In memory of a great statesman, former President Shimon Peres

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I recall the last time Israel’s 9th president, Shimon Peres, visited Montreal four years ago. He was given a hero’s welcome as he entered the Shaare Hashomayim (Gates of Heaven) synagogue in Westmount yesterday to a packed house of 1800 well-wishers.

How proud I was to deliver a token gift on behalf of Dr. Hartley Stern, Executive Director of the Jewish General Hospital at that time.

I was privileged to have met and spoken with Shimon Peres in the mid 90s in Jerusalem.

I was privileged to have met and spoken with Shimon Peres in the mid 90s in Jerusalem.

President Peres humorously indicated how pleased he was to be at the Gates of Heaven.  He added that his official visit to Canada was a “Voyage of profound and sincere friendship”.  In unfailing French he thanked Canada for a warm welcome.  He added that Montreal was the most dedicated and active community in the founding and development of the State of Israel.  “Jerusalem salutes you.”

“Our land is so small, it is just a statistical error by comparison to Canada.  I see your lakes and rivers and I’m jealous.  We have only one river.  It is richer in history than water.  We have two lakes.  One is dead.”

“We were outnumbered, outgunned, not supported, not accepted,” Peres said.  “The greatness of Israel is that we started with nothing.  When you have nothing, you may discover the greatest thing in life:  The human being.”

” We were always numerically inferior. Always being challenged.  There isn’t another country in the world that has faced such challenges.”

Of Jews and Israel, Peres said, “We were born to seek peace. The Ten Commandments  remain our guide after 3500 years.  We don’t exist to threaten or to rule other people.  We are here for Tikkun Olamto create a better world for all.”

“The DNA of our nation became invention and technology.  25% of Nobel laureates are Jewish. This is a gift to the world.”

“Another gift of the Jewish People is dissatisfaction.  We’re never satisfied,” the President proclaimed to great laughter. “So we strive for more.  To do better. To aim higher.”

Huge crowd greets President Shimon Peres in Montreal

Huge crowd greets President Shimon Peres in Montreal

In 2012, at 88 years of age Shimon Peres remained unrelenting in the pursuit of peace. His speech was historic and illuminating. (Watch the entire speech on Federation CJA’s website).

And now, regretfully, he has indeed entered the Gates of Heaven. May the name of President Shimon Peres forever be a blessing.

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Sidney Shoham Place inaugurated at Beth Zion

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Sidney Shoham Place street sign CSL

 

It was a sunny and warm Sunday morning yesterday in Cote Saint-Luc when a large crowd assembled nearly a year from the day that Rabbi Sidney Shoham passed away. The assembly, in front of the Beth Zion Congregation on Hudson Avenue came together for the official inauguration of Sidney Shoham Place, renaming the section of Hudson in front of the synagogue.

It was a somber yet inspiring occasion to honour the life of the Rabbi and to forever commemorate his great contribution to life in Cote Saint-Luc and indeed across Montreal. Several dignitaries were on hand including Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and the City Council, MNA David Birnbaum, MP Anthony Housefather as well as former MNA Lawrence Bergman. Members of the Shoham family were in attendance including the late Rabbi’s wife, Jewel, and his three daughters. Additionally, congregation president Earl Rosen and Rabbi Boruch Perton were on hand to address those in attendance.

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Councilor Sidney Benizri, Executive Director of Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel delivered a brand new ambulance to the ceremony. Thanks to the generosity of the Rossdeutscher family the ambulance was dedicated in Rabbi Shoham’s memory and will soon be on its way to Israel.

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Rabbi Sidney Shoham presided at the Beth Zion Congregation for more than half a century since the late 1950s. My own connections ran deep. Rabbi Shoham signed my birth certificate, Bar Mitzvah certificate and Marriage certificate. He officiated at many more of my family’s key events over the last half century. Whenever I would see him, in shul, around the city or at the JGH, the Rabbi would quip, “How’s Georgie’s Boys,” his affectionate salutation for my father’s (George) four boys, or how’s the “doc,” as he referred to my wife.

Rabbi Sidney Shoham

Rabbi Sidney Shoham

My dad and Rabbi Shoham go back to 1958, when my folks moved into Cote Saint-Luc. This was three years after the founding of the shul, on Hudson Ave. My father became involved and eventually served on its Board of Directors.

My father and the rabbi also became “buddies” and they played badminton and their main sport, tennis, for several decades together.

Beth Zion "Old-Timers" George Nashen and Rabbi Sydney Shoham

Beth Zion “Old-Timers” George Nashen and Rabbi Sydney Shoham

Rabbi Shoham touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of local residents and congregants throughout the years. How fitting that the new civic address of Beth Zion is now 1 Sidney Shoham Place.

 

 

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Irwin Cotler Award presented to Madison Gold

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc is presenting the Irwin Cotler Award to a student at a Côte Saint-Luc school in grade 6 and grade 11 who has devoted themselves to the cause of social justice. “All the schools in Côte Saint-Luc will be asked to nominate one of their students from grade 6 and grade 11 to receive the Irwin Cotler Award,” said Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen. “It will be given the student who best exemplifies the act of improving the world and fighting for social justice. This has been the hallmark of Professor Cotler’s life and we think this award is a fitting tribute.”

For the last five decades, Irwin Cotler has devoted his intellect and advocacy skills to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, first as an international human rights lawyer and later as a Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, where he made the pursuit of international justice a government priority. Côte Saint-Luc honoured him on its Human Rights Walkway in 2015.

 

Global News report

FREE Electric Vehicle charging stations now available at JGH

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Ceremony to formally inaugurate Sidney Shoham Place set for Sunday morning, September 25

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Rabbi Sidney Shoham

Rabbi Sidney Shoham

The City of Côte Saint-Luc will formally rename a section of Hudson Avenue to Place Sidney Shoham Place at a ceremony on Sunday, September 25 at 10am.

Beth Zion Congregation will host a small reception afterwards, which the entire community is invited to attend. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held indoors, followed by the unveiling of the street sign.

Rabbi Sidney Shoham passed away on September 21, 2015, at the age of 86. He retired 10 years earlier as the founding rabbi of Beth Zion after having served in that role for 50-plus years. Rabbi Shoham continued to remain very active in synagogue life and in fact, passed away only hours after attending the synagogue’s annual Cantorial Concert, of which he was most involved.

Beth Zion president Earl Rosen said that it would be most fitting to rename the portion of Hudson Avenue, and the synagogue address 5740 Hudson Avenue, to 1 Sidney Shoham Place. He extended his appreciation to Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Councillors Mike Cohen and Allan J. Levine for their assistance. Councillor Cohen is responsible for naming rights; Councillor Levine represents the district. At the ceremony, the new street sign will be unveiled and there will be words of welcome from Mr. Rosen, Mayor Brownstein, Rabbi Boruch Perton and a member of the Shoham family.

On Tuesday, September 27, Beth Zion will host Scholar in Residence Rabbi Benjamin Blech at the Rabbi Sidney Shoham Memorial Lecture and then, on Thursday, October 6, the newly renamed Rabbi Sidney Shoham Tribute Concert called “The Gift of Music” will take place.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland the son of the late Rabbi Yechiel and Rebbetzen Ethel Shoham, Rabbi Shoham attended the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore and then went to Mesivta Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, New York. While studying at the yeshiva, Rabbi Shoham attended Brooklyn College at night and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in psychology. Later, he attended graduate school at New York University, School of Psychology and continued his studies in Montreal at the Allen Memorial Hospital – McGill University where he furthered his degree in Pastoral Psychiatry.

Rabbi Shoham arrived in Montreal in 1955 to visit his brother Gilbert, who was Rabbi of the Beit Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue on McKenzie. While here, he met with an enthusiastic group of individuals anxiously waiting to build a new community in the western suburb of Montreal. After discussions with the committee, he was quickly hired as the Rabbi of Beth Zion. Over the years, he had been active with nearly every Jewish organization in the city, notably Combined Jewish Appeal, B’nai Brith and State of Israel Bonds and the founder of the much needed Miriam Home.

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Birnbaum calls for cancellation of proposed modifications to D’Arcy-McGee, surrounding ridings

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Changes to electoral map would compromise rights of English-speaking, Jewish communities

David Birnbaum, MNA for D'Arcy McGee

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy McGee

 

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, argued before the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale today that proposed changes to Québec’s electoral map would compromise the democratic rights of three ‘natural communities’ within the riding – English-speaking, Jewish and senior citizens – by diluting their numbers within new riding borders.

“The changes being proposed would have a pronounced and negative impact on the riding of D’Arcy-McGee,” Birnbaum noted. “I am very proud to be the MNA for all D’Arcy-McGee residents, for those of all languages, all religions and all ages. But I am equally proud to be the sole MNA from Québec’s Jewish community and keenly aware of the additional and solemn responsibility imposed upon me by that reality. And, I am respectful and proud of my obligation to give voice to the majority English-speaking community as well as the particular and pressing concerns of the thousands of senior citizens who form a natural community in D’Arcy-McGee.”

The wide-ranging proposal from the Commission de la représentation électorale would extend D’Arcy-McGee’s borders to include all of Snowdon district as well as roughly one-third of Côte-des-Neiges district. It would add 14,000 voters to the riding. The proportion of Jewish residents in those additional areas is only one-third of that in D’Arcy-McGee as it stands; the proportion of English-speaking residents only one-half.

Birnbaum referred frequently to a legal opinion on the changes submitted to the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale by Université de Montréal Law professor Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens. That opinion suggests that many of the changes proposed could be unconstitutional in that they compromise the principle of effective representation and could have the effect of limiting the democratic representation of minority communities. Birnbaum also called for the reversal of the proposed merging of neighboring Mont-Royal and Outremont ridings, for similar reasons.

He concluded the presentation by listing the guiding principles for electoral change. “Adherence to these principles should be clear in each of the Commission’s proposed changes:

  • Voter confidence: is the voter’s understanding of the electoral map, identification to the riding and access to the right to vote reinforced or strengthened by these changes?
  • Is the equitable weight of each vote protected by the change?
  • Have the caution and judgment prescribed by the Canadian and Québec Charters of Rights and Freedoms and the extensive jurisprudence been duly respected by these changes?

“With all due respect,” Birnbaum told Commission President François Ouimet, “the answer to these three questions is ‘no’.”

Following a five-day debate in the National Assembly, a final version of the electoral map will be issued in February 2017 and implemented immediately. Birnbaum expressed cautious optimism that the modifications to D’Arcy-McGee and surrounding ridings would be reversed. He was one of 37 Liberal MNAs to appear before the Commission.

Côte Saint-Luc Public Library 50th anniversary event

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc will be celebrating the 50-year anniversary of its public library all day on Sunday, September 18 culminating with an outdoor concert and laser show behind the library.
“There is a slew of free events for the whole family,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “There will be a special birthday-themed story time for kids, face-painting, library bingo with prizes, cake and much more. Don’t miss the concert by Vintage Wine highlighting hits from the 1960s and the laser show.”
The concert starts at 5:30pm. The laser show – originally scheduled for Canada Day – takes place at 7:30pm. For the full schedule of events, visit csllibrary.org.
“Library Director Janine West and her staff have planned a wonderful day for all,” said Councillor Mike Cohen, the council member responsible for library and culture. “We will be celebrating this anniversary throughout the year, so visit the library website and subscribe to its e-newsletter and Facebook page to stay informed.”
The city council established a citizens committee in December 1964 to look into establishing a public library. The city hired Eleanor London and the Côte Saint-Luc Public Library opened its doors on September 7, 1966. Its 4,322 square feet was originally located on the second floor of the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre. It moved to its current 23,000 square feet of space in 1986.
“Having been part of this great library, this jewel of Côte Saint-Luc, for almost 35 of these 50 years, it is fair to say I have seen some substantive changes,” West said. “However, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to Eleanor London’s vision of the ‘people’s library’, a welcoming and personable community space where its staff go above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.”
For more information about these events and programs, visit csllibrary.org or contact the library’s Programs Department at 514-485-6900, ext. 4205.

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