Traditional Mimouna celebrated in CSL

1 Comment

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!

Advertisements

Nachshen Family descendants celebrate Passover tradition

1 Comment

Nachshen Family Seder 2018, Markham, Ontario (Rob Currie Photography)

The Nachshen Family recently gathered for the second Seder as they’ve been doing for three decades. The family, all descendants of Rabbi Moishe Nachshen (1872-1968) and Sarah Romanek (1875-1956), who emigrated to Canada from Russia in 1927, had assembled annually in Montreal for the second Passover Seder for the past 33 years until the festive gathering switched to Toronto this year. In the 1960s and 70s, the five branches of the family came together for Chanukah and Purim celebrations at Pomerantz House (then known as the Workmen’s Circle), on Van Horne Avenue near Cote des-Neiges Road, in Montreal.
The elders of the family now include siblings Kate Nachshen (Brecher), 96, George Nashen, 94, both of Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec and Elizabeth (Bess) Nachshen (Goldman), 89. of Boynton Beach, South Florida. The youngest member of the Nachshen Family was born one week prior to the Seder, Ellis Gray Adawalla of Toronto.
The 2018 Seder, held at a banquet hall in north end Toronto, brought together first, second and third cousins.
The event was organized by Mintzi (Clement) and Rafi Skrzydlo of Markham, Ontario and Mandy Senanes (Fitleberg) of Richmond Hill, Ontario. While most of the family is now situated in the greater Toronto area others traveled from Cote Saint-Luc, British Columbia, New York, Maryland, Florida and other points across North America, and as far away as China. With mobile devices in hand other family members from around the world joined in (virtually).
This family’s history reflects that of so many other Jewish Canadians. Having emigrated to Montreal from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, some of the family began drifting to Israel in the 60s and many to Toronto in the late 70s and 80s. By the 1990s the family had spread across Canada, the United States and Israel.

Cover of the Nachshen Family Seder Haggadah with image of family patriarch, Moishe Nachshen, Matriarch, Sarah Romenek, and their seven children

As the descendants of a rabbi, part of the Chasidic movement in Skvira, Russia, the family modernized and assimilated over the last three generations. So much so, that they created their own customized Passover Haggadah, emphasizing the centrality and equality of women and inclusion of all members of the family specifically citing lesbians, gays or converts to Judaism. An orange had been added as an important symbol on the Nachshen Seder plate to highlight these differences from the olden days.
While this family has grown and evolved quite differently from the strict religious practices of its patriarchs and matriarchs it continues to remain a cohesive and connected entity thanks to the fundamentals instilled by those family elders several generations earlier. The centrality of Judaism, community, cultural traditions, Zionism and family throughout the generations has remained strong and resolute. The Advent of social media has certainly helped to keep distant cousins connected through video, photos and stories on a daily basis.
The Haggadah, emblazoned with the photos of ‘Zaida Moishe an Bubbe Sarah’ was read aloud with all family members taking turns. The tunes sung aloud were those heard around the Nachshen table over a century ago in the shtetles of Skvira and Pogrebische (south of present day Kiev, Ukraine).

Back cover of the Nachshen Family Haggadah, depicting Nachshon, the first to enter the Red Sea as it parted during the exodus from Egypt

Once all the Afikomen had been found by the many young children and mingling had wound down, the many good bye hugs and kisses concluded the evening with wishes for Next Year in Jerusalem. But the Second Seder will be booked for Toronto, just in case.

Mimouna night in CSL

Leave a comment

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!

 

Happy Passover – Celebrate freedom

1 Comment

 

Passover is a celebration of spring, of birth and rebirth, of a journey from slavery to freedom, and of taking responsibility for yourself, the community, and the world.

On Passover, all Jews are encouraged to direct their thoughts toward the source of Jewish identity and the centrality of the Land of Israel and Jerusalem in Jewish life, as highlighted throughout the text of the Haggadah, which actually closes with the prayer to return next year to a rebuilt Jerusalem. It also encourages us to reinforce our commitment to maintaining a stable and secure Jewish state for ourselves and future generations.

Passover also carries a universal message of freedom for all, from the ravage of war, from starvation and famine from all sorts of oppresion. It’s a message of social justice – of doing the right thing, to one another, for one another, for mankind

This is a Passover card from ORT Cuba (courtesy of Jacob Kincler) that the tiny Jewish Cuban community sends around the world.  The unity of the Jewish People for thousands of years is remarkable.  That a community such as theirs, in Cuba, continues to celebrate freedom, isn’t ironic at all.  It is typical of Jewish communities everywhere, even for those who rights and liberties pale in comparison to ours here in Canada.

Years ago I served as chair of the Cuban Jewry Task force at Canadian Jewish Congress.  Their community relies upon Canadian Jews, as well as those in Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere to maintain their Jewish lifeline.  Their determination and resilience should serve as an inspiration to all. This is most meaningful to my family, having visited the Cuban Jewish community just weeks ago.

Passover is also a special holiday for the entire Nashen (Nachshen) Family as the namesake of our clan, Nachshon Ben Aminadav, a Prince of the Tribe of Judah, was the first to enter the waters during the Splitting of the Red Sea.

From my family to yours, Happy Passover. May you find freedom in your lives and your community and may it spread to all people around the world. Chag Sameach. 

Happy Passover | Joyeuse Pessach

Leave a comment

happy passover ad 2014

 

 

Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Joyeuses fêtes de Pessah et de Pâque.

1 Comment

My family and I wish you good health and happiness during the holidays of Passover and Easter.  We especially hope for freedom for all those who have yet to be liberated around the world.

Singing the Haggadah

Enjoying the Matzos

Dining with Dear ones

Extra-special fun at the Afikoman hunt

Round of Four Questions

Here’s wishing your Seder is a spread of joy!

Happy Passover!

***

Je te souhaite

beaucoup de plaisir à Pâques!

Que ta célébration soit remplie

de bon temps,

et de plaisir !

Meilleurs voeux de Pâques

 

La fête de Pessah (Pâque juive), une des plus importantes fêtes du calendrier juif, marque la sortie de l’esclavage et la fuite d’Egypte. Pessah symbolise la conquête de la liberté et la naissance de la nation juive. Le renouvellement de cette fête chaque année vient nous rappeler que la liberté n’est jamais acquise, qu’elle doit sans cesse se forger.

Joyeuse fête de Pessah! Joyeuse Pâque!

Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Joyeuses fêtes de Pessah et de Pâque.

Leave a comment

My family and I wish you good health and happiness during the holidays of Passover and Easter.  We especially hope for freedom for all those who have yet to be liberated around the world.

La fête de Pessah (Pâque juive), une des plus importantes fêtes du calendrier juif, marque la sortie de l’esclavage et la fuite d’Egypte. Pessah symbolise la conquête de la liberté et la naissance de la nation juive. Le renouvellement de cette fête chaque année vient nous rappeler que la liberté n’est jamais acquise, qu’elle doit sans cesse se forger.

Joyeuse fête de Pessah! Joyeuse Pâque!

Older Entries