Canada apologizes to Jewish community for “None is Too Many”, turning back refugees to Hitler’s Nazi Germany

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This was a historic, monumental day not only for Canadian Jews, but for Canada. Today’s apology by the Government of Canada for turning away the 907 Jews fleeing the Holocaust aboard the ill-fated MS. Saint Louis was long overdue. In issuing today’s apology Canada has solidified its place as a tolerant, peace-loving and safe land. The Prime Minister has committed to doing more to safeguard places of worship and to fight antisemitism.

Thank you to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his eloquent and emotional words of accountability and apology. Your words, Mr. Prime Minister, are powerful and meaningful and will be felt for generations. Thank you to the Government of Canada and to all Members of Parliament for standing in solidarity, united across party lines, to acknowledge the failures of the past and to take corrective actions to secure our future. The occasion was made even more powerful by the solemn remarks by the leaders of the Conservative Party, NDP and Green Party.

Thank you as well to our honourable and outstanding Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Anthony Housefather, for his leadership role in today’s declaration. Anthony has worked tirelessly on behalf of not only his constituents but all Canadians in ensuring the Government of Canada support its Jewish Communities, fight against BDS, denounce antisemitic acts of hate and support the Jewish State of Israel.

Canada has taken a major step in ensuring ‘Never Again’ resonates from coast to coast to coast.


Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 10:43


The NDP’s Guy Caron taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 9:36


Green Party Leader Elizabeth May taking part in the Canadian government’s official apology for the 1939 decision to turn away the MS St. Louis and its 907 German Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazi Regime. 7:19

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A Bintel Brief: Yiddish Theatre alive and well in Montreal

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A review by Glenn J. Nashen

NEW: Now featured in the Jewish Standard Magazine!

 

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre opened its 60th season this week with its latest production of A Bintel Brief. This performance at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts  is brought back to the stage after it originally opened in Montreal in the 1970s. It is a story based upon real letters to the editor of a Yiddish language daily newspaper in New York City in the early 1900s.

 

The production is composed of a series of true stories of Jewish immigrants coming to America and trying to adapt to their new world. It not only connects the stories of immigrants in the early 20th century to their former lives in Russia and Europe but it also connects them to their descendants 100 years later.

 

A Bintel Brief peeks inside the immigrant experience of long ago and reminds us that little has changed and that the struggles and efforts made are both timeless and universal.

 

The show is brought to life by budding director Michelle Heisler who has previously acted in the DWYT and works with young children’s theatre. Heisler is a talented actor and singer having performed on stage across Canada, the United States and Europe.

 

The cast is an energetic and spirited group of youngsters, young adults and older folk who come together as though they were a true family.

Sam Stein and Aron Gonshor (Courtesy CJNews.com)

Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein are iconic in the DWYT and for good reason. Their vaudeville singing and dancing with old-fashioned, side-splitting humour kept the audience in tears of laughter. Their shtick was out of Wayne and Shuster and they were classic funnymen. They also took on serious roles in skits ranging in theme from overworked and underpaid, depressed immigrants to tragic episodes involving loss of life and great despair. If there are lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance in Yiddish theatre this duo is certainly right for the prize.

 

Mikey Samra is known for  his many performances in the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society but his stage presence in Yiddish was equally spectacular. He is a compelling young actor who will continue to flourish in whatever language he chooses.

 

Jodi Lackman has played at the Segal before but her performance in A Bintel Brief takes the cake. Her facial expressions and shrieking voice at learning her husband has another wife and children, her melodramatic overtones in yearning for her secret lover and her comedic expressions are worthy of praise and applause.

 

The list of talented and dedicated young actors who have put in tremendous effort to speak a language that is probably quite foreign to most of them is long and impressive. Kudos to all of them for entertaining the audience with song and dance, with drama and comedy and by keeping the language and rich history alive.

 

One particular skit involves a class of immigrants trying to learn to speak English. It is ridiculously funny with mispronunciation and misunderstanding. I could just imagine my Bubby and Zaida in such a class with their thick yiddishe accents trying to learn their new language. Indeed, I still remember the words of my very funny Russian-born Zaida who’d say, “I speak 12 languages and don’t understand any of them!”

 

The stage was simple and old fashion in the Segal Centre’s smaller theatre. Presented with English and French supertitles it is an easy-to-understand show even if you’re not fluent in mama-loschen. The four piece band was fun and lively under the musical direction of Nick Burgess.

 

Despite the young children who sing and dance in the first act (they leave at intermission to get home for bedtime) the heavy adult themes would give this musical performance a PG-13 rating, not age appropriate for pre-teens.

 

DWYT President Ben Gonshor thanked the capacity opening-night audience for continuing to support community theatre, particularly in Yiddish. With such great benefactors such as Alvin Segal, Barbara Seal and the Azrielli Foundation and Federation CJA Montrealers are fortunate in that they will continue to be treated to such memorable and entertaining evenings for years to come.

 

A Bintel Brief continues at the Segal Centre though October 21. Tickets are available at SegalCentre.org or by calling 514-739-7944.

 

Birnbaum announces a new Liberal government will support relocation, expansion of Montreal Holocaust Museum

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D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

D’Arcy-McGee Liberal MNA and candidate David Birnbaum confirmed that a re-elected Liberal government will be a financial partner in the planned relocation and expansion of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The Museum leadership has already secured a major lead donation and completed a feasibility study for the ambitious project, evaluated at about $45 million. The Museum, Canada’s only one uniquely focused on Holocaust remembrance and human rights education, is recognized the world over for the quality of its exhibits and its outreach programs. It has also long been recognized that the museum needs more space than available at its current location in the Jewish Community Campus on Côte Ste-Catherine Rd.

“I am so proud that the Premier has made this commitment, which is profoundly important to our Jewish community but also significant for all Quebecers,” Birnbaum noted. He first briefed the Premier on the project in late Spring. “The Museum, with the help of courageous survivors, reaches out to schools, in French and English, to ensure that the terrible lessons of the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated.’’ Montreal is home to the third-largest population of Holocaust survivors and children of survivors in the world.

Mr. Couillard, whose own family was deeply implicated in the French resistance, had a brief discussion about the project with Museum Director Alice Herscovitch when he accompanied Mr. Birnbaum for the second time during this mandate to the annual commemorative service on Yom Hashoah at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue.

“We are very encouraged by this news,’’ said Alice Herscovitch, Executive Director. “It is deeply important that all Quebecers have access to a modern and accessible museum that embodies messages of courage in the face of inhumanity and helps Quebecers and people the world over understand the importance and responsibility we all have to prevent racism and genocide. Our museum will be so much more able to deliver those messages to schools and adults alike through an expansion.”

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

The Museum is seeking a site in downtown Montreal, and the support of all levels of government. Treasury Board President and Mont-Royal-Outremont candidate Pierre Arcand currently serves the territory where the museum is situated. It will find itself in D’Arcy-McGee after the election.

“In my ministerial role, I see and evaluate each day the many difficult and important choices a government must make in allocating public funds. Of course, schools, health care and other services are essential but so are the Quebec institutions that identify and transmit our vision of humanity, of our responsibility to each other and to the wider world. This commitment is a meaningful example of that vision.”

Birnbaum noted that an initial analysis of the Museum project is already underway by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, with the details and modalities of the provincial government partnership still to be determined.

Shana Tova

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Wishing friends and family, near and far, happiness, peace and prosperity.

Anthony Housefather’s record on Israel

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Anthony is an extraordinary advocate for his constituency and is outspoken in his staunch support for Israel. In this excellent letter he sets the record straight for those who believe that he and the liberal government have wavered in showing Canada’s steadfast support for Israel. Of course, one can easily point to a single incident, event or vote and criticize. But life, and politics, is far from that simple.

I wholeheartedly continue to support Anthony Housefather as an extraordinary, young leader who is sure to rise among the ranks. He is the right man to push our government when necessary, whether on Israel or on a number of other major issues.

His intelligence shines through in his speeches and writings. If you have not met him I strongly encourage you to do so at one of the many events he addresses or in connecting by email or social media.

 

Anthony Housefather, MP, in the Hall of Honour, in the Parliament of Canada

My record on Israel

Anthony Housefather

I need to respond to the letter from Nathan Rosensheim published in the Suburban on July 4th, claiming the Canadian Government did not support Israel and that I was not a forceful advocate for Israel within the Government.

To say these claims are false would be a huge understatement. I have always been and will continue to be a huge supporter of Israel and since I was first elected I have been one of the foremost advocates on behalf of support for Israel and action on causes important to my constituents and Canada’s Jewish community. Let’s look at the overall record since October 2015.

Since the Liberal Government was elected in October 2015, Canada has one of the best voting records at the UN on defending Israel. We have voted no on 54 of the 62 resolutions at the General Assembly which singled out Israel over this time. No country other than the US and some small islands have a record similar to ours. Our record on voting against resolutions on Israel is far better than Australia and the UK and other European countries. It is also better in percentage terms of no votes than any previous Canadian Government, including the ten years of the Harper administration.

Our Government also supported the first anti-BDS motion to be adopted by the House of Commons. We adopted a Bill recognizing May as Jewish Heritage Month. We just signed an enhanced Canada/US free trade agreement at the Gelber Centre in the Mount Royal riding. We doubled security infrastructure funding to help secure Jewish and other institutions that are subject to potential hate crimes. As well, the Prime Minister committed to apologizing in the House of Commons for our record on Jewish refugees prior to and during the Second World War and in particular for Canada’s shameful refusal of the SS St. Louis in 1939. No other Canadian Government has ever done this and it is something I have been calling for since I have been elected.

Finally, in June the Government supported a motion in the House of Commons condemning the current regime in Iran, including for the statements made by its Supreme Leader calling for the eradication of Israel. In case anyone questions my support for Israel and my readiness to speak out in support of Israel in the House of Commons, I suggest you watch my speech on the Iran motion at https://www.facebook.com/anthonyhousefather/videos/1982973521743727/

I spend a significant percentage of my time advocating for issues of interest to the Jewish community. There have been a small number of times I have been disappointed, such as with the recent statement on Gaza and in that case my colleague Michael Levitt and I released our own statement. But I have worked very hard within the Government to ensure our position on Jewish and Israeli issues is as strong as possible and most of the time I have succeeded. I truly believe if you look at the facts above the number of actions we have taken in support of Israel and issues related to Canada’s Jewish community over the last 2.5 years is equal to or better than any other Canadian Government in history and I am happy to defend my actions to my constituents anytime.

Anthony Housefather

MP for Mount Royal

Birnbaum campaign for the new D’Arcy McGee shaping up

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D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum welcomed a crowd of supporters to the Gelber Conference Centre earlier this week as part of a fundraiser to kick off his re-election campaign. The location of the event east of the Decarie Boulevard signifies the changing electoral boundary in the upcoming provincial elections. The riding of D’Arcy McGee will expand beyond its traditional territory of Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Snowdon West. Newly included in  the riding will be a substantial area stretching to Cote des Neiges Road bordered by Cote Saint-Catherine to the south and the CP Railway to the north of Vezina.

Speaking with his customary eloquence and grace Birnbaum said that, “there is only one party in the National Assembly that truly represents all Quebecers,” giving examples of how the CAQ and PQ have not stood up for minority communities. The CAQ has indicated its position on immigrants which runs contrary to the belief of so many of Birnbaum’s constituents and, “the PQ still has its Article 1 that speaks of Quebec without Canada.”

 

 

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

Mitch Garber was the special guest speaker.  Chairman of the Board of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil, Mitch was recently named as Chairman of  a new organization, Invest in Canada, which is focused on streamlining and encouraging investment in Canada. Mitch is also the co-founder of Ceasar’s Entertainment,  a world-leading game development company. Closer to home, Mitch is an old school-mate of mine at Bialik High School and McGill University.

Mitch has never forgotten his roots and always speaks proudly of his community and his love of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

“Mitch and his wife Anne-Marie are doing so much to bridge the gaps between our linguistic communities, between our Jewish community and all over Quebec, with frankness of warmth and compassion,” said Birnbaum.

Speaking about his passion for business and baseball, Garber took care not to make any partisan pronouncements, although it was clear that his support for David Birnbaum was genuine and sincere.

Guest speaker Mitch Garber throws his enthusiastic support to Birnbaum

 

My wife, Dr. Judy Hagshi and I were pleased to show our support for David. I worked closely with him in my capacity as a City Councillor. David’s keen interest in matters affecting municipal life and provincial matters are evident. If he, and his very able staff of Chris and Elizabeth, could do anything to assist his constituents, they would do so with pleasure.

What’s more I was always impressed in his interest in the larger Jewish community and its public establishments, following in the footsteps of Lawrence Bergman, his predecessor. David was front and centre in speaking up in the National Assembly on Yom Hashoah, as was Bergman.

He also went out of his way, literally, in showing great interest in the advancement of the Jewish General Hospital, where I work in public relations on behalf of the West-Central Montreal health authority. The JGH is located in Mount Royal riding, which never stopped David (or Lawrence Bergman before him) from doing whatever he could to help out on any file, along with his neighbouring MNA, Pierre Arcand. As happenstance would have it, with the redrawing of the electoral map, the JGH will in fact be in the new D’Arcy McGee boundaries come October 1.

 

Dr. Judy Hagshi and Glenn J. Nashen supporting David Birnbaum for re-election

We may not agree on every single issue but that doesn’t diminish David’s strong support of his riding and constituents. And we may not agree with all of his party’s platform but that doesn’t take away from their strong handling of the economy and their clear position on Quebec’s place in a united Canada. As David said, that’s much more than we can say about his competitors.

I look forward to challenging David on issues of importance to me such as English-language rights, pre-hospital emergency medical care, public safety and the promotion of electric vehicles and other green initiatives. I know he will always give me an ear and bring my concerns to the seat of power in Quebec City.

Best of luck to my friend, David Birnbaum.

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.

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