vCOP fills the hall, Suburban chief thanks the troops

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Photo courtesy David Goldsmith

A capacity crowd of 80 Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol members filled the council chamber at city hall this week to hear the Suburban Newspaper’s editor-in-chief Beryl Wajsman speak on a wide range of topics, but mostly on the political landscape in Quebec. Wajsman was raw and uncensored, swinging wildly, particularly at provincial politicians. The considerably knowledgeable and articulate speaker was unscripted in his gashing assault against the political elite who he described as unconcerned about the citizenry and focused solely on attaining power by saying whatever was necessary to secure votes.

Against this negative backdrop Wajsman described CSL mayor Mitchell Brownstein as unique in his “openness and accessibility”. You can meet with Mitch or call him anytime. He answers his own phone, Wajsman said. “He cares and it shows.”

Beryl Wajsman addresses the vCOP corps of volunteers

But Wajsman’s ultimate compliment was saved for the volunteers in their bright yellow uniform jackets and orange polo tops. You are the true examples of what it means to be a community, to care for your neighbour and to help people who really need your help, he said. He congratulated the vCOP members for their service to the elderly, to all residents.

“I truly enjoyed speaking to a very special gathering of some of the most engaged citizens around. The CSL Volunteer Corps of Citizens on Patrol. The only one of its kind on the island (actually the only one in Quebec) and they cover every sector where the 33,000 residents of CSL live. Great Q&A too,” Wajsman posted to his Facebook page

Long-serving volunteers Susie and Harvey Schwartz

vCOP meets every other month to refresh on protocols and procedures, learn new skills and techniques and to hear from community leaders and experts in public safety. They are a dedicated and energetic group that give of their time, day and night, to safeguard the community. Once again, I salute CSL’s men and women in yellow and orange.

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No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

Behind the scenes at CSLDS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

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Behind the scenes at CSLDS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

By Glenn J. Nashen 

Sam Boucher, Joseph, in his coat of many colours

The recent stage production of the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society’s (CSLDS) “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was an unprecedented success. Show after show brought in crowds that filled every seat. Additional shows were added on and extra chairs were brought in. Some shows even had standing room only onlookers.

 

The reputation of the seven year old community theatre is solid. This is in large part due to the vision of its founder and the city’s current mayor Mitchell Brownstein, and to the incredibly talented and professional founding Artistic Director Anisa Cameron.

 

I caught up with the two of them since the show closed last month to ask about the wild success of Joseph, the CSLDS and what lies ahead:

Mitchell Brownstein with actor Brandon Schwartz

Nashen Notes (NN): Tell me about success of this show in terms of seat sales, revenue…?

Mitchell Brownstein (MB): The Gala brought in a lot of money to sponsor entire elementary school grades to come see the show as well as Senior Citizens from our local residences and special needs adults, many in wheelchairs.  The revenue, from the Gala and 25-plus performances, brought in a big profit to allow us to continue to improve our offering of Arts and Culture to the Community.

NN: What was it about Joseph that lead to this success?

MB: It’s a story we all know from the Bible and a show that has been around for 50 years.  It appeals to people of all ages. The cast ranged in age from 8 to 80 and the audiences ranged in age from very young children to seniors well into their 90s, one whom told me she was 98 and looking forward to next year’s show.

NN: What does this say about English community theatre in CSL and the West-End?

MB: It’s some of the best theatre you can find anywhere, professional or amateur, as it really brings joy to its audiences led by a professional team of artists: Anisa Cameron, Artistic Director, Nick Burgess, Musical Director and Alexia Gourd, Choreographer. They really make everyone shine.

NN: What about an enlarged venue in CSL?

MB: We have previously won two METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) and hopefully this show will win as well. Traditionally, we remount our successful shows at the Segal Centre or Centaur.

NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?

MB: “I saw the Donny Osmond production years ago and this show was better!”

NN: What’s the likelihood of a remount?

MB: Very promising.

NN: How is the CSLDS contributing to CSL as a community?

MB: We value arts and culture as much as sport in the development of the person and in building a community.  Over 3000 people came to see this show from Cote Saint-Luc and beyond, enriching their lives and the lives of our actors and creative team.  By bringing the schools, the disabled and the seniors from residences to see the show, we are building a community where we care for each other and together we bring happiness to all.

Anisa Cameron

NN: Anisa, tell me about the success from an artistic point of view?

 

Anisa Camerson (AC): It’s overwhelming! I knew that Joseph would be a popular show, but I couldn’t believe it was so popular that we sold out our entire run. In the 7 years since Mitch Brownstein and I founded the Dramatic Society, we’ve never experienced this kind of success. We usually sell out in the final week and a half of the production, but to sell out for the full three weeks has been a lovely gift from our audiences.

 

NN: What are you most proud of in Joseph?

 

AC: I’m so proud that we were able to produce an artistically beautiful, funny and poignant piece of theatre. I’m also proud that myself, the cast, designers and production team – particularly Nick Burgess (our Musical Director)  – really pushed ourselves to the limit in terms of how challenging this show is to produce.

 

Joseph, being an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and being sung from beginning to end, is a relentless challenge for our performers (and for those of us creating the look, sound and feel of the show). There’s never any down time. Usually, you get a musical scene broken up by several straight scenes. That’s not the case with musical theatre that is sung right through. It’s constant musical staging: musical and vocal arrangements and choreography that has to flow seamlessly from the first moment the lights go down in the audience to the final bow.

 

NN: What are your thoughts on Sam Boucher’s (Joseph) performance?

 

AC: Sam Boucher is a remarkable talent that we’ve been lucky enough to work with for the past 3 years. His prowess as a performer belies his age. He is only 19! He brought a sensitivity and thoughtfulness to Joseph that was touching to see at every performance. His performance of Close Every Door was nothing short of remarkable.

 

NN: How has the CSLDS helped some of these rising stars?

 

AC: We have been fortunate to attract some of the most talented young people looking to gain performance experience in a professional environment. While we are a community theatre, our production team is made up of remarkable professionals who support our cast. Many of these young performers have this incredible talent that they need to polish and hone.

 

The CSLDS provides an education through experience in that regard. It’s very rare that a community theatre gets the opportunity to have 23-24 shows back to back over a month long run. Usually, you work on a show for anywhere from 6 months to a year and you get anywhere from 4-8 shots at performing it for an audience.

 

The stamina that it takes to perform in our summer musicals is on par with performing in a professional production. There’s a lot you learn about yourself, as a performer, when you are given the opportunity to perform… a lot!

 

Many of our cast members from the past have gone on to pursue careers in the arts, studying at Sheridan College, or Randolf Academy or Ryerson University, or Concordia Theatre. There are still other memorable performers who are already pursuing a life in the arts, but due to a lack of opportunity in the professional world, grace us with their considerable talent!

 

NN: What comments stand out from the feedback you’ve received?

AC: Our audiences are always so kind and supportive. This year they were ecstatic! I think the number one comment I always get and that sits with me heavily is “How are you going to top that?”. Honestly, I don’t know how we will be able to top this one. Joseph is a real milestone for myself and for the CSLDS.

 

NN: Were those little singers too cute? Tell me about this new add on compared to previous shows?

 

AC: Because this is Joseph, I knew we needed to add children to this show in a way we hadn’t in the past. They added so much to our unity as a cast and a sense of import to what we were doing because everyone became responsible for introducing most of these young performers to their first theatrical experience. They were as dedicated and determined to put on the best show they could as all of the adults around them. The sense of family that is created on a production was made that much stronger for having them with us.

 

On an artistic note, the intergenerational aspect of this production was particularly important to me. Joseph is a biblical story that has made its way down through countless generations to reach us here today so that it resonates on a much deeper level when you pay homage to those generations. We spoke a lot about the guardianship of this story and how our older generation hands it down to us in the present and we in the present then hand it down to the next generation. That was the intention and vision behind our choir and how they were linked to our narrators (entrancingly performed by Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage). Past, present and future all represented on stage together to ensure the story survives.

 

NN: You’re a wonderfully extraordinary artistic director. Are you not itching to move to Toronto or NYC or Vegas? What’s in the future for Anisa?

 

AC: I would love to have the opportunity to work anywhere in this wide world that will hire me, so spread the word! That doesn’t mean that I would forsake Montreal and Côte Saint-Luc. I love this island! As long as the Dramatic Society is here, I will also be here, that’s the beauty of being an artist; your schedule is flexible (to a point)!

 

NN: Anything to add?

 

AC: I’d just like to add that none of this would have been possible without the tireless vision and efforts of Mitchell Brownstein and now Mitch Kujavsky as well as Ryan Nemeroff and Emma Loerick! They are an incredible dream team that support us in all that we do and I am forever grateful to them. It is also a rare occasion when a municipal government recognizes the power of the arts in their community. I am also grateful to the City Council of Côte Saint-Luc for continuing to believe in the dream of the CSLDS.

Mitchell Brownstein and Anisa Cameron at the Montreal English Theatre awards gala (Photo credit: Mitchell Brownstein)

My full review on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be read here: https://gjnashen.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/review-joseph-an-amazing-musical-entertains-all-ages/

 

Also posted to Montreal Jewish Magazine

 

The D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the National Assembly goes to…

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Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by (L-R) Former MNAs Robert Libman and Lawrence Bergman, current MNA David Birnbaum and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

What a great honour in receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by MNA David Birnbaum surrounded by family and friends. This annual event awards three people for their outstanding contribution to the residents and communities of the D’Arcy McGee riding.

 

 

David Birnbaum, député de D’Arcy-McGee MNA honoured three people for outstanding community service last evening at Ashkelon Gardens: Lina Fortin, me, and the late Gerry Weinstein. The winners were selected by a blue-ribbon jury of three former D’Arcy-McGee MNAs and Ministers, retired Justice Herbert Marx, Robert Libman and 20-year MNA Lawrence S. Bergman. The Victor Goldbloom Essay winner was Sarah Buzaglo, a grade 10 student at École Maïmonide.

Most of you will know that I have served in public office nearly all of my adult life. Allow me sum up this incredible journey in the form of my shift-on-duty.

Glenn J. Nashen riding aboard Cote Saint-Luc’s first Rescue Medical Fire vehicle RMF-11, 1981

 

Glenn J. Nashen, on duty, in Cote Saint-Luc’s second ever First Response vehicle

My shift begins. Fall of 1979. I’m a young First Responder in the Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization. Dressed in a smart looking brown uniform, yellow stripe down the side of my pants, the alert tone rings and we spring into action, lights and siren blaring from our small red rescue-fire truck. An elderly person tumbles down the stairs at home. A car crashes into a light pole on Cavendish. Suddenly, a call for a cardiac arrest across the street. We respond to hundreds of emergencies, on every street in CSL. And that’s just the early morning.

 

I rise through the ranks of EMO and EMS, promoting citizen CPR training and pushing for Automated Defibrillators in public buildings and public vehicles, relentlessly championing for recognition of paramedics across Quebec, and advocating for air ambulance helicopters for the outlying regions.

Cote Saint-Luc EMO launched my side-career as an Urgences-Santé ambulance technician in 1980

It’s a busy shift and we are only in the mid-80s. My uniform changes colour, and so does the vehicle, as I find myself riding aboard yellow ambulances and doctors cars with Urgences Santé. Racing to life and death situations, performing CPR 125 times, bringing some people back to life and even delivering a baby. What a privilege. What responsibility at a pretty young age, to be in a position to make a profound difference in someone’s life during their moment of highest anxiety.

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac enrolled at the Emergency Preparedness College of Canada 1991

My shift continues, it’s 1990, and I’m elected as the youngest member on city council. My first priority is to make cycling safer and CSL adopts the first bicycle helmet bylaw in the country! I play a leading role during major floods, the infamous Ice Storm, preparing for doomsday during Y2K, you remember year 2000!

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

No rest on this patrol. It’s the early 2000s and Anthony, Ruth, Mitch and I are up for the biggest challenge, to get our City back… and saving our EMS and keeping our police and our fire stations from closure.

The men and women of Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol

It’s time for a lunch break when a great idea strikes me… It’s 2005, CSL is about to be back in our own hands again, and I decide that we need to harness the energy of more volunteers to ensure CSL’s place as the safest community on the Island of Montreal. We need to enlist more volunteers, retirees, a group of neighbours watching out for neighbours. After lunch I set out on founding the volunteer Citizens on Patrol organization. We launch on Canada Day 2006. Now suited up in a bright orange polo top and in marked vans, scooters and bikes, we continue our patrol through the streets and parks and municipal facilities.

Fmr. Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen and Supervisor Mitchell Herf inaugurate the newest vCOP electric scooters

We stop to alert a resident that they forgot to close their garage door, a possible theft averted. We remind another to keep the emergency lane clear at the mall, we get the finger on that one, but that’s OK. All in a day’s volunteer work. An elderly couple thanks us for changing the battery in their smoke detector. We block a street from traffic and hold onlookers back as the fire department douses a house fire. Over to check on the home of vacationers. Then, we assist the police in looking for a missing child and we reunite the frightened youngster with their relieved parents. We feel pride and satisfaction knowing we’ve helped. We’ve made a difference. We’ve given our time but we’ve gained so much in return.

My first public council meeting as Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, November 9, 2015

My shift isn’t quite done and yet another quick uniform change. This time for a two-month stint as mayor of CSL in 2015. What was once just a dream actually became a reality.

 

And as we head back to the station to wrap up this shift for today, in 2018, I can see how my my parents gave me the keys to these patrol vehicles, for this mission to Repair the World.

Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship with my parents, George and Phyllis Nashen (June 19, 2018)

So thank you mom, who just celebrated her 90th birthday and thank you dad, who is three days shy of his 95th. Thank you for these important life lessons in public service and looking out for one’s neighbour.

 

These lessons were also fueled by my wife, Judy, who’s always ready to give her utmost to her patients and to the community and together we are handing over these keys to our children, Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy.

Glenn J. Nashen, Judy Hagshi with Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy Nashen (*June 19, 2018)

So I close by again thanking my wife and children, because when my proverbial uniform went on, they knew that it meant I’d be away from the house again and again and again. Public service, and long shifts, do come at a very high cost!

 

My wife says this about me: My heart is in Cote Saint-Luc and Cote Saint-Luc is in my heart. I feel that way too about our beautiful province and our amazing country. And I hope that one day my tour of duty will continue and my unquenchable need to Repair the World (Tikun Olam) will take off in some new direction to make this place the very best for all of us.

 

Thank you as well to our incredible life-saving volunteers at CSL EMS and to our dedicated and unstoppable volunteers in vCOP.

Thank you David and our former MNAs Herbert, Robert and Lawrence for this great honour. And thank you for reading this and for “joining” me on today’s shift. I appreciate all the good wishes and support I receive from family, friends and members of the community.

 

Congratulations to my fellow laureates, Lina Fortin and the family of the late Gerry Weinstein

 

Celebrating with the Pressers (Sandie and Robert) and Fabians (Leslie, Ricki, Jamie and Sammi)

 

My longtime friend and fellow vCOP volunteer Mitchell Herf

 

Sharing the good vibes and smiles with my colleagues Stephanie Malley and Marisa Rodi

 

Siempre me complace celebrar con mis amigos cercanos Natalia y Pablo

 

D’Arcy McGee National Assembly Citizenship Medal Ceremony (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Friends from way back to Bialik days, Ben Burko (and son Milo) and Gary Polachek

 

Mitchell Brownstein and I go way, way back. I am so proud of my friend the mayor and pleased to celebrate with him.

 

David Birnbaum and Glenn J. Nashen (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Former Quebec Cabinet Minister Lawrence Bergman and I have had a wonderful relationship over the years. He has been a friend and a mentor.

 

Gracias Miguel Banet y Lulu Brenner por venir y mostrar tu amor y apoyo

 

 

Review: Joseph, an amazing musical entertains all ages

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From 9 to 90 years old and then some, my family was awestruck by the incredibly talented cast on stage in Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society’s presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, now playing at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium at City Hall. Once again, director extraordinaire Anisa Cameron has assembled a team worthy of high praise.

 

As Anisa noted, “Welcome to a time not long after the Bible began! Joseph’s story is from the book of Genesis and comes to life in CSL. We are thrilled to be producing the show for its 50th anniversary. The story of Joseph and his coat of many colours has been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. We are so proud to carry on this tradition.”

 

“From a small neighbourhood troope, the CSL Dramatic Society has grown to become one of the most successful English language theatre companies on the island of Montreal,” said Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather.

 

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and counselor Mitch Kujavsky, co-producers of the show said, “Over the course of its first seven years, the CSL Dramatic Society has become something that our community is proud to call our own. In every sense of the saying, we are by the community and for the community, while putting an emphasis on the values of inclusiveness and accomplishment. We are thrilled to be presenting this biblical story of Joseph, a truly intergenerational production with the cast ranging in age from 8 to 80!.”

Mitchell Brownstein in the role of Jacob

Brownstein goes on to say, “The story of Joseph has a very special place in the hearts of so many of us. Whether we first learned of the story of Joseph at school or saw the show during our childhood or even later in life, the experience elevates us and leaves us wanting more. If this is your first time experiencing the show, you’re sure to be humming the tunes of Joseph for days to come.”

 

I must admit that Joseph is one of only two soundtracks that I have downloaded on Spotify and I have indeed been humming the tunes since I saw the matinée performance last Saturday.

 

It was a special occasion for my family as we celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday bringing our whole family out to the theatre. Together with my son, age 9, teenage daughters, wife, brother, sister-in law, mom at 90 and dad, days shy of 95, we all enjoyed it tremendously and had a marvelous outing.

George and Phyllis Nashen on a birthday outing to see Joseph

The story begins in the biblical land of Canaan. Joseph is the favourite son of Jacob. Joseph’s knack for reading dreams and his beautiful coat of many colours lead his jealous brothers to hatch a plan to dispose of him. But when Joseph survives the attack, he is sent on a journey beyond his wildest dreams.

 

Sam Boucher (Joseph) is absolutely sensational from beginning to end. A modern-day Donny Osmond (who played Joseph on Broadway and in Toronto), Boucher captivated the audience with his formidable voice, sparkling eyes and facial expressions. No stranger to the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, Boucher has performed in Little Shop of Horrors, the Producers, Broadway’s Back, and Hairspray. Having just completed his first year of Concordia Theatre, Sam will be leaving soon to pursue a degree at Sheridan College in musical theatre performance.

 

Sam Boucher is spectacular in the role of Joseph

 

Anisa could not have done better in selecting Boucher for the part of Joseph. His performance in Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door is stirring and uplifting. Accompanied by a band led by the talented Musical Director Nick Burgess and three musicians who play the “part” of three of the brothers, the songs are sure to remain in your head for days to come.

 

Narrators Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage did a tremendous job of tying the entire production together in song and dance. This is Motulsky’s fifth show with the CSLDS. She is currently studying communications at Concordia University and hopes to become a producer. Her future looks bright.

Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage as the talented and spirited narrators

Arrage is with the CSLDS for a second consecutive year. She is a McGill University Schulich School of Music student in jazz voice performance. She was excellent in telling the tale, full of personality and clearly very talented.

 

Marc Ducusin does a tremendous job in the role of Pharaoh. This is his second outing with CSLDS, following last summer’s Little Shop of Horrors. He is so personable and entertaining, particularly during his solo in the genre of Elvis.

Marc Ducusin plays Pharoah in the style of Elvis

Kenny Stein gets a special shout out not only for performing four previous times with CSLDS but for his tremendous performance as Joseph’s brother, Simeon. His zany antics and comedic expressions, especially during Those Canaan Days were tremendous. Did he really eat that fly? Yuch!

Joseph’s brothers

Justin Johnson (Judah) is a professional performer who starred in Hairspray and Little Shop of Horrors. His dance moves, singing and expression in Benjamin Calypso make it obvious that the performing arts is his true calling.

 

Craig Dalley (Rueben) has a beautiful voice and is very engaging. He sang One More Angel in Heaven, cowboy style, and was captivating to watch.

 

Sean Nishmas, Sam Melnick, Jonah Zoldan, and Eli Rubineau are the other brothers and each one performed wonderfully and was entertaining and engaging. Their theatre careers look promising. The dancers, ensemble, and Jacob’s Wives added to the enjoyment of this incredible, local theatre experience.

 

A special word of appreciation goes to Mayor Mitchell Brownstein who not only played the role of Potiphar but stepped in to play the role of Joseph’s father Jacob on a moment’s notice due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

The choir was made up of some wonderful local talent many of whom have performed in the CSLDS Senior Summer Projects including Hannah Sheffren, Judy Kenigsberg and Ellen Rabin. They were backed up by the absolutely adorable children’s choir including Mackenzie, Rachel, Pailey, Naomie, Abigail, Victoria and Molly. Congrats to each of them for their stage presence and beautiful voices which added tremendously to the Joseph experience.

 

Joseph runs through June 17 and tickets are going fast. You can purchase your tickets online at ShowTix4U.com or by visiting CSLDramaticSociety.com. Prices are $32 Regular, $28 Students and Seniors and QDF Members, $28 Matinees. You won’t want to miss this one! Go Go Go Joseph!

Sam Boucher, Joseph, in his coat of many colours

 

N

 

In depth: Behind the scenes at CSLDS Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

 

Birnbaum goes for #2 in D’Arcy McGee

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D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum looks on as he is announced as the official candidate for the Quebec Liberal Party in this year’s general election

 

A political and community ‘Who’s Who’ turned out Monday night for the nomination meeting for the Quebec Liberal Party candidate for D’Arcy McGee riding where incumbent Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum is seeking a second mandate.

 

Flanked by Deputy Premier Dominique Anglade, Finance minister Carlos Leitao, English-speaking community relations minister Kathleen Weil and MNA Rita De Santes, Birnbaum was clearly beaming with pride on having served his constituents well over the past four years.

From right: David Birnbaum, John Parisella, Carlos Leitao, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Kathleen Weil, Dominique Anglade

Special guest speaker John Parisella, chief of staff to Premier Robert Bourassa and decades-long senior adviser to the QLP introduced Birnbaum as a man with great focus and an excellent representative for the riding. He noted, as I have on several occasions, Birnbaum’s eloquence in choosing the very best words in making his point.

 

Said Birnbaum, in accepting the nomination and becoming the official QLP candidate, “We’re working hard in building Canada.” He pointed out how his government is not only looking inward at Quebec but seeking ways to strengthen the entire country, for example through bilateral work with other provinces.

 

“It’s rewarding to contribute to the rest of the country,” the liberal member said.

 

With regard to the work the QLP is doing for the local community and the Jewish community, he singled out the Jewish General Hospital and the government’s recent decision to fund “Phase 4” of the multi-million dollar redevelopment project.

David Birnbaum at the Jewish General Hospital

“The JGH is a model, as our health minister has said many times, and now has funding for the next step of its major expansion,” Birnbaum said.

 

“I’m doing my piece to move the Cavendish dossier forward,” Birnbaum announced, citing his many meetings with municipal and provincial leaders. “In 2024 you’re going to see something happen,” he stated.

More locally, “We recently announced one million dollars in funding for the Cote Saint-Luc Samuel Moscovitch Arena.”

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

“I presented a resolution by Cllr. Ruth Kovac concerning safety on signs,” Birnbaum mentioned. In fact, Cllr. Ruth Kovac and Harold Staviss have been remarkable in their consistent advocacy for bilingualism in the retail and commercial arena. It was yours truly that began a local push for bilingual safety messages on Quebec road signs and English content on provincial department websites. I must say that it is still quite disappointing that not only is there far too little English on road signs as well as in commerce it is quite sad that Ruth, Harold, myself and many others must advocate in the first place for something that is already within the law.

MNA David Birnbaum and Councillor Ruth Kovac

Birnbaum stated, “As MNA you need to be present for the constituents each and every day… solving problems, serving the community.” To that end he thanked his two very accessible and effective attachés, Chris and Liz.

 

Among other issues, Birnbaum also highlighted:

  • last year’s economic mission Historic mission to Israel, the first time a Quebec Premier made such a visit.
  • The Premier’s three visits into the riding, including last week for Yom Hashoah and a previous appearance at the CSL Men’s Club. “There’s no tougher place in Quebec for hard questions than from the 600 men of the CSL Men’s Club,” he said to applause, with a nod to past president Sidney Margles who was present.

 

In considering the opposition in the upcoming October 1 general election Birnbaum said, “Ask the CAQ why a judge in Quebec cannot discharge his duties while wearing a kippa. Or ask why the CAQ wouldn’t continue funding the English community secretariat, or why they’re against current immigration levels.”

David Birnbaum, MNA, welcomes Cllrs. Dida Berku, Mitchell Brownstein, Allan J. Levine, Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen and Chief of Staff Bonnie Feigenbaum (2015)

“As to the PQ, despite a referendum on sovereignty is not on the agenda it keeps coming up time and again.”

 

He also referred to PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée’s “stupid question”, as Leitao called it, last week on Yom Hashoah. Lisée questioned why Birnbaum should have more rights than Lisée is being allowed to wear a kippa in the assembly while Lisée was singled out for wearing a political symbol in his PQ lapel pin, something not permitted by assembly rules. A political three-party free for all ensued for several days that doesn’t look like it will be over soon as the “identity” question boils over, yet again.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Cllr. Allan J. Levine, MNA David Birnbaum, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen (2016)

Birnbaum called the Liberals, “Inclusive, compassionate and proudly Canadian.” While some may call that an exaggeration, Birnbaum is quite convinced, to be sure.

 

The evening opened with Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg welcoming everyone to his town and throwing his full support behind the candidate. CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein was close-by in showing his ongoing support for the MNA, along with Councillors Mike Cohen, Ruth Kovac, Steven Erdelyi and Dida Berku as well as myself and Allan Levine, as former CSL Councillors. Veteran Montreal Councillor Marvin Rotrand was also on hand as was former MNA Judge Herbert Marx and many community leaders.

 

It was clear from this friendly crowd that although D’Arcy McGee doesn’t tend to be a nail-biter in provincial elections they were plenty pleased to have David Birnbaum selected as the local superstar.

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!

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