Birnbaum goes for #2 in D’Arcy McGee

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D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum looks on as he is announced as the official candidate for the Quebec Liberal Party in this year’s general election

 

A political and community ‘Who’s Who’ turned out Monday night for the nomination meeting for the Quebec Liberal Party candidate for D’Arcy McGee riding where incumbent Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum is seeking a second mandate.

 

Flanked by Deputy Premier Dominique Anglade, Finance minister Carlos Leitao, English-speaking community relations minister Kathleen Weil and MNA Rita De Santes, Birnbaum was clearly beaming with pride on having served his constituents well over the past four years.

From right: David Birnbaum, John Parisella, Carlos Leitao, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Kathleen Weil, Dominique Anglade

Special guest speaker John Parisella, chief of staff to Premier Robert Bourassa and decades-long senior adviser to the QLP introduced Birnbaum as a man with great focus and an excellent representative for the riding. He noted, as I have on several occasions, Birnbaum’s eloquence in choosing the very best words in making his point.

 

Said Birnbaum, in accepting the nomination and becoming the official QLP candidate, “We’re working hard in building Canada.” He pointed out how his government is not only looking inward at Quebec but seeking ways to strengthen the entire country, for example through bilateral work with other provinces.

 

“It’s rewarding to contribute to the rest of the country,” the liberal member said.

 

With regard to the work the QLP is doing for the local community and the Jewish community, he singled out the Jewish General Hospital and the government’s recent decision to fund “Phase 4” of the multi-million dollar redevelopment project.

David Birnbaum at the Jewish General Hospital

“The JGH is a model, as our health minister has said many times, and now has funding for the next step of its major expansion,” Birnbaum said.

 

“I’m doing my piece to move the Cavendish dossier forward,” Birnbaum announced, citing his many meetings with municipal and provincial leaders. “In 2024 you’re going to see something happen,” he stated.

More locally, “We recently announced one million dollars in funding for the Cote Saint-Luc Samuel Moscovitch Arena.”

Quebec Liberal leader Dr. Philippe Couillard introduces D’Arcy McGee candidate David Birnbaum (2014)

“I presented a resolution by Cllr. Ruth Kovac concerning safety on signs,” Birnbaum mentioned. In fact, Cllr. Ruth Kovac and Harold Staviss have been remarkable in their consistent advocacy for bilingualism in the retail and commercial arena. It was yours truly that began a local push for bilingual safety messages on Quebec road signs and English content on provincial department websites. I must say that it is still quite disappointing that not only is there far too little English on road signs as well as in commerce it is quite sad that Ruth, Harold, myself and many others must advocate in the first place for something that is already within the law.

MNA David Birnbaum and Councillor Ruth Kovac

Birnbaum stated, “As MNA you need to be present for the constituents each and every day… solving problems, serving the community.” To that end he thanked his two very accessible and effective attachés, Chris and Liz.

 

Among other issues, Birnbaum also highlighted:

  • last year’s economic mission Historic mission to Israel, the first time a Quebec Premier made such a visit.
  • The Premier’s three visits into the riding, including last week for Yom Hashoah and a previous appearance at the CSL Men’s Club. “There’s no tougher place in Quebec for hard questions than from the 600 men of the CSL Men’s Club,” he said to applause, with a nod to past president Sidney Margles who was present.

 

In considering the opposition in the upcoming October 1 general election Birnbaum said, “Ask the CAQ why a judge in Quebec cannot discharge his duties while wearing a kippa. Or ask why the CAQ wouldn’t continue funding the English community secretariat, or why they’re against current immigration levels.”

David Birnbaum, MNA, welcomes Cllrs. Dida Berku, Mitchell Brownstein, Allan J. Levine, Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen and Chief of Staff Bonnie Feigenbaum (2015)

“As to the PQ, despite a referendum on sovereignty is not on the agenda it keeps coming up time and again.”

 

He also referred to PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée’s “stupid question”, as Leitao called it, last week on Yom Hashoah. Lisée questioned why Birnbaum should have more rights than Lisée is being allowed to wear a kippa in the assembly while Lisée was singled out for wearing a political symbol in his PQ lapel pin, something not permitted by assembly rules. A political three-party free for all ensued for several days that doesn’t look like it will be over soon as the “identity” question boils over, yet again.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Cllr. Allan J. Levine, MNA David Birnbaum, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen (2016)

Birnbaum called the Liberals, “Inclusive, compassionate and proudly Canadian.” While some may call that an exaggeration, Birnbaum is quite convinced, to be sure.

 

The evening opened with Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg welcoming everyone to his town and throwing his full support behind the candidate. CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein was close-by in showing his ongoing support for the MNA, along with Councillors Mike Cohen, Ruth Kovac, Steven Erdelyi and Dida Berku as well as myself and Allan Levine, as former CSL Councillors. Veteran Montreal Councillor Marvin Rotrand was also on hand as was former MNA Judge Herbert Marx and many community leaders.

 

It was clear from this friendly crowd that although D’Arcy McGee doesn’t tend to be a nail-biter in provincial elections they were plenty pleased to have David Birnbaum selected as the local superstar.

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I Want You To Remember… A Childhood Lost

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That was the theme of this year’s Yom Hashoah commemoration held in Cote Saint Luc, organized by the Montreal Holocaust Museum.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard spoke eloquently about his family’s memory of this dark period in the 20th century. His mother came from Grenoble and Couillard recounted how so many stories were told to him as a youngster from his many aunts and uncles in France.
He also recounted with great pride about the first-ever Quebec Economic Mission to Israel last year when he was accompanied by Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum. Additionally, Couillard indicated that Quebec was one of the first governments in the world to declare a National Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust, in 1999, when introduced by then MNA Lawrence Bergman.
Newly installed Consul General of Israel, David Levy, spoke about his Parisian mother and their family’s personal experiences of betrayal by the French Nazi sympathizers. He spoke passionately about the large number of family members who never returned home.
Six candles were lit by survivors and their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in memory of the Six Million Jews who perished.
Each survivor gave a video testimonial recounting in vivid detail their horrific memories of incarceration, deportation, hiding, hunger and terrible loss. Each one, between the ages of 85 and 90, spoke of the loss of their own childhood.
One such Survivor was Zissel Farkas. The 90 year old woman told her story, through her daughter. This brave, courageous and lucky woman is today the matriarch of three children, 26 grandchildren and an incredible 70 great grand-children.
The JPPS choir sung stirring tunes of remembrance from the 1930s and 40s. The solemn and impassioned song, Ani Ma’amin, I Remember,
was reportedly composed in a cattle car en route to the Treblinka concentration camp. The song was sung by many Jews as they marched to the gas chambers in the Nazi death camps.
With the song being hummed in the background the names of Jews murdered by the Nazis were slowly read aloud, along with their place of birth, where they were murdered and their age. Many childrens’ names were read out. Three years old. Six year’s old. One name was that of a baby just months old. In all, more than 1.5 million children were murdered in the Holocaust.
The ‘Partisan Hymn’ was sang out loud by the hundreds in attendance. It is a song written by poet and partisan Hirsch Glick in the Vilna Ghetto and became the anthem of the resistance movement. Today it is considered to be the main anthem of Holocaust Survivors and is sung at Memorial services around the world.
I have attended this commemoration for longer than I can remember. This year, I was joined by my daughter Nicole, who was on the March of the Living one year ago. She traveled to Poland and marched with thousands of students and adults to the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, waving the Israeli flag, proclaiming Am Yisrael Chai. The People of Israel Live!  In this way, we are all doing our part in passing the responsibility of never forgetting from one generation to the next.

N

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Traditional Mimouna celebrated in CSL

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Mimouna is a three century old North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating chametz (leavened foods), which are forbidden throughout the week of Passover.

The celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. In many communities, non-Jewish neighbours sell chametz back to Jewish families as a beginning of the celebration. Moroccan and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes and sweetmeats. One of the holiday favorites is Mofletta. The table is also laid with various symbols of luck and fertility, with an emphasis on the number “5,” such as five pieces of gold jewelry or five beans arranged on a leaf of pastry. The repetition of the number five references the five-fingered hamsa amulet common in both Jewish and Muslim North African and Middle Eastern communities from pre-modern times. Typically all those in attendance at a Mimouna celebration are sprinkled with a mint sprig or other green dipped in milk, symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings.

The tradition continued in homes across Cote Saint-Luc on Saturday night and for the first time at JPPS-Bialik, on Sunday afternoon.

Anat and Michel Toledano welcome the Nashens and Anzaruts for Mimouna

Our night out began after 10:00PM at the home of Anat Marciano and Michel Toledano. They welcomed my family into their home with open arms, along with our friends, Alissa and Phil Anzarut.

It is customary to spend a little time visiting the host family’s home before moving on to other homes. After a beautiful spread at the Toledano’s, including Moroccan pastries, Mofletta, coucous, cheeses, fruit, smoked salmon, wine and Arak derived from figs (oy vey, it was potent) it was time to move on for the next late night visit. Thank you very much Anat and Michel.

Our family traveled down the block to the warm and inviting home of Chantal Bekhor and Emmanuel Castiel. There was an endless stream of well-wishers who kept arriving. Strangers and friends alike mingled, easily offering greetings of ‘Tarbakh’, May you have good luck.

Emmanuel Castiel and Chantal Bekhor

Chantal Bekhor is one famous Cote Saint-Lucer after competing for Top Prize in the cookie category on Food Network Canada‘s Recipe to Riches.

Bekhor, is a food sensation, who first introduced Canada to her family’s traditional recipe for the Mahbooz Date Biscuit, a typical Iraqi Jewish dessert.  She was featured by the Montreal Gazette as well.

Chantal Bekhor, the most famous baker in Cote Saint-Luc

The former JPPS English and math teacher is a dynamic and affable hostess along with her business partner and husband Emanuel Castiel. They opened their home to hundreds of friends during the Mimouna to some incredible pastries, cakes, chocolate bark, truffles, Iraqi delights, and more, all home made of course. While the  judges on Recipe to Riches said they loved the Mahbooz treat, calling it, “Exotic, versatile, ” I can attest to the fact that her baking is even so much more.

A gathering of friends (and politicians) at the Bekhor-Castiel Mimouna

My wife is a big fan of Chantal’s food. Indeed my girls and Judy cheered Chantal on a few years back on her television debut, not just because of my wife’s common Sephardi roots, but because the Mahbooz date-filled cookie looked absolutely delicious and a treat that would be appreciated by a large number of Cote Saint-Lucers to be sure, as well as Canadians in general.

A peak at Chantal’s scrumptious Mimouna table

Thank you Chantal and Emmanuel for such generous hospitality and for an absolutely delicious assortment of treats. My sugar level and calorie intake reached an all time, one night high.

By Sunday afternoon when sugar levels stabilized it was time to continue the celebration over at JPPS-Bialik, the first time this Sephardic celebration took place at the school. The gym was decorated in Moroccan fashion, drummers and musicians greeted the guests as they entered and long tables of sweets, pastries and mofletta lined the room.

The hostesses, under the direction of Judaic studies coordinator, Anat Toledano (clearly she’s a Mimouna-specialist!) all decked out in bright and shiny traditional kaftans should be very proud of bringing the festive Sephardic tunes and tastes to what has traditionally been a typical Ashkenazi school. With a large number of the families blended in both traditions, and even fully Sephardi, it was time to share this wonderful event all together.

Sephardic community (CSUQ) president Henri Elbaz was invited to participate as well. Thanks to Henri’s support the event exceeded expectations and attendance. Students, parents and grandparents were entertained, fed and danced for two hours. It was an absolutely lovely event that should grow larger next year. Thank you Anat, Joanne, Judy, Carole, Beth and all the moms involved in this event.

I wish you all Tarbakh, success and good luck.  And now, my treadmill awaits!

Nachshen Family descendants celebrate Passover tradition

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Nachshen Family Seder 2018, Markham, Ontario (Rob Currie Photography)

The Nachshen Family recently gathered for the second Seder as they’ve been doing for three decades. The family, all descendants of Rabbi Moishe Nachshen (1872-1968) and Sarah Romanek (1875-1956), who emigrated to Canada from Russia in 1927, had assembled annually in Montreal for the second Passover Seder for the past 33 years until the festive gathering switched to Toronto this year. In the 1960s and 70s, the five branches of the family came together for Chanukah and Purim celebrations at Pomerantz House (then known as the Workmen’s Circle), on Van Horne Avenue near Cote des-Neiges Road, in Montreal.
The elders of the family now include siblings Kate Nachshen (Brecher), 96, George Nashen, 94, both of Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec and Elizabeth (Bess) Nachshen (Goldman), 89. of Boynton Beach, South Florida. The youngest member of the Nachshen Family was born one week prior to the Seder, Ellis Gray Adawalla of Toronto.
The 2018 Seder, held at a banquet hall in north end Toronto, brought together first, second and third cousins.
The event was organized by Mintzi (Clement) and Rafi Skrzydlo of Markham, Ontario and Mandy Senanes (Fitleberg) of Richmond Hill, Ontario. While most of the family is now situated in the greater Toronto area others traveled from Cote Saint-Luc, British Columbia, New York, Maryland, Florida and other points across North America, and as far away as China. With mobile devices in hand other family members from around the world joined in (virtually).
This family’s history reflects that of so many other Jewish Canadians. Having emigrated to Montreal from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, some of the family began drifting to Israel in the 60s and many to Toronto in the late 70s and 80s. By the 1990s the family had spread across Canada, the United States and Israel.

Cover of the Nachshen Family Seder Haggadah with image of family patriarch, Moishe Nachshen, Matriarch, Sarah Romenek, and their seven children

As the descendants of a rabbi, part of the Chasidic movement in Skvira, Russia, the family modernized and assimilated over the last three generations. So much so, that they created their own customized Passover Haggadah, emphasizing the centrality and equality of women and inclusion of all members of the family specifically citing lesbians, gays or converts to Judaism. An orange had been added as an important symbol on the Nachshen Seder plate to highlight these differences from the olden days.
While this family has grown and evolved quite differently from the strict religious practices of its patriarchs and matriarchs it continues to remain a cohesive and connected entity thanks to the fundamentals instilled by those family elders several generations earlier. The centrality of Judaism, community, cultural traditions, Zionism and family throughout the generations has remained strong and resolute. The Advent of social media has certainly helped to keep distant cousins connected through video, photos and stories on a daily basis.
The Haggadah, emblazoned with the photos of ‘Zaida Moishe an Bubbe Sarah’ was read aloud with all family members taking turns. The tunes sung aloud were those heard around the Nachshen table over a century ago in the shtetles of Skvira and Pogrebische (south of present day Kiev, Ukraine).

Back cover of the Nachshen Family Haggadah, depicting Nachshon, the first to enter the Red Sea as it parted during the exodus from Egypt

Once all the Afikomen had been found by the many young children and mingling had wound down, the many good bye hugs and kisses concluded the evening with wishes for Next Year in Jerusalem. But the Second Seder will be booked for Toronto, just in case.

Florida moves to stop time shift, should Canada follow?

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Florida has moved a step closer to making Daylight Saving Time permanent and end the dreaded and dreary semi-annual ritual of moving clocks back and forth. I have called upon our Members of Parliament to do the same for the last several years right here on my blog. Put an end to this archaic time-waster and let us have more sunlight all winter long.

I hope thew Florida Governor signs the Bill and that the US Congress follows suit. The chain reaction will surely push our parliamentarians to finally end moving our clocks back and forth.

Barry Wislon picked up on this movement in his recent Postscript vlog.

So let’s keep the momentum going. Blog it, shout it and call out your MP. The sunshine is back and we should keep it that way, all year long.

N

More:

Daylight Saving Time: Let there be light

Are you ready for clock confusion?

This time I’m voting to scrap time change

I’m tired of falling back!

Great community theatre in the West End, Tuesday and Wednesday night

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One of Montreal’s best community-based theatrical producers will launch a two-day run of the Broadway sensation, Anything Goes.

Anisa Cameron was born to be in showbiz. Born in New York, but raised under the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, her grandmother was a Rockette, her father was the lead singer of the Folies Bergere at the Tiffany Theatre inside the Tropicana and her mother, a dancer, was a chorus girl who worked her way up to company manager. Cameron and her brother, a dancer, were more or less raised backstage at the Tiffany Theatre. Although their parents begged and pleaded, both chose to pursue a life in the arts.

Anisa Cameron

Cameron has been at the helm of the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society (CSLDS) since its inception some seven years ago while simultaneously heading up the burgeoning drama program at Cote Saint-Luc’s Bialik High School. This year, she launched the JPPS drama program with the hit musical, The Little Mermaid.

Originally penned in 1934 with music and lyrics by American composer and songwriter Cole Porter, Anything Goes is a musical comedy that has been updated several times throughout the last century.

Through her many sold-out performances at the CSLDS including Fiddler on the Roof, Hairspray, Catch Me if You Can, as well as exceptional Bialik Theatre musicals, some originals and others from Broadway, Cameron has proven her skills at entertaining audiences both young and old.

This week. Anything Goes should be no exception. You don’t have to know anyone in the cast to come and enjoy local theatre, with live music by Nick Burgess and his accomplished musicians. All this with free parking, cheap refreshments, great seats and tickets at just 15 bucks. Get your tickets now for this Tuesday or Wednesday night’s shows at ShowTix4U or by visiting the Bialik Theatre Facebook page.

Barry Wilson Postscript

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If you miss Barry Wilson’s weekly rant on CTV News Montreal since he was unfortunately dropped by the network a few months ago you’ll be as pleased as I am to know that he has reappeared. Wilson has resurfaced, as good as ever, in a home-made, weekly commentary on things Montrealers, and English-speaking Quebecers want to hear.

The episodes are produced in-house, quite literally, and frankly, they’re just as good as before. I hope he finds a way to monetize his Youtube Channel and keep it going so he can continue to share his talents. Conversant in every angle of Montreal and Quebec politics it would be great to see Wilson expand his Youtube Channel and produce online content about Montreal’s suburbs and Quebec’s English-speaking communities’ issues.

Wilson has covered and written about Montreal and the Quebec political scene for more than three decades. He was bureau chief in Quebec City for Pulse News, then executive producer as he guided the editorial direction of Pulse and CTV News until November 2017. He began weekly “Postscript” editorials more than a decade ago.

Hey Barry, how about crisscrossing the West-End and West-Island with weekly interviews with suburban mayor and councillors, (errr former councillors included), for a glimpse at local issues? And, regular spots on matters affecting the vitality and sustainability of Quebec’s English-speaking community, especially leading up to the provincial elections.  I welcome your comment here Barry, as well as others who might like to share their opinion… In any case, I wish you much success.

Meanwhile, you can catch Barry Wilson on his website, Youtube and Twitter channels.

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