A radio host, born with radio running down his veins, as he says, TV talk show host, music director, and talent scout, born in Holland to an American father and Dutch mother, Toker grew up in the religious neighborhood of Bayit Vegan in Jerusalem and went to a religious yeshiva.
It all started when he was 16. Uninterested in pursuing academic studies, he was fascinated by Israel National News - Arutz Sheva’s radio news presenter Kobi Sela. He begged Sela to give him some work on the station. Sela agreed to a one-hour slot, “just” to play music and not to utter a single word. “That lasted 10 minutes,” jokes Toker.
Two years later Kol Hai launched, and 18-year-old Toker was offered his first job, hosting a daily afternoon entertainment show.
“We became the very first [haredi] radio station and I was the first known Orthodox radio presenter. Everything I did was new. I had free rein to do whatever I wanted.”
Success led him, many years later, to add Saturday Night Live to Kol Hai, a show offering music by male performers.
Toker is not the conventional haredi host.
His childhood though was tinged with tragedy when his best friend Menachem Ehrental became ill with leukemia.
“I remember each stage, back to the hospital, and home again. Sometimes I was the only one allowed into his hospital room, aside from his parents,” Toker recounts.
It was in the hospital that he met world-famous hasidic singer Mordechai Ben David, who had come to sing to the sick Menachem. They became friends and Toker used him for his first-ever Saturday night show.
Tragically, Menachem died when he was just 14. His parents launched Zichron Menachem, a cancer charity that is a “part” of Toker Heart. In 2011, Channel 2 invited the broadcaster to host his first TV show, “Toker Beshishi” (now on Reshet 13). Although the talk show is not affiliated with any religious group, Toker says it’s his personal mission to show Judaism off in a positive light.
“Today one of the worst things in Israel is that the Orthodox don’t know the non-Orthodox and vice versa. They only know about each other from the bad things,” opines Toker. “I bring in some pragmatic rabbis to show that not everything is forbidden. They [Orthodox people] don’t just demonstrate and tell people how to live their lives, but they do beautiful things, such as opening fantastic restaurants or making impressive movies. Jews are one big family. We have enough enemies who want to destroy us, we don’t need to fight within.”
Toker has also incredible knowledge of Jewish music and discovering new talents; he has an ear for new Jewish singers and turns them into world stars, like Shwekey and many more.
Toker lives with his family in Jerusalem’s Har Shmuel district. Today his radio studio is in the basement of his home, which allows him to take his children to school, and see them far more often.
Thanks to technology, he can air his show from anywhere in the world. Unable to relax in Israel thanks to all the people who recognize him wherever he goes, travel abroad now plays a big part in his life. Once, Toker even had a live show from a Dubai hotel, a trip that no one knew about at the time. But in truth, he is never truly at ease, no matter where he is in the world, as his mind is always buzzing with ideas, be it planning the next show or contemplating the next project.
Menachem is married to Yael, and they have 6 children. It was great fun talking to him, so I hope you will enjoy our conversation!