Last night I joined Mayor Anthony Housefather and all eight members of City Council at the home of Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Raskin of Chabad Cote Saint-Luc. We sat in their Sukkah and enjoyed a lovely dinner in celebration of the holiday of Sukkot.

The Raskins established themselves in Cote Saint-Luc to build the Jewish Community within the Chabad movement.  It was their dream and vision to eventually build the Hechal Menachem Community Centre and Synagogue. The long held dream was shared by many in the community and after 25 years of planning and praying the centre finally opened two years ago.

Rabbi Raskin was elated, for the first time, to have the entire City Council in his Sukkah, along with many guests.  Consul General of Israel Joel Lion was also in attendance.

Mayor Housefather spoke passionately about Cote Saint-Luc’s total opposition to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values. “This city was built upon the values of respecting the Quebec Charter of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the Mayor said. “We value the right of people to express themselves as they freely choose, to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. Never will we subscribe to a divisive and discriminatory policy that would restrict the rights of our staff to wear a turban, hijab or kippah.”

Mayor Housefather, or Anthony as he prefers to be called, was widely applauded by all for his outstanding leadership and vision which has benefited not only residents in Hampstead (in his first years in municipal politics) and in Cote Saint-Luc, but throughout our provincial and federal ridings and indeed across Quebec.

It was my turn to speak and I reiterated my firm belief that Cote Saint-Luc is a big family, where residents help one another and that no matter their language or their religious affiliation, we are a close community, highly respectful of one another. We draw strength from our diversity and this makes us a stronger community. I used my own family’s experience of blending my wife’s heritage of Moroccan, Yemenite and Israeli ancestry with mine, from Romania, Russia, Austria and the U.S. Similar to so many other families in Cote Saint-Luc, we are all enriched by our collective history.

One councillor quipped that we should create a CSL Charter of Values that would be one of respect, tolerance and welcome our differences.

Several made mention that in past years Rabbi Raskin offered a prayer for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive by Hamas for over five years. This year, we celebrated his freedom, noting that he was in Montreal just days ago to share his story.  Talk about a time of joy and celebration!

The evening ended, as it always has, with dancing across two lanes of Cavendish Blvd. What a beautiful juxtaposition from a despicable Charter to the public celebration, one in which Consul General Lion described as a holiday that is to be shared with the whole world, one in which a Torah scroll representing each country on earth is paraded around.

Sarah Raskin thanked the council saying,”People do not realize that working for the public is a thankless job and takes hours of personal time in order to make things work. Our councillors are constantly thinking of how to enrich the quality of our lives.”

Thanks to Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Raskin for bringing overwhelming joy and deep compassion to the people of Cote Saint-Luc and beyond.