Honey, it’s cold outside: But it’s warm at the CSL Valentine’s Dance

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Dick Irvin and Terri Druick on the Valentine's Dance Floor

Dick Irvin and Terri Druick on the Valentine’s Dance Floor

What a wonderful surprise! For the past 10 years I wasn’t able to attend the Cote Saint-Luc Winter Carnival Valentine’s Dance for one reason or another. This past weekend my wife and I attended for the first time and what a party it was — far exceeding our expectations.

The CSL gym was transformed into a dinner-dance social hall, warmed up with shades of red including centerpieces of helium and heart-shaped balloons. The BYOB added to the merriment with wine flowing and glasses clinking.

I was invited to have a glass of homemade Cabernet-Sauvignon by Kildare Road resident Paolo Biasini, a two-time award winner in the CSL wine contest. Paolo was seated with former Councillor Joe Panunto and his wife Brenda, and several other members of CSL’s proud Italian community.

Saint-Richard’s volunteers Leila Fernandes and hubby Ian Hendriques were also there, swinging and twirling to the tunes of traditional Jewish, Greek (Opa!) and Italian music.

Deejay extraordinaire George Thomas with partygoer Irving Shock

Deejay extraordinaire George Thomas with party-goer Irving Shock

It was an international hootenanny with locals from all corners of the globe. We met Asian neighbours, Eastern European friends, and Mid-Eastern cousins. This beautiful mix of CSL residents and others from neighbouring communities brought out the best of our civic core principles of harmony, inclusiveness and respect for one another. What a wonderful way to spend a cold winter’s night.

Said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, “The food, music and decor were fantastic, but most important were the smiles on all your faces as you spread the love of the evening to all who attended.”

“The mood in the room was one of a happy and caring family. You make our city special as a place where life is good. Enjoy every moment,” said the mayor.

“These are 260 of the happiest people in CSL,” said my wife Dr. Judy Hagshi, who was among the younger partygoers.

Dr. Judy Hagshi and Peter Kovac

The endless stream of door prizes put an ever bigger smile on scores of faces thanks to the hard work of event masterminds Alvin Fishman and Harold Cammy of CSL Recreation. Partiers left with gift certificates, flower arrangements, cosmetics and even Persian rugs!

The politico table included our gregarious Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and the beautiful First Lady of CSL Elaine Yagod, Councillor Steven Erdelyi,  Councillor Dida Berku with her worldly husband Jacob Kincler, Councillor Ruth Kovac and her Dustin-Hoffman-look-alike husband Peter, along with the always-dancing Councillor Allan Levine and his soul mate Rhoda. Stylish MNA David Birnbaum and wife Hélène tore up the dance floor while the ever-popular MP Anthony Housefather was all smiles greeting his happy constituents.

Allan said to us, “We got you hooked. We’ll see you back next year!”

An amazing kosher buffet of Italian, Chinese, Japanese and traditional Jewish foods went from one end of the gym to the other. Ray Petrovich and Dalia Bosis of Blossom Catering laid out an exceptional spread. The sweet table was fit for a huge wedding.

Former longtime Recreation leaders Terri Druick who attended with her partner of sportscast fame Dick Irvin, and Louise Ferland who attended with husband Sam, were happy to mingle with old friends and colleagues.

I suffered a little performance anxiety dancing the cha-cha with Judy as our dance teacher, Carl Carlson, looked on. Carl, 82 years young has been instructing in ballroom and other dances in CSL and neighbouring communities for decades. He still teaches over 20 classes a week! Carl floated across the dance floor with women less than half his age.

Musical Entertainment was provided by the extraordinarily talented and creative George Thomas who acted as emcee, deejay, sound and lighting engineer, all in one. George is one of the best.

Many thanks to the many event sponsors including our friend, David Lisbona, of RBC.

Thank you very much to event co-chairs Councillors Allan Levine and Dida Berku.

Said Dida, “Every little touch showed the love and attention, from the beautiful smiles on the attendants at the reception, to the flowers – donated by Edgewood – given to the women on the way out. Such a classy affair. The food, the music, the dancing was all terrific. Thank you all so much for all the time and effort you invested in every detail.”

City Council and MNA Birnbaum at the 2017 Valentine's Dance

City Council and MNA Birnbaum at the 2017 Valentine’s Dance

“This was just such a fabulous event. Truly sensational,” Allan added.

A well-deserved thank you to event organizers Harold Cammy, Alvin Fishman, Cornelia Ziga, Laura Trihas, and Ryan Nemiroff along with their staff and volunteers including Moe, Dominica, the McEwens, Irving, Jordan and others who made last night the great success it was.

We’ll be back…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Our unusual Town

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our-town_drama
The CSL Dramatic Society kicked off its 2017 season with an unconventional play called Our Town by Thornton Wilder this week.
Our Town is a serious introspective, a commentary on American society in the early 1900’s. But as CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein explained in his warm, welcoming remarks it could very well have been about CSL in the early 20th century. Or 21st.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein plays Dr. Gibbs, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein plays Dr. Gibbs, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Our Town is about people. More specifically, it’s about the people who make up a community; a small tight-knit and caring community. While based in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire 100 plus years ago, it might as well have taken place last week in CSL. “This is our first drama and comes with a timeless message of the importance of appreciating every moment of life,” Mayor Brownstein said. “Written in 1938, it remains relevant for all time as an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily lives.”
It’s about neighbours and neighbourhoods. It’s about the corner store. The local doctor. The school down the block. The church nearby. It’s about the kindness of the milkman and the informative paper boy. It’s about the cop walking his beat and the local drunk and his silly antics. It’s about boys and girls and puppy love, right next door. Everyone knows everyone and about everyone’s business. If that’s not CSL…?
Ben Warner and Tori Gazin as young and in love, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Ben Warner and Tori Gazin as young and in love, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Our Town is simple on the surface.

The stage is barren and props are few. The stage writer wants you to focus on the faces and movements of the actors, and the relationship between each of them.

What struck me most was the sincerity of each actor. The beauty and smile on Emily (Tori Gazin) was enormous. The wonderment and tears in the eyes of her love-struck neighbour George (Ben Warner) was powerful.
Shaun Nishmas, Jordana Kujavsky and Linda Babins, Cemetery scene, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Shaun Nishmas, Jordana Kujavsky and Linda Babins, in the haunting cemetery scene, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Mitchell Brownstein puts on his best performance yet with a strong persona as Doctor Gibbs, the philosophical yet practical leader of family and patients. Daughter Rebecca Gibbs (Ori Fox) has a bubbly, youthful role and sings with an angelic voice.
Director Anisa Cameron has proven her versatility in skillfully adapting this 1930’s play for the local stage, and for turning something old into something new.
Funeral scene, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Funeral scene, Our Town, Jan. 2017

Mrs. Gibbs (Linda Babins) and Mrs. Webb (Karen Pellat-Caron) are strong, supporting characters. The bumbling Simon Stimpson (Shaun Nishmas) is lovable and pitiful at once and co-narraraters Herbert Brownstein and Sam Melnick deserve a special mention for tying it all together playing multiple characters. Newspaper publisher, Mr. Webb (Matthew Mckeown) returns to the CSL stage in another powerful performance.
The Dramatic Society dedicated the performance to the memory of their dear friend and fellow actor, Seymour David, who tragically passed away last week.
It looks like the CSL Dramatic Society is off to an unusual year, and that bodes well for their local audiences. Five more shows run through this Sunday with ticket sales going strong. Local English theatre is rare in our parts. Take advantage of the excellent talent and free parking just a short walk or drive from home, right here in Our Town.

Happy New Year | Bonne Année

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Wishing you health, happiness and peace in the new year.

Je vous souhaite une très bonne année, pleine de joie, de bonne santé et de belles surprises.

Year End Roundup: Inside City Hall with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

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Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has done a magnificent job in rallying all those around him since becoming mayor nine months ago. Mitch has brilliantly achieved consensus among members of council, has strengthened the city administration and brought our unions onside.  He is building upon a magnificent legacy created over a decade by former Mayor Anthony Housefather.

As an outgoing, effervescent and engaging full-time mayor. He created this wonderful recap of Cote Saint-Luc activities and accomplishments in 2016.

“We are a very special family,” the mayor said. Enjoy this video, these beautiful holidays, and take the time to count your blessings and appreciate all we have and the good times we share.”

A beautiful moment to enjoy together, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel

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The holiday season is a beautiful time throughout Cote Saint-Luc. The early sunset, crisp air and blanket of white help to amplify the beauty of the colourful lights that adorn many homes be they Christmas decorations, Chanukah Menorahs or other displays.

It has also become a time to welcome the parishioners from St. Richard’s Church to City Hall to sing a few songs and to light the city’s Christmas Tree. Father Peter always has inspirational words that carry a message of love and goodwill far and wide across our wonderful city to residents of all backgrounds.

In this spirit, I wish all residents of CSL, friends and family, the very best of that which is symbolic of the Christmas Tree. May the bright lights illuminate your homes and lives. May the branches in your family be of beauty. And may the beauty green teach us that hope and love will ever be the way to joy and peace.

Merry Christmas.

 

2016 Xmas CSL

 

Wonderful Chanukah Greetings

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As the holiday of lights and freedom approaches I take great pride and satisfaction in hearing encouraging words, during these troubling times, from leaders near and far.

Our illustrious MP, Anthony Housefather, has worked tirelessly to bring an open, pluralistic approach to ‘Hanukkah on the Hill’. In every speech, at every opportunity, the dynamic legislator innately rallies Canadians to think generously of those around them with his ever so optimistic perspective that we are all Canadians no matter how background. I salute him for spreading a message of hope and inclusion in a true Canadian spirit.

I am also grateful that our Prime Minister has shown, within a very short time in office, a genuine interest in forging a close relationship with the Jewish community. To be sure, there are a number of key players in the Canadian Jewish community that within the PM’s sphere of influence, including Housefather. But I do believe that Trudeau has the right convictions within him.

 

President Barak Obama delivered a meaningful speech at the White House in celebration of Chanukah, invoking the memory of Elie Wiesel by inviting the wife, children and grandchildren of the late beacon of memory of the Six Million. What’s more, the President kindled the handmade menorah of Wiesel’s granddaughter.

 

What struck me significantly this month was a leading article in the Ste-Agathe newspaper questioning whether a Chanukah Menorah ought to be permitted in a public place. So many responses were negative, seeking to extinguish the lights of the candelabra, all the while approving the public display of the Christmas Tree, the Cross and the Nativity Scene.

I found this to be a sad statement given the overt anti-semitism in this Laurentian paradise just a generation ago. Rather than barking angrily at my fellow Quebecers I decided this should be a moment to teach, to learn and to reach out in the spirit of the holidays in hopes that more people would be influenced and perhaps become more tolerant. You can see my comments and the full discussion here. Maybe you’d also like to reach out as I’ve tried to do.

 

 

And so, I hope that we all can learn to become a little more tolerant during these troubling times, a little kinder to one another, a little more respectful. This is the universal message that I draw from the bright light of the Chanukah Menorah. And in this spirit, and in borrowing Anthony’s words, I hope that no matter your background, your language or your religion, that you too draw inspiration from this little light of mine and that it shines bright upon you and those you hold close, and upon all people.

Happy Chanukah.

Chabad celebrates 30 years in enriching Cote Saint-Luc

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Rabbi Mendel Raskin (3rd from right) and sons welcomes the MP, Mayor and Councillor

Rabbi Mendel Raskin (3rd from right) and sons welcomes the MP, Mayor and Councillor

It hardly took 30 years for Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Raskin to make an indelible mark on the City of Cote Saint-Luc. Since first laying ground in an upper duplex on Earle Road back in 1986 a lot has changed for the Raskins, for Chabad CSL and for the city and its residents.

The Raskins are no ordinary CSL couple, but then again, who is? Having grown up as a Yiddish-speaking Ashkenaz in, of all places, Morocco, Cote Saint-Luc was as good a posting as any for the adventurous young rabbi and his New Yorker bride, Sarah.

Fast forward three decades. Hoo ha, has our city changed. From a few mainstream large synagogues and a single Jewish elementary and high school the city has morphed into a rich and vibrant community housing many centres of religion, culture and education, weaving together Ashkenazis and Sephardim, and recent arrivals from France, Argentina and other communities around the world.

The Raskins can be mighty proud of their contributions in infusing Judaism for the masses by organizing festivals, parades, concerts, holiday and weekly services, summer and winter camps, excursions, festive meals, education seminars, guest speakers and more.

Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, MP Anthony Housefather and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein all smiles at the Chabad 30th anniversary gala evening

Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, MP Anthony Housefather and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein all smiles at the Chabad 30th anniversary gala evening

Meanwhile, their wonderful and enthusiastic children have carried on in the “family business” by reaching out not only here at home but elsewhere within the Chabad movement, including Montego Bay, Jamaica!

My wife Judy and I are fortunate to have been invited to many of the Raskins events throughout the years and to have gotten to know them and appreciate their subtle and inspiring ways. We were equally overjoyed to help celebrate the 30th anniversary celebrations last week at the opulent and classy edifice known as the Hechel Menachem CSL Chabad Synagogue on Kildare Road.

L-R: Jacob Kincler, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, MP Anthony Housefather, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Elaine Yagod. All four elected officials served as mayor of Cote Saint-Luc in the past 12 months.

L-R: Jacob Kincler, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, MP Anthony Housefather, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Elaine Yagod. All four elected officials served as mayor of Cote Saint-Luc in the past 12 months.

Together with our good friends and colleagues Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and the First Lady of CSL Elaine Yagod, Cllr. Dida Berku and the affable Jacob Kincler, rookie Cllr. (and old workmate) Sidney Benizri and his wife Sandra Papagouras, district Cllr. and lifelong buddy Mike Cohen and omnipresent Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather we all congratulated the Raskin family and their key supporters on a job well done and continued success.

Our city and community and the world are strengthened by the Raskins unending and universal efforts in spreading kindness and good deeds to all. May Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Raskin and their family continue to go from Strength to Strength.

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