREET
Johanne gladly accepted the challenge and came up with the concept for The Beat of the Street, which was held at Place des Arts in 2019. It was billed as “a non-stop musical production benefiting women’s health services at the JGH’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Gyn-Oncology”. With over 50 artists, a live band and the inspired sounds of a gospel choir, the performances included classic Motown, R&B and Soul tunes.
“Everything had to be perfect,” Johanne said. “Every little detail in the songs, the dancing, the backdrops. I was going down to rehearsals all the time to make sure I liked the choreography.”
Johanne’s careful attention paid off: the sold-out show enthralled the crowd, who danced in their seats to the music.
The event proceeds were to support advancements in obstetrical care at the Hospital, including world-renowned robotic surgery. Through The Beat of the Street, Johanne helped raise an impressive $1.7 million for the JGH.
LATIN N’ SOUL TAKE MANHATTAN
Her next fundraising event for the JGH, Latin N’ Soul Take Manhattan, had a different musical flavour. It started with a catchy title, which came to Johanne spontaneously as she was walking the halls of the JGH.
“Everything I do has to tell a story,” she explained. “From the name, I get all the ideas of how I’m going to start the show and what songs I’m going to use.”
The concept for Latin N’ Soul Take Manhattan, for example, was a tribute to New York. Since it was being planned and held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual experience of this event had to be very different from The Beat of the Street. It was filmed at Place des Arts sans audience in August 2021 and screened to a small, socially distanced live audience, at Cinemas Guzzo a few weeks later. It was also streamed online, allowing it to be viewed from home anywhere in the world, and by JGH patients from their rooms.
More than 20 talented performers came to work their magic, rehearsing for five weeks until the day the cameras rolled. The event was a success, helping to raise close to $2 million towards its wide-ranging cause: women’s health in the JGH’s Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Gyn-Oncology, Cardiology and Psychiatry.
A DEDICATED PHILANTHROPIST
Even as she was leading the concepts for these shows pro bono, Johanne and her husband, Norman, have themselves been outstanding supporters of the JGH. They were lead donors to Mindstrong, a fitness-based fundraising event in support of the JGH’s Department of Psychiatry. They have also supported other departments at the Hospital, including Cardiology, with millions of dollars in donations.
An imaginative visionary, an uninhibited creator, and a dedicated philanthropist – Johanne’s gifts have ultimately supported thousands of patients at the JGH and beyond.
Last Updated May 2023