Traditional Mimouna celebrated in CSL

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Mimouna is a three century old North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating chametz (leavened foods), which are forbidden throughout the week of Passover.

The celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. In many communities, non-Jewish neighbours sell chametz back to Jewish families as a beginning of the celebration. Moroccan and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes and sweetmeats. One of the holiday favorites is Mofletta. The table is also laid with various symbols of luck and fertility, with an emphasis on the number “5,” such as five pieces of gold jewelry or five beans arranged on a leaf of pastry. The repetition of the number five references the five-fingered hamsa amulet common in both Jewish and Muslim North African and Middle Eastern communities from pre-modern times. Typically all those in attendance at a Mimouna celebration are sprinkled with a mint sprig or other green dipped in milk, symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings.

The tradition continued in homes across Cote Saint-Luc on Saturday night and for the first time at JPPS-Bialik, on Sunday afternoon.

Anat and Michel Toledano welcome the Nashens and Anzaruts for Mimouna

Our night out began after 10:00PM at the home of Anat Marciano and Michel Toledano. They welcomed my family into their home with open arms, along with our friends, Alissa and Phil Anzarut.

It is customary to spend a little time visiting the host family’s home before moving on to other homes. After a beautiful spread at the Toledano’s, including Moroccan pastries, Mofletta, coucous, cheeses, fruit, smoked salmon, wine and Arak derived from figs (oy vey, it was potent) it was time to move on for the next late night visit. Thank you very much Anat and Michel.

Our family traveled down the block to the warm and inviting home of Chantal Bekhor and Emmanuel Castiel. There was an endless stream of well-wishers who kept arriving. Strangers and friends alike mingled, easily offering greetings of ‘Tarbakh’, May you have good luck.

Emmanuel Castiel and Chantal Bekhor

Chantal Bekhor is one famous Cote Saint-Lucer after competing for Top Prize in the cookie category on Food Network Canada‘s Recipe to Riches.

Bekhor, is a food sensation, who first introduced Canada to her family’s traditional recipe for the Mahbooz Date Biscuit, a typical Iraqi Jewish dessert.  She was featured by the Montreal Gazette as well.

Chantal Bekhor, the most famous baker in Cote Saint-Luc

The former JPPS English and math teacher is a dynamic and affable hostess along with her business partner and husband Emanuel Castiel. They opened their home to hundreds of friends during the Mimouna to some incredible pastries, cakes, chocolate bark, truffles, Iraqi delights, and more, all home made of course. While the  judges on Recipe to Riches said they loved the Mahbooz treat, calling it, “Exotic, versatile, ” I can attest to the fact that her baking is even so much more.

A gathering of friends (and politicians) at the Bekhor-Castiel Mimouna

My wife is a big fan of Chantal’s food. Indeed my girls and Judy cheered Chantal on a few years back on her television debut, not just because of my wife’s common Sephardi roots, but because the Mahbooz date-filled cookie looked absolutely delicious and a treat that would be appreciated by a large number of Cote Saint-Lucers to be sure, as well as Canadians in general.

A peak at Chantal’s scrumptious Mimouna table

Thank you Chantal and Emmanuel for such generous hospitality and for an absolutely delicious assortment of treats. My sugar level and calorie intake reached an all time, one night high.

By Sunday afternoon when sugar levels stabilized it was time to continue the celebration over at JPPS-Bialik, the first time this Sephardic celebration took place at the school. The gym was decorated in Moroccan fashion, drummers and musicians greeted the guests as they entered and long tables of sweets, pastries and mofletta lined the room.

The hostesses, under the direction of Judaic studies coordinator, Anat Toledano (clearly she’s a Mimouna-specialist!) all decked out in bright and shiny traditional kaftans should be very proud of bringing the festive Sephardic tunes and tastes to what has traditionally been a typical Ashkenazi school. With a large number of the families blended in both traditions, and even fully Sephardi, it was time to share this wonderful event all together.

Sephardic community (CSUQ) president Henri Elbaz was invited to participate as well. Thanks to Henri’s support the event exceeded expectations and attendance. Students, parents and grandparents were entertained, fed and danced for two hours. It was an absolutely lovely event that should grow larger next year. Thank you Anat, Joanne, Judy, Carole, Beth and all the moms involved in this event.

I wish you all Tarbakh, success and good luck.  And now, my treadmill awaits!

Watch and share: Here’s what they’re saying | Regardez et partagez: Voici ce qu’ils disent

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Watch and share: What do Dr. Mitch Shulman (CJAD and MUHC), fmr. Quebec Minister of Revenue Lawrence Bergman and Dr. Marc Afilalo (JGH) have to say about the Cote Saint-Luc elections?

 

Regardez et partagez: Le Dr Mitch Shulman (CJAD et CUSM), ancien ministre du Revenu du Québec, Lawrence Bergman, et le Dr Marc Afilalo (HGJ) se prononcent sur les élections à Côte Saint-Luc. Écoutez ce qu’ils ont à dire.

 

More comments by residents.

Mimouna night in CSL

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Joe and Dolly Gabbay open their Cote Saint-Luc home, and sweet table, to friends and neighbours to celebrate the Minouna, April 18, 2017

Mimouna is a three century old North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating chametz (leavened foods), which are forbidden throughout the week of Passover.

The celebration begins after nightfall on the last day of Passover. In many communities, non-Jewish neighbours sell chametz back to Jewish families as a beginning of the celebration. Moroccan and Algerian Jews throw open their homes to visitors, after setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes and sweetmeats. One of the holiday favorites is Mofletta. The table is also laid with various symbols of luck and fertility, with an emphasis on the number “5,” such as five pieces of gold jewelry or five beans arranged on a leaf of pastry. The repetition of the number five references the five-fingered hamsa amulet common in both Jewish and Muslim North African and Middle Eastern communities from pre-modern times. Typically all those in attendance at a Mimouna celebration are sprinkled with a mint sprig or other green dipped in milk, symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings.

And such was the case in many homes across Cote Saint-Luc on Tuesday night. Our night out began after 10:00PM at the home of Joe and Dolly Gabbay. They welcomed my wife, Judy, and me, with open arms, along with our friends, Mayor Mitchell and Elaine Brownstein, MP Anthony Housefather and Councillor Sidney Benizri.

Joe explained that a whole fish is traditionally placed on the table to symbolize fertility and good fortune while many of the sweet pastries were prepared well before the Passover holiday, frozen and symbolically sold, as not to posses chametz during the holiday.

It wasn’t long before the Gabbay home was filled with people including our D’Arcy McGee MNA, David Birnbaum as well former MNAs from the same riding, Lawrence Bergman and Judge Herbert Marx. Israeli Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman was also in attendance.

Mitchell Brownstein, Lawrence Bergman, David Bergman, Herbert Marx and Glenn J. Nashen (Apr. 18, 2017)

It is customary to spend a little time visiting the host family’s home before moving on to other homes. After a beautiful spread at the Gabbay home, including Moroccan pastries, Mofletta, coucous, cheeses, fruit and smoked salmon, wine and spirits it was time to move on for the next late night visit.

A wonderful welcome and magnificent display in the Gabbay dining room. Many thanks to Joe and Dolly for their warm hospitality.

Our group of friends traveled down the block to the beautiful home of Lison Benarroch  who greeted us in traditional attire to a lavish presentation. The renowned business woman transformed her dining room into an opulent display of North African inspired sweets, nuts, candies and fruit. As if that weren’t enough there was sushi, lox, wonderful cheeses of all sorts and fresh baked loaves of bread.

Judy Hagshi, Lison Benarroch and Elaine Brownstein

There was an endless stream of well-wishers who kept arriving to Lison’s lovely home. Strangers and friends alike mingled easily offering greetings of Tarbukh, May you have good luck.

The generous array of fruits, nuts and sweets at the Benarroch home for Mimouna

 

Even the sushi adorned the Mimouna display at Lison Benarroch’s gorgeous home

 

A whole fish on green leaves, symbolizing fertility and prosperity at the Benarroch home

As we were heading out yet another former politician walked in, none other than Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and MP for Mount Royal Irwin Cotler and his wife Ariella.

Former and current Members of Parliament for Mount Royal, Irwin Cotler and Anthony Housefather, along with Ariella Cotler

 

Chantal Bekhor is one famous Cote Saint-Lucer after competing for Top Prize in the cookie category on Food Network Canada‘s Recipe to Riches.

Bekhor, is a food sensation, who first introduced Canada to her family’s traditional recipe for the Mahbooz Date Biscuit, a typical Iraqi Jewish dessert.  She was featured by the Montreal Gazette as well.

Chantal Bekhor, the most famous baker in Cote Saint-Luc

The former JPPS English and math teacher is a dynamic and affable hostess along with her business partner and husband Emanuel Castiel. They opened their home to hundreds of friends during the Mimouna to some incredible pastries, cakes, chocolate bark, truffles, Iraqi delights, and more, all home made of course. While the  judges on Recipe to Riches said they loved the Mahbooz treat, calling it, “Exotic, versatile, ” I can attest to the fact that her baking is even so much more.

Judy Hagshi, Glenn J. Nashen, Anthony Housefather, Emanuel Castiel, Chantal Bekhor, Mitchell and Elaine Brownstein among the friends and family at the Mimouna celebration in the Bekhor-Castiel home

My wife is a big fan of Chantal’s food. Indeed my girls and Judy cheered Chantal on a few years back on her television debut, not just because of my wife’s common Sephardi roots, but because the Mahbooz date-filled cookie looked absolutely delicious and a treat that would be appreciated by a large number of Cote Saint-Lucers to be sure, as well as Canadians in general.

Thank you Chantal and Emanuel for such generous hospitality and for an absolutely delicious assortment of treats. My sugar level and calorie intake reached an all time one night high but I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Tonight I am so pleased to have been reacquainted with such friendly and welcoming Cote Saint-Lucers such as the Gabbays, Benarrochs and Bekhor-Castiels.

On behalf of my family and my great friends Mitchell and Elaine Brownstein, Anthony Housefather and Sidney Benizri, thank you so much for your hospitality, and sharing your Mimouna with us. We are blessed to live in such an amazing community in Cote Saint-Luc – a vibrant, rich and caring community, a wonderful multicultural family.

I wish you all Tarbukh, success and good luck.  And now, my treadmill awaits!

 

Canadian Icon Speaks Up about Mental Health

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Romeo Dallaire demystifies full house in Cote Saint-Luc

Guest contribution by: Dr. Judy Hagshi

Cllr. Allan J. Levine, General Romeo Dallaire, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

Cllr. Allan J. Levine, General Romeo Dallaire, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein at Dallaire’s lecture in Cote Saint-Luc on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016

It is humbling to listen to an accomplished and heroic figure talk about his vulnerabilities and demons. Today I had the fruition to hear Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire speak about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his experiences during the  Rwanda genocide. He described the moment he first realized that he was not “nuts” but rather was suffering from a disease as real as diabetes or hepatitis. Mr. Dallaire talked about the prosthesis that people with disabilities must use in order to get through each day and how this can apply to those with mental health issues just as legitimately as it can apply to those with physical health issues.

2016-12-03-romeo-dallaire-csl-library

While Mr. Dallaire’s actions in combat and accomplishments off the battlefield cannot be underscored, I was struck with a more mundane and provincial generalization of his pain: People all around us struggle with challenges and mental health disorders everyday. We as a society must be more accepting and understanding of people who are different and “weird” and not pre-judge any behaviour that does not meet specific outdated norms. We should not shame or belittle them because we do not know what invisible scars may be festering inside them.

The talk closed with a discussion about moving away from partisan politics to a more receptive and inclusive political system. With the upcoming 150th Birthday of Canada and the 100th Anniversary of the Battle at Vimy Ridge (which Lieutenant-General Dallaire described as the “coming of age of our democracy”) both taking place in 2017, he was hopeful that young people with their ideals and ideas would get move involved in government relations. He urged the “under 30” crowd to go out and vote because they are a demographic large enough to sway society and policy. They are also a demographic less swayed by the status quo and more likely to effectively challenge it.

Anne Lagacé Dowson & General Romeo Dallaire in conversation at CSL Public Library on Dec. 3, 2016

Anne Lagacé Dowson does a spectacular job conversing with General Romeo Dallaire at CSL Public Library on Dec. 3, 2016

 

 

Dr. Judy Hagshi is a Family Doctor specializing in perinatal care and pre-surgical screening. She graduated from The University of Toronto Medical School in 1996 followed by a residency in Family Medicine at McGill University. Dr. Hagshi is a faculty lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine and an attending physician at The Jewish General Hospital. She is married to Councillor Glenn J. Nashen and she has three children.

A Short Walk to Knowledge

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Guest contributor: Judy Hagshi

Judy_Hagshi_2009

 

 

 

In the novel A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, Nya is a young Sudanese girl who must walk to the local pond to get water for her family twice a day – except that the local pond is actually two hours away. She makes the long two hour walk to the pond with empty jugs in the morning and then makes the two hour return trek with her heavy load arriving home in time for a sparse lunch. She repeats the whole four hour trip again in the afternoon just to be able to do her part to help sustain her family.

 

Thankfully, we do not live in Sudan and do not need to schlep water eight hours a day in order to sustain ourselves and our families. But, we do require other sustenance such as health and love and knowledge in order to succeed and flourish as a community and society. This can be exemplified by the short story titled A Short Walk to Knowledge by Judy Lynn Hagshi.

JPPS Bialik 2016

Judy is a young(ish) mother who walks her son Jeremy to school one morning. The school is JPPS and now that it has moved back into Cote Saint-Luc, the JPPS/Bialik campus is a mere ten minute walk from their home. Upon arrival, a celebration is going on: the school is welcoming a brand-new Sefer Torah which was written by hand over the past twelve months especially for the JPPS/Bialik synagogue. A meaningful and spiritual ceremony ensues ending with a school-wide hora and festive meal. Once the Mazal Tovs are given, Judy makes her way back home.

JPPS Torah Dedication 2016

JPPS Torah Dedication 2016

Later that afternoon, Judy makes the invigorating walk again to pick up young Jeremy from school. It’s a beautiful Spring day, her favourite time of the year, so she diverts her course and runs an errand at the local shmall. She arrives at the school and chats with some of the parents about the moving ceremony of the morning. She and Jeremy race back home.

JPPS Invention Convention 2016

JPPS Invention Convention 2016

A few hours later, Judy makes the stimulating walk again with her daughter Nathalie. Bialik is hosting The Invention Convention for grade 7 students. Nathalie and her friend Eva have designed The Lemonizer, a gadget to cut an apple while simultaneously sprinkling it with lemon juice. The lunch room is full of inventions and inquiry and knowledge exchange.

JPPS School of Tomorrow

Judy’s husband Glenn and children Nicole and Jeremy also return to the school (Jeremy riding his bike this time) to check out The Invention Convention as well as JPPS’s Open House. Young parents thirsty for knowledge flock to “The School of Tomorrow”. JPPS has revamped the educational process through innovation and technology: gone is the teacher’s desk looming imposingly at the front of the room and is replaced with a cozy corner where teachers can spend one-on-one time with students. Each classroom also has standing and bicycle desks to keep children’s minds and bodies active. The school is abuzz with so much excitement and warmth that the Hebrew teachers break into song and dance as some parents come to check out the class.

 

JPPS Marnie Stein Principal 2016
As the day comes to an end and Judy returns home, she reflects on how much has occurred today: she has taken three short walks, each long on nachas and knowledge and menschlichkeit. What a fulfilling day!!!

Guest voice: A special blessing for our new government

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By Dr. Judy Hagshi

Yesterday I had the distinct honour of reciting the Prayer for the Government of Canada at Shabbat services at Shaare Zion. Although Glenn and I do not attend services regularly, it was a very fitting way to end off a very exciting week in our lives.

 

Monday marked the election of a new Canadian government and, in my opinion, ushers in a country-wide excitement and optimism about our new parliament.

 

Glenn J. Nashen and Judy Hagshi greeting new MP Anthony Housefather

Glenn J. Nashen and Judy Hagshi greeting new MP Anthony Housefather

 

On a more personal note, our good friend Anthony Housefather was elected as the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and we are lucky, as a community, to have him as one of our leaders.

 

On an even more personal note, as a result of Anthony’s “promotion”, my husband Glenn J. Nashen has also been promoted to Acting Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc.

 

Our family is not unaccustomed to the inner workings of an election given that we have been involved on several occasions before, mostly municipal. True to our values, our entire household was involved in this federal election as all three children either went door-to-door or made phone calls or distributed flyers. A significant goal was achieved by reinforcing community involvement and accountability in these future leaders.

 

Which brings me back to the Shabbat service. While I do not speak publicly nearly as often as my husband, I am not particularly shy to do so. Once I was given the cue from the usher, I ascended to the bimah and carefully enunciated the following prayer:

 

Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country Canada, for its government, for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights from Your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.

Bless all the inhabitants of our country. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.

May this land, under your providence, be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom—‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war any more’. And let us say: Amen.

Although I have heard this prayer many times before, it took on a greater significance for me yesterday. I truly hope that these new governments, both federal and municipal, will “safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country”. Ultimately, I hope that my children will grow up in a land, “Uniting all people in peace and freedom”.

Duo performance at CSL Men’ Club

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Mark Cotler, Dr. Judy Hagshi, Glenn J. Nashen, Sidney Margles

Mark Cotler, Dr. Judy Hagshi, Glenn J. Nashen, Sidney Margles

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with the Cote Saint-Luc Men’s Club at their weekly Thursday morning meeting.  Being a very cold January morning I figured most members would be away in Florida and I’d speak to a small group of a couple of dozen members. I should have known better than to underestimate the resolve of this group of dedicated and proud members of civic-minded and active seniors and its uber-determined president Sidney Margles. Almost 150 people showed up that morning!

I was asked to speak about the Jewish General Hospital’s position on Bill 60, the so-called Charter of Quebec Values. Being one of the key authors of this major position paper, and official spokesperson for the hospital, I was very pleased to inform the membership about the position taken by the JGH Board of Directors and its newly appointed Executive Director, Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg. After all, this is an establishment that this group supports fiercely, as volunteers, contributors, users and so on.

The energy and pride in the room was palpable as I told them that the JGH would remain true to its founding principles of being an institution providing “Care for all.” Under no circumstances would the hospital trade away its values and ethics set in place 80 years ago in being an institution that welcomes all people regardless of faith, language, religion, etc…  The JGH stands firmly opposed to the draft legislation that would erode basic freedoms as guaranteed in the Quebec, Canadian and Universal charters protecting minority rights and freedoms.

I also offered a brief photo tour of the soon to be opened, brand new state-of-the-art Emergency Department in Pavilion K at the JGH.

Then it was time for me to introduce the real keynote speaker, my better half, Dr. Judy Hagshi. Dr. Hagshi spoke about how to prepare for a doctor’s visit so that the interaction is as effective as possible.  Taking notes and sticking to just one or two issues per visit are key she emphasized.  She also highlighted the importance of having an accurate written account of your medical history and medication list to present when meeting a new doctor or in an emergency situation.  The conclusion was a reminder to everyone that the best defence against getting sick is still getting a flu shot and washing your hands.

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