No referendum for new synagogue

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At its July 4 public meeting Cote Saint-Luc City Council voted to withdraw a bylaw dealing with a proposed rezoning of residential property for a new synagogue. Council has ended the process that would have lead to a potentially divisive referendum. Instead, the city and the congregation leadership have been in discussions on a more desirable piece of land on Mackle Road.

“I am very proud of our community in rallying together to respectfully discuss, in a positive manner, and to find solutions in seeking a new home for the Kollel,” said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We will work together to make this a reality as quickly as possible within the provincial legal process.”

District 6 Councillor Glenn J. Nashen said. “The city will do its utmost to help its residents and support its institutions,” in support of choosing to work toward a new location for the Kollel.

A register for a rezoning bylaw to enable the new synagogue to be created on Mackle Road by the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim was held on Thursday, June 15 at City Hall. 24 people signed the register. Only 17 were required to sign in order to call for a referendum.

The register was called for, under provincial law governing rezoning, after 33 out of 56 eligible residents signed a petition to demand the register last May.

“As the Councillor for the area (District 6) I believe it is important to keep our residents united and supportive of one another. I am confident that we are looking at a better solution to meet everyone’s needs,” Nashen added.

Mayor Brownstein, Councillor Nashen and city staff have met with the rabbi, Kollel leadership and with concerned residents after the register closed and assured everyone that we shall work together as a community to find the congregation a more suitable place for them in our City.

Mayor Brownstein said we are, “Moving quickly to find solutions and all parties are pleased with our proactive approach. We are a beautiful, proud community that shall always find solutions to accommodate each other through consensus building.”

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A guten geburdstug Kaneda

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Prestigious D’Arcy McGee citizenship medals presented

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It was my honour to attend this weeks ceremony by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum at the CSL Aquatic and Community Center.

The ceremony was set up three years ago by the engaging and charismatic Birnbaum to honour exceptional citizens for their outstanding contribution to society, in particular affecting those of us residing in the D’Arcy McGee riding, which includes Cote saint-Luc, Hampstead and Snowdon west.

This year’s winners were Baruch Cohen, Susan Wener and (posthumously) Jean Lapierre. Jean’s daughter graciously accepted the award. In addition, the Victor C. Goldbloom ‘Vivre Ensemble’ essay contest winner was Reisa Gilfix (Grade 10, Herzliah High School).

The ceremony also included a video presentation by Quebec Pemier Philippe Couillard.

An excellent jazz combo ensemble entertained the crowd from the Saint-Luc secondary school.

Baruch Cohen, left, is feted on his 90th birthday by well-wisher Frederick Krantz, founder and director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. (Photo CJN)

Baruch Cohen
Baruch Cohen recently celebrated his 97th birthday. During the second world war, Baruch survived pogroms, anti-Semitism, state-sponsored tyranny and forced labour camps in Romania. He escaped to Israel and later made a life here in Montreal with Sonia, his wife of 73 years. Upon retirement from his position as a financial officer, Baruch completed a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He subsequently devoted 30 years of volunteer service as Research Chair of the the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. He spearheaded the first holocaust commemoration in memory of Jews killed in Romania and Transnistria 23 years ago, an event that continues to be held annually.

Susan Wener (Photo: The Georgia Straight)

Susan Wener

For 30 years, Susan Wener has dedicated her life to helping others. She is a therapist for people struggling with life-threatening illness. She speaks across Canada at literary festivals, medical conferences, universities and libraries, touching on subjects such as the doctor-patient relationship, integrative cancer care, overcoming obstacles and other topics related to health and well-being. Following a near death experience at 18, Susan knew that her mission would be to work with the gravely ill. She hasn’t looked back since. Her moving memoir, “Resilience” and recent Tedx Talk have reached thousands, far beyond our community’s borders.

 

Jean Lapierre

Jean Lapierre was a former member of Parliament, minister and political analyst on English and French radio and television. He died tragically along with four members of his family in a plane crash into 2016. Lapierre made perhaps his greatest mark in a final career as political analyst. He did regular spots that topped the ratings on Radio 98.5, CJAD, CTV, TVA and other media outlets. His commentaries garnered huge audiences in English and in French, and inevitably elicited reactions from politicians, other journalists as well as regular watchers across the province, who reacted to his daily scoops and analyses and discussions around the water cooler and supper table. What happens in Quebec City and Ottawa can sometimes seem remote and isolated from our lives in CSL, Hampstead and western Montreal. Jean Lapierre made it less so. He deserves our recognition for enriching our lives and widening our horizons.

Congratulations to the winners and the family of Jean C. Lapierre for this well-deserved honour.

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Federation CJA’s Mission to Montreal was a fun, filling, sell-out success

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Thanks to Federation CJA for a great tour around Old Jewish Montreal on the recent Around the Bagel tour. What an enthusiastic turnout for the #MissionToMontreal where participants explored the Jewish history and culture of our beloved city along with the Museum of Jewish Montreal and The Segal Centre for Performing Arts!

Federation CJA is celebrating 100 years of building community.

La #MissionToMontreal a connu un véritable succès en permettant, à un grand nombre de participants, d’explorer l’histoire et la culture juives de notre merveilleuse ville avec @Musee du Montreal juif et @segal centre. La Fédération CJA est fière de célébrer 100 ans au cœur de la communauté. Et notre histoire ne fait que commencer.

Thanks to co-chairs Samantha Mintz and Warren Werbitt. This was a unique, fun way to spend the afternoon with old friends and meet new people too. And, oy, the nosh from Cheskie’s was awesome!!

New site now in the plans for new synagogue

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A register for a rezoning bylaw to enable a new synagogue to be created on Mackle Road by the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim was held on Thursday, June 15 at City Hall. 23 people signed the register. Only 17 were required to sign in order to call for a referendum.

The register was called for, under provincial law governing rezoning, after 33 out of 56 eligible residents signed a petition to demand the register a month earlier.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said if enough people sign the register, there will be no need for a referendum and, as a result, another location will have to be found for the synagogue.

The city wishes to help its residents and support its institutions. Given the results we will help the congregation to find a new location.

As the Councillor for the area (District 6) I believe it is important to keep our residents united and supportive of one another. I am confident that a better solution can be found to meet everyone’s needs.

Mayor Brownstein said he met with the residents and Rabbi Benoliol after the register closed and assured everyone that we shall work together as a community to find the congregation a more suitable place for them in our City.  The mayor said we are moving quickly to find solutions and all parties are pleased with our proactive approach and that he expects to be able to announce an excellent alternative shortly.  We are a beautiful, proud community that shall always find solutions to accommodate each other through consensus building, he said.

B’nai Brith recognizes Cote Saint-Luc in fight against racism, anti-semtism, discrimination

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Bnai Brith senior leadership present a certificate recognizing Cote Saint-Luc’s Public Safety and Police efforts

“I am honoured to present a B’nai Brith Certificate of Recognition to the City of Cote Saint-Luc at the City Council meeting for their fight against racism, antisemitism and discrimination,” said Quebec Region Director Harvey Levine at last Monday night’s public council meeting.

Levine, brother of CSL Councillor Allan J. Levine, was accompanied by BBC leaders Eric Bissell and Ted Greenfield and made the presentation to Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and me, Police Commander Jean O’Malley, Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson and senior officers of the CSL volunteer Citizens on Patrol group.

The citation was a result of the B’nai Brith Canada and the League for Human Rights Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The Audit has been conducted every year since 1982, and is the result of close cooperation with the public, local police forces and other community organizations across the country. The Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents is more than just a snapshot of the intensity of incidents against the Jewish community; it serves as the barometer of the level of racism in Canada as a whole.

Levine stated that Cote Saint-Luc is the second largest Jewish community in Canada, after Thornhill, Ontario. Remarkably, Cote Saint-Luc did not register a single anti-semitic act in 2016, out of the 1728 incidents reported across Canada. Levine, singled out Cote Saint-Luc Public Security and vCOP along with Police Station 9 for their vigilance, surveillance and prevention work.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Harvey Levine congratulated me for my leadership in Public Safety in Cote Saint-Luc, namely in creating and leading the vCOP group. This presentation was a total surprise and a great honour for me. I salute all of the great volunteers in vCOP along with the professionals in Public Security and Montreal Police Station 9. Thank you to our mayor, council and administration for their continued support of my public safety ideas and initiatives. And my utmost respect and appreciation goes to Harvey Levine and B’nai Brith Canada for their outstanding work on behalf of all Canadians.

PROPOSED NEW SHUL DIVIDES LARGELY JEWISH MONTREAL SUBURB

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This architect’s drawing of the proposed synagogue of the Sephardic Kollel Avrechim Foundation has been submitted to the City of Côte St. Luc.

Côte-St-Luc, Que. will open a register on June 15, which will allow eligible residents to have their say on whether to force a referendum on the proposed construction of a new synagogue in their neighbourhood.

The register will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 5801 Cavendish Blvd., second floor, to residents of the two small municipal zones affected and the adjoining area.

A referendum would be the final word on the project. But Mayor Mitchell Brownstein made it clear that if the minimum of 17 people sign, which seems likely given the opposition expressed to the project, the city will not proceed to a referendum, as required by provincial law.

Instead, Brownstein said city council will withdraw its approval of the rezoning that would allow the Sephardic Kollel Avrechim Foundation to build on its lot on Mackle Road, next to the Quartier Cavendish shopping centre.

On May 29, Côte-St-Luc council voted 4-2 to approve the final version of a bylaw amending the zoning of the land from residential to institutional.

By the May 25 deadline, 33 of 56 eligible residents had signed a request that a register be opened, a necessary legal step in the process.

The mayor stressed that if approval is withdrawn, the city will help Kollel Avrechim find another location, to which its leadership has indicated it is open. Brownstein said several alternative sites are being considered.

“The congregation is important and deserves a home,” he said, “and we will continue to work with (it).”

Moreover, Brownstein said a referendum would cost the city at least $30,000 “for no reason.… There’s no chance of winning.”

The issue has been delicate because the Montreal suburb does not want to be seen as banning a synagogue, or any religious institution. The project’s opponents submitted a petition with about 70 signatures to city council.

The city’s population is at least 60 per cent Jewish and all nine council members are Jewish.

The final rezoning bylaw was moved by councillor Sidney Benizri and seconded by Allan Levine. The first draft of the bylaw was adopted in March and a second version earlier in May by a 5-2 vote.

Councillor Ruth Kovac, one of the two dissenters, said she voted against the rezoning bylaw “not because I am against any religious institution. This is strictly a zoning issue.”

She thinks the lot is too small, especially if the congregation expects that it will continue to grow. Kovac, who earlier noted that she is sensitive to this issue as the child of Holocaust survivors, offered to personally help the congregation find a “better location.”

She suggested they might be able to find a location that’s closer to where most of its members live.

Architectural plans submitted by the foundation are for a three-storey building. In addition to Quartier Cavendish, the site, bearing the civic address of 6790-6792 Mackle Rd., is close to the Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue.

Kollel Avrechim, led by Rabbi Yehuda Benoliel, has been operating out of a duplex on Parkhaven Avenue for almost 20 years.

Kovac said she regretted that this matter is being “dragged” out and that it is “unfair” to residents to have them for a third time affirm their disapproval (she counted the petition and the request for a register as the first two instances).

Councillor Glenn Nashen, who represents the district where the zones are located, said he would have voted for the rezoning bylaw, but was unable to attend the meeting.

He blogged that, like Kovac, he believes this issue is purely over zoning and has “nothing to do with religion or support for a synagogue.

“We are a city of many religions, languages and residents of all backgrounds, even if the majority are of the Jewish faith. Some are very religious, others somewhat and yet others traditional or secular. We all live in peace and harmony in respect of one another, which makes Côte St. Luc an incredible place to live and to raise a family. Let’s be sure to keep it this way.”

Opponents of the project have raised concerns about increased traffic, noise and parking problems. They fear a second synagogue next door would lower their property values and mean higher taxes, because religious institutions are exempt from taxation.

Quartier Cavendish has also voiced strong opposition, because it thinks that people using the synagogue, especially during special events, would park on its property.

Rabbi Benoliel has said that the congregation would be respectful of those living nearby, and that their needs were taken into account during the planning of the project. At the urging of Brownstein, the leaders met with neighbours to try to allay their worries.

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