Review: The Pianist of Willesdan Lane is a gripping, intense and beautiful story

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“Mona Golabek’s one-woman show is both a tribute to her mother’s triumph over persecution and a celebratory concert of life-affirming classics.”
– Montreal Gazette

“A story that deserves to be told…and heard.” – Montreal Mom

“[Mona Golabek’s passion] drives the audience to its feet to applaud with heartfelt gusto.” – Montreal Rampage

“A compelling one-woman show. Not to be missed.” – Pat Donnelly 

“This production [launches] the 2019-2020 theatre season with panache, grace, style, class and an emotional heartstring tugger.”- Orcasound

The Pianist of Willisden Lane is described as a Musical Journey of Hope and Survival. Now on stage at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, in Cote des Neiges, this One Woman Show is just that, and so much more.

The story is about the life and times of Mona Golobek’s mother, Lisa Jura, who was born in Vienna. With the Nazis marching through Austria, Lisa’s parents make the heart wrenching decision to send their youngest child out of the country to escape the war and the horrors erupting across Europe.

Mona recounts Lisa’s teenage war story and also portrays some of the other characters that enter her life during these dark years. She is serious and youthful, whimsical and scared. She takes her audience with her on an emotional rollercoaster ride. All around her baby grand piano.

Mona’s grandmother and mother, both accomplished pianists, would be so proud. Not only has Mona carried on in the tradition of her matriarchs, she does so with great aplomb and in awe of their great success against all odds. Indeed, a very real story of hope and survival.

With many mesmerizing interludes at a large, impressive piano at centre stage Mona captivates the audience with classical pieces from some of Europe’s greatest composers while paying tribute to, and sharing her for her dear mother.

After 90 uninterrupted minutes of sharing her family’s story in character and in music with superb projections of portraits and video from that era Mona draws to a close in a masterful concerto number as tears well up in my eyes.

Powerful. Stirring. Hopeful.

The Pianist of Willisden Lane was adapted for theatre and directed by Hershey Felder and is based upon Mona’s novel, The Children of Willisden Lane. Her book has been translated into several languages and has been read by hundreds of thousands of readers.

Playing at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts through September 29, 2019.


MUHC doctors call for Quebec helmet law

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Quebec is way behind in not requiring bike helmets. Studies have proven the benefits in reducing risk of traumatic brain injury for decades. In fact, helmets can reduce TBI by as much as 85%. So why has Quebec lagged behind the rest of Canada? And why is Quebec’s largest bike lobby against such a move?

Cote Saint-Luc was the first city in Canada to bring in a bylaw nearly 30 years ago! Indeed, this was one of my major planks when I first ran for council and I take immense pride in this bylaw, adopted in 1992.

You can read all about the background on bike laws in Canada and the Cote Saint-Luc initiative by searching in this blog.

Do you wear a bike helmet?

Here’s the MUHC press release:

“All cyclists, regardless of their age, face the risk of head injury, traumatic brain injury or concussion. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injuries by up to 85 percent, and the risk of fatality by up to 44 percent” 
Michel Abouassaly, MUHC Coordinator of the Department of Adult Neurotraumatology.

Mandatory helmets for cyclists must apply to children and adults

MONTREAL, September 19, 2019 – The team of the Department of Adult Neurotraumatology at the McGill University Health Center (MUHC) supports their colleague at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Dr. Hussein Wissanji, who in an open letter, demanded, among other things, that helmets be worn for cyclists aged 18 years and under to reduce deaths and health complications associated with traumatic brain injury.  He also called for the need to promote safe riding habits and road developments that are adapted for cyclists.

Furthermore, the Adult Neurotraumatology team strongly recommends that helmet protection apply to cyclists of all ages.

Given the current proliferation of alternative modes of transport these days (bike-sharing, scooters, electric bicycles), the wearing of bicycle helmets for all is necessary in order to ensure the health and the safety of users.

“All cyclists, regardless of their age, face the risk of head injury, traumatic brain injury or concussion. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injuries by up to 85 percent, and the risk of fatality by up to 44 percent,” says Michel Abouassaly, MUHC Coordinator of the Department of Adult Neurotraumatology.

Dr. Jehane Dagher, physiatrist at the Traumatic Brain Injury Centre at the Montreal General Hospital, conducted a study from 2011 to 2016 among 144 patients admitted to the Emergency Department, for head injuries related to cycling. “During this time we noticed up to six times longer ICU stays for patients who did not wear a helmet as well as a higher rate of mortality for these patients.”

Dr. Judith Marcoux, neurosurgeon and Medical Director of Neurotrauma at the MUHC, added, “Four out of five head injuries could be avoided if each cyclist wore a helmet, regardless of their age. It is imperative that adults lead the way by wearing a helmet.”

About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is one of the world’s foremost academic health facilities. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of its founding hospitals, the MUHC provides exceptional multidisciplinary patient-centric care. Affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University and at the helm of the RUIS-McGill, the MUHC continues to shape the course of adult and pediatric medicine by attracting clinical and research expertise from around the world, assessing the latest in medical technology, and training the next generation of medical professionals. In collaboration with our network partners, we are building a better future for our patients and their families; for our employees, professionals, researchers and students; for our community and above all, for life.

Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen go kosher at Luzzatto on Decarie

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I recently dined with my friend Mike Cohen at Luzzatto Kosher Restaurant at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Decarie Boulevard, near Plamondon. If you’re looking for a different option in Kosher dining in Montreal’s West End this Glatt Kosher fine Italian dining restaurant is worth a visit.

They offer Soups, Fresh Salads, Italian Dishes, Grilled Specialties, Mediterranean Platters, Sandwiches and Pitas, Wraps, Chinese Dishes, Drinks and More.

Read our full review here.

Beautiful Laurentian bike ride through history on Ptit Train du Nord


If you’re headed up north with bikes for the day, weekend or vacation you must already have heard of the Ptit Train du Nord recreation path that runs more than 200 kms from St. Jerome to Mont Laurier. Indeed, it is part of the Trans Canada Trail that spans the entire country. Our family has enjoyed the trail for years, choosing different segments most weekends. We used to pull the kids in a bike trailer till they finally managed two-wheelers on their own. What a fun family outing, sometimes lugging picnic lunches, other times stopping at the ice cream or sandwich shops along the way.

I had read about a newly paved section and decided to make that our Labour Day outing so we packed up the bikes and headed up the 117 to St. Faustin-Lac Carré.

The St. Faustin train station was built in 1893

The old train stations at each town are a delight to explore. Well preserved and exhibiting old photos of yesteryear, I can just imagine what it was like to take the voyage by train from Montreal, way up into the Laurentian Mountains. On today’s journey, I imagined my dad’s train ride to St. Faustin station in 1940. He vacationed in Lac Carré at Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, for just $15 a week!

Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, St. Faustin, Qc. Samuel Cantor, his wife Rachel, and brother Myer Cantor bought the Inn in 1935 and owned it together until the death of Myer in 1945. When Rachel died in 1961 the Inn was sold. It burned to the ground one year later, never to be rebuilt.

The St. Faustin-Lac Carré station is a meeting point in the town. The grounds are well groomed with outdoor artistic pieces, playground, a petoncle court and even a metal tree with heart shaped red locks with the names of lovers and their important dates (haven’t seen that since Paris). There is a lovely café and a couple of ice cream shops to suit your taste.

We decided to ride from St. Faustin to St. Jovite, aka Centre-Ville Mont Tremblant, a distance of 12.5 km. The asphalt was smooth as can be and most of the northbound ride was slightly sloped downhill so I enjoyed the breeze and sights without pondering the return uphill trip. In 30 just minutes we arrived at our destination. Along the way we saw beautiful views of the Riviere du Nord which hugs the trail much of its length.

There’s wildlife, farms, lovely old homes and places to stop and relax along the way. We saw butterflies and ducks on this trip. Previously we’ve seen deer.

I decided to explore and take pictures on the slower southbound climb. I hope you’ll enjoy my shots and come and see for yourself.

Many thanks to the good folks who maintain the Ptit Train du Nord and to their sponsors who provide the funding for this magnificent, free recreational gem.

Happy Cycling!

Lovely old Quebec homesteads to see along the Ptit Train du Nord
Riviere du nord, as scene from the Ptit Train du Nord, St. Faustin – Lac Carré
Beautiful colours and gorgeous homes along the bike trail
The views while cycling along the Ptit Train du Nord
Judy and Barry enjoying the warm breeze on the trail
Lovers locks in St. Faustin – Lac Carré
The Millette farm, passed down through the generations
Famille Millette farm equipment preserved for younger generations to explore
Old dam wheel to control water levels along the Riviere du Nord
Plenty of distraction for the little ones along the trail
Barry studying all the trail options in the Tremblant area
Step down into Lac Carré

18 proud years at the JGH


It seems like just a short time ago that I had lunch in a very noisy restaurant on Cote des Neiges with a very soft-spoken Executive Director of the Jewish General Hospital, Henri Elbaz. As the story goes, I had trouble hearing him but was pretty sure he had offered me the job of Director of Communications and Public Relations. Looking back after 18 years it was the best job offer that I never heard!

2013 ceremony in the main entrance of the JGH honouring Henri Elbaz

Today, August 19, 2019, marks my 18th anniversary at the JGH. To be sure, so much has happened and changed in all this time. In fact, my title is now the Associate Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal and my mandate extends far beyond the JGH. Since the healthcare reorganization in 2015, the JGH has been rolled into a health system including long-term care and rehabilitation centres, clinics, Info-Sante 811 and much more on 34 sites. But my office remains in the same place at the JGH, as it has for all 18 years.

I am honoured to have reported directly to the last three Executive Directors (Henri Elbaz, Dr. Hartley Stern and Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg) and served some extraordinary lay community leaders.

I had the good fortune to spend some time with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. M. Chretien was jovial, warm and was pleased to share his opinion on any topic. In this 2010 photo we are pictured together with Mount Royal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler

My position has allowed me to shake hands and exchange pleasantries and words of pride in the JGH with ministers of health, premiers and former PM Jean Chretien.

I have assisted many VIPs in their travels through the hospital including former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau (who, to my great surprise, complemented me on my French conversational skills). One day as I was escorting him to an appointment I spotted Mr. Chretien, whom I had also assisted, heading toward us near the main entrance. Wanting to avoid a very awkward moment (perhaps only for me or maybe for the country) I pivoted so that Mr. Parizeau would turn toward me missing his arch-nemesis who waved to me as he passed behind Parizeau. What a moment to remember!

Judy and me, at the 2013 JGH Foundation gala with former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his wife Michele Dion

As a producer of events, large and small, one program I am particularly proud to have created was the JGH Mini-Med School. Over some 15 seasons of highly successful public education lectures we graduated a couple of thousand “mockters”.

Emceeing the 2014 JGH Remembrance Ceremony, pictured here with my father

The annual Remembrance Day ceremony has been a solemn reflection of the contributions of JGH doctors and staff through the decades. Long Service and Retirement ceremonies I’ve overseen has connected the past to the future.

I’ve also done my part in ensuring the Jewish nature of this world-class institution, from organizing the CEO’s Rosh Hashana gatherings to sending messages celebrating holidays throughout the year and promoting its rich and storied history.

Escorting Israel Consul General David Levy through the JGH together with CEO Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg and President Alan Maislin

More recently I’ve created an annual gathering at the JGH of all 80+ elected officials from every level of government on the territory of the West-Central Montreal health authority. I am so excited about our latest ventures into podcast as well as our video newscasts.

Winning a national award for healthcare public relations in 2011

I am also very proud to have won several awards for the JGH in producing some of the best news magazines in any hospital across Canada (including the JGH News) and achieved a perfect mark, 100%, in the latest Accreditation Canada review of my department.

As the official spokesperson it has been my duty to represent the organization to the media, particularly in some sticky situations. From press conferences, to impromptu media opportunities, to staged interviews and photo opps it has been exciting to be a part of this pillar in Quebec’s public healthcare system, one of the Top 100 hospitals in the world.

Getting ready for the Pavilion K expansion and new ER, January 2015

I’ve done my part to usher change through these years. Major expansions like Pavilion K presented numerous PR opportunities and so many media requests.What a privilege it has been to call hundreds of incredible doctors, medical staff and researchers along with thousands of nurses, orderlies, technicians and professionals as my colleagues. And what’s more, I can proudly say that many are my friends.

World-renowned neonatologist Dr. A. Papageorgio and long-time JGH nurse Franceen Finesilver

Not many people have stepped into (and walked out of!) every clinic and department, from the ER to the OR, the ICU to CCU, from the nursery to the morgue, through the kitchens, boiler rooms and boardrooms, from the CEO’s office to the labs and from the sub-basement to the roof.

Photo opp in the Operating Room

And what a bonus to be able to come to work with my wife, Dr. Judy Hagshi, a couple of times each week, and to share our pride in the JGH.

I am so lucky to have worked closest with an extraordinary team of communications professionals over the years. I’ve hired about 40 people in this time and an amazing few have stuck with me for nearly 15 years (I cannot name them all – shout out to my very skillful 2IC, Stephanie Malley – but they know that I hold them as special colleagues and friends). I credit all of these wonderful folks who do a yeoman’s job and allow me to shine with pride.

For 85 years this organization has taken care of, and healed, family members and friends. They have given hope when there was little hope left and consoled those in need. It now extends to every corner of our healthcare system as my scope expands too. I am so fortunate to have been able to serve the community from the JGH over these last 18 years and I look forward to several more to come. L’chaim! To life.

Laughter is the best medicine. Posing with Dr. Clown at the JGH.

Checking out the latest technology for robotic minimally invasive surgery in 2011
With my colleague, JGH Foundation Ambassador and former Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre

I proudly advocated for electric vehicle parking at the JGH

Pierre Arcand, MNA Mount Royal and Interim Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party

Former federal cabinet minister Diane Finley visits the JGH

Dr. Mark Miller, former Chief of Infectious Diseases administers the flu shot to a somewhat nervous Glenn J. Nashen

I will always remember my friend and colleague Dr. Mark Wainberg (Oct. 2009)
Welcoming MP (and future Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau to the JGH in August 2010 with Director of Nursing Lynne McVey, CEO Dr. Hartley Stern and President Bernie Stotland

Energetic two-tired patrollers


vCOP founder Glenn J. Nashen and volunteer supervisor Mitchell Herf

On a warm summer weeknight some like to watch TV, or shop or take a walk. But for Cote Saint-Luc’s volunteer Citizens on Patrol members there’s nothing better than patrolling the city on two tires.

Such was the case last week as the evening temperature was a sticky 25C. vCOP supervisor Mitchell Herf and I are frequent patrol partners preferring the option of mountain bikes or electric scooters.

“You can get close to the residents, exchange with them and teach them about our group and city ordinances,” Herf says.

We met up with many residents that night, bumping into Earl, the well-known barefoot jogger along Mackle, neighbours in Shuster Park whom I had never met before and complete strangers to whom we said hi cycling through Rembrandt Park.

We bumped into my hair stylist, Georges, from Intercoupe Monsieur, who was out chatting with a neighbour. He saluted us for our volunteer service. That made us feel good.

Glenn J. Nashen on vCOP Bike Patrol outside Cote Saint-Luc City Hall

You need to be out in the community, meeting people, to truly appreciate the essence of what community really means. That is what Cote Saint-Luc is all about. That’s the real thing that social media will never replace.

If you’d like to have the same great experience why not join vCOP and try it out, even if you’re not the two-tired type.

Happy Birthdays Mom and Dad

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Happy Birthdays to two very special role models, friends, parents and active community members. To 120!!

My parents will read all of your good wishes posted in comments on this page and on my Facebook post. Please like and comment.

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