Creating a future of miracles: Israel Guide Dog Center

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Noah Brown, Consul General David Levy, Eli Yablonek and Glen


I was recently invited to attend a luncheon at the Israel Consul General’s residence to meet three special guests. I knew nothing about them or their organization and I was almost taken aback as I entered the bright, beautiful residence to hear one of the special invitee’ commanding voice: “Glenn, come here! Glenn! Glenn, stay!”.

Now I know Israelis are notoriously direct, to be polite about it, but I thought this was a bit much, no?

What I was about to realize, is that Eli Yablonek was speaking to his Yellow Labrador guide dog, Glen (I hadn’t noticed his commands were to a one N’d Glen, not to Ns!).

Glen and Eli


Eli, 67, is a retired businessman and former tank commander. He is a man of few words, with a no-nonsense attitude. He has excelled in business, hiking, tandem bicycling, swimming and skiing. Wounded in the Yom Kippur war in a tank battle in the Sinai, Eli lost his left arm and became blind.


While the first war ended for him the second war was his rehabilitation. However, for Eli, there are no limits. His guide dog gives him independence.

“There were no guide dogs in Israel,” Eli told us. “So I moved to New York to get my first dog and begin our training. It was very difficult not being home, away from family, with huge expenses.”

When Eli’s first dog passed away he decided it was time to start the Israel Guide Dog Center.

Glen is his first dog from Israel and Eli travels the world with him, promoting the centre.

“It is very important for the guide dog school to be located in Israel,” Eli said. “We can live and stay and train in our own country and train the dogs for their local customs and environment and language. Glen ‘speaks’ English and Hebrew. 

“We give 35 dogs to blind people and 35 more for special needs, every year. This is all free thanks to generosity through worldwide fundraising.”

The guide dog school, the only one of its kind in Israel, needs to replace and retrain its dogs about every eight years. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the breed of choice given their adaptability.
So far, its clients have received more than 650 dogs.

“With Glenn, I’m not a blind person,” Eli said with great pride.

Eli and Glen were joined by Noah Brown, the founder of the Israel Guide Dog Center, some 35 years ago. “We are not just fundraising but friend-raising too,” Eli told the guests.

“How can you help? Adopt a dog!”

The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind is the only accredited guide dog program serving Israel’s 24,000 blind and visually impaired individuals – and the only such program in the entire Middle East. They serve wounded IDF veterans and victims of terror, provide PTSD dogs trained to ‘watch your back’, help single parents and children at risk, and serve Israelis of various backgrounds and religions, secular, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. They nurture social integration and economic independence.

And why the name Glen, I asked Eli? “You want to name a dog Yacov in Israel? Everyone will turn to look at you!”

For more information call 416–577–3600 or visit www.IsraelGuideDog.ca.

Eli Rubenstein presents a book about the holocaust and the journey of a blind survivor and his dog
Rubenstein highlighted the juxtaposition of how dogs were used to terrorize and dehumanize by the Nazis yet now serve those very survivors as critical companions and guides

On hand for the visit was Canadian March of the Living Director, Eli Rubenstein, who also serves as a Canadian chairman for the centre. Rubenstein was in town to launch The film A Holocaust Journey Through Poland with Man’s Best Friend.

Consul General David Levy and his wife Maya have done a tremendous job of representing Israel across Quebec and throughout the Maritime provinces, since their arrival. They are passionate about their country and dedicated to strengthening the ties between our two countries. I applaud the Consul General’s gusto and zeal and was honoured to have been his invited guest for this fascinating encounter.

Life is a cabaret ‘ol friend, come to the cabaret

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What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play!

Another smash hit has reached the stage as curtain’s went up last night on the latest production from the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society: Cabaret.

“The contrast between the over the top musical numbers and the stark reality of the injustices occurring outside the cabaret captivated my attention [years ago] as it still does today,” said Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We need to be leaders and speak out in defence of human rights. Cabaret has given us all that opportunity.”

Once again, it’s hard to believe that this is local, community theatre as the entire production, from costumes, set and design, to choreography, acting and live music exceed expectations by leaps and bounds.

Cabaret is not for the light-hearted. The theme is raw with drama and emotion in pre-war Germany. The burlesque-style night club acts are raunchy and lewd. The actors play with your spirits from eccentric to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.

“…There was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world…”, wrote lead actor Calder Levine who played the role of of wide-eyed American Cliff Bradshaw. His command performance in portraying his love for the English Berlin nightclub doll, Sally Bowles, played by the extraordinary Jeanne Motulsky, was musical and magical.

Jeanne Motulsky

Speaking of music and magic, the ever so talented Motulsky returns for her sixth show with the CSLDS. The Communications grad from Concordia University is headed towards production in film and television. As I wrote following her stellar performance in last year’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “her future looks bright.” Motulsky captured the audience with her incredible voice and stage presence, particularly performing “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Cabaret”. Sensational.

The entire show is tied together by the unbelievably talented Craig Dalley who plays The Emcee. Returning for his fourth show with CSLDS, Dalley captivates your attention from the upbeat beginning, singing the well-known, “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome” opening theme to Cabaret, right to the very end, deep in the darkest places humanity has gone, some 80-plus years ago.

Dalley’s talent, not to mention his sexually provocative leather clothing, profane language and naughty gestures will have you laughing, and then crying. What a job he did with Money Makes the World Go Round! He can sing. He can dance. And he can control the audience and the stage. Fantastic.

Linda Babins (Fraulein Schneider) and John Kovac (Herr Schultz) play an adoring, mature, tentative couple. Babins is a longtime member of the CSLDS team while Kovac returns to theatre after a 40 year hiatus. The two hit it off in song and dance with an air of confidence – she as a stodgy, serious German woman and he as a whimsical, fun-loving older gentleman – a German Jew. You’d never know he stepped off the stage for four decades but thankfully he’s back!

While it was hard to cozy up with Edward Le Vasseur who played the role of red armband toting Nazi, Ernst Ludwig, I’ll admit that he was faithful to his increasingly angry character and the more I despised him the more I realized what a strong actor he was.

Finally, Maria Jimenez deserves praise for her beautiful voice as her back lit profile steamed out from an old fashioned gramophone. Dreamy staging indeed. In the role of Fraulein Kost, a bit of a loose lady (as if any of them was anything less) she was very funny as her many sailor boys sauntered out of her room.

Artistic Director Anisa Cameron with CSL Mayor and CSLDS Founder Mitchell Brownstein

There are so many more praiseworthy cast members who entertained the gala night audience with impressive choreography and delightful musical numbers.

The five-piece live band adds to the experience and really gives the feeling of actually being in a live cabaret. They were great.

A show like this, especially community theatre, doesn’t just come together with a heck of a lot of hard work and incredible talent by the creative and production teams under the direction of the absolutely incredible, dedicated and tremendously talented Anisa Cameron.

(Mini shout-out to backstage crew members Nicole Nashen and Naomi Salama).

“As a theatre director, I felt compelled to produce this show. It seems Cabaret has only become more and more relevant to what is tragically happening in our own province and country, in North America and around the globe. Cabaret stands as a seductive, staggering and stark lesson in the dangers of complacency, denial and willful ignorance in the face of unbridled nationalism and the rise of a fascist tide. Never again is now, said Cameron.

CSLDS partnered with the Montreal Holocaust Museum in providing educational panels to understand the historical context in which Cabaret takes place.

Israeli Consul General David Levy was also instrumental in providing informational panels about diplomats from several countries who went against their orders and laws in doing the “right thing”, in rescuing thousands of Jews from the grips of the Holocaust.

CSLDS’s Cabaret is sure to be another sold-out smash success, worthy of an eventual Montreal English Theatre Award for its production value, quality musical arrangements and its thought-provoking message of using the past to influence the future.

So what good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret!!

Cabaret runs through June 16 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc City Hall on Cavendish Boulevard. Tickets and information at CSLDramaticSociety.com.

Not your average housewarming

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Welcome to Montreal Consul General of Israel David Levy

Welcome to Montreal David Levy.

Mr. Levy is the newly installed Consul General of Israel for Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and Permanent Representative of Israel to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Having arrived only a few weeks ago, one of Mr. Levy’s first official acts was to invite several community leaders to his home to install a new Mezuzah. I was honoured to attend as a representative of the Jewish General Hospital and its West-Central Montreal health network. 

‘This Mezuzah has kept us safe in Africa, Latvia and South Korea,” Mr. Levy said at the informal ceremony. “We bring it with us on our foreign posts and it will keep us safe here in Montreal.”

On the doorposts of traditional Jewish homes (and many not-so-traditional homes!), you will find a small case like the one pictured below. This case is commonly known as a mezuzah (Hebrew for doorpost), because it is placed upon the doorposts of the house. The mezuzah is not, as some suppose, a good-luck charm, nor does it have any connection with the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts in Egypt. Rather, it is a constant reminder of God’s presence and mitzvot.

Surely, the Consul General Levy will not only stay safe here in beautiful Montreal, but he and his family will be warmly welcomed in one of the diaspora’s most Zionist communities. Where else do you find major airlines in head to head competition with El Al promoting tourism to Israel, bilateral trade agreements being put in place following high level economic missions and the host country’s two major political parties squabbling over which is more in love with Israel?

Rabbi Yossi, of Chabad Westmount, did the honours of affixing the Mezuzah to the entranceway. He noted that not only was it the Festival of Purim, one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar, commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination, but the act of affixing the Mezuzah is called Chanukah, literally dedication or renewal. Of course, Chanukah is yet another joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar. And so too, was the renewal of Israel’s representation in Montreal a joyous occasion.

Rabbi Yossi and Consul General Levy affix the Mezuzzah

A first generation Israeli, Mr. Levy grew up in the city of Rehovot. At the age of 18, he volunteered with the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) rescue and medical evacuation. His academic background is in law, political science, diplomacy and security.

He joined the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2002 and, since then, his diplomatic career has taken him to Yaoundé, Cameroon (2003-2005), Riga, Latvia (2005-2009) and Seoul, South Korea (2012-2016).

Best of luck in all of your endeavours here in Quebec and in the Atlantic Provinces, Mr. Levy.