Newly elected Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather was given a warm welcome on Shabbat wrapping up his first full week on the job. The eloquent and gracious Rabbi Michael Whitman greeted Anthony, Bonnie Feigenbaum, myself, as Acting Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, along with my wife Judy Hagshi and my son Jeremy and ushered us into his comfortable and intimate sanctuary in-the-round.
Anthony and I were invited to the President and Clergy’s seats up front, next to the Ark that contains eighteen Torah scrolls (my son counted). Shul President Bernie Malinoff greeted us and Anthony was quickly invited to recite the blessing before reading the Haftara portion. In perfect Hebrew, and on key, he chanted the blessing as though it was his own Bar Mitzvah. Mitzuyan Anthony!
Rabbi Whitman read aloud the Prayer for the Government of Canada and all its officers, “and all those elected to serve the public,” continuing, “This is for you Anthony!”
I was very impressed that in addition to the stirring rendition of the Prayer for the State of Israel and Prayer for the Israel Defense Forces that the congregation continued with a special Prayer for The Canadian Armed Forces, thanking the the members of the Army, Navy and Air Force for protecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Following the Torah reading Rabbi Whitman invited Anthony to the podium to address the congregation, describing him as “intensely friendly”.
“Yesterday, I received a card from JNF saying that a tree had been planted in Israel in my honour by Judy and Glenn,” Anthony began. “Strangely. the inscription said, ‘Congratulations on your election defeat!'” the MP chuckled, along with the audience. “In any election, there is a winner and there are losers. What this goof (not by me or my wife) signifies is that once the election is over we must unite and work together for the benefit of all in the riding,” Anthony wisely counseled.
“This was a difficult election, with great division, unfortunately driving a wedge within the community. But now, I will work for all of you. If you didn’t vote for me, that’s alright. I hope to prove you wrong by winning your trust and confidence. And if you did vote for me, thank you for your support. I hope to prove you right over the next four years,” Housefather said to applause.
For the next 15 minutes, in typical Anthony style, he skillfully mastered and commented on several themes that surfaced throughout the campaign without a single scripted note. The MP touched upon the importance of finding jobs for the youth in our riding, about the rising need for social housing among seniors and the poverty of our elders who shouldn’t have to choose between rent payments and medication expenses.
“My staff and I will always be available to listen to you and assist you,” he said, introducing former Hampstead Councillor Bonnie Feigenbaum as his new Chief of Staff. “I will take my municipal experience in uniting our Cote Saint-Luc Council and in building consensus and bring this strategy to the federal government.”
In thanking Anthony, President Malinoff presented him with the “Yad”, or pointer, used to read each word in the Torah scrolls. “You and your five other Jewish colleagues in caucus have an advantage in government as you have the Torah to guide when you’ll be called upon to make difficult decisions. Please accept this ‘Yad’ as a kind of symbolic GPS to help you find your way,” Bernie smartly advised.
Also in attendance were Hampstead Councillor Jack Edery and his wife Dr. Fanny Hersson and Cote Saint-Luc Councillor Dida Berku. A beautiful Kiddush, or lunch reception followed, sponsored by Philip Schlimper and family, in memory of his father Chayim. Philip delivered a stirring account of his father’s incredible life, surviving Kristalnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) and the Holocaust, serving in Israel’s War of Independence and eventually coming to Montreal. Philip and his brothers immortalized their dad’s memory in creating an accessory line named KS18, using his initials and the Jewish number signifying ‘Life’.
Bravo Anthony for an incredible first week on the job as Our Man in Ottawa. In the words of Rabbi Whitman, “May you have good fortune in all your work as our Member of Parliament.”