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!

 

Happy Passover – Celebrate freedom

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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

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happy passover ad 2014

 

 

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

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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.

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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!

Celebrating freedom / La fête de la libération

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The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.

My family and I wish you good health and happiness and especially the right to 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! 

There are some fantastic videos on the web this year that I’ll share with you here.

From the talented folks at Federation CJA (The Federation of Jewish Community Services of Montreal):

Dayenu, Coming Home – The Fountainheads Passover Song:

My kids and I enjoy the Prince of Egypt.  Here is the Exodus, central to the story of Passover:

And my personal favourite is the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea.  It is said that as the waters parted the first person to step forward before the frightened nation was none other than Nachshon:

And here is a cool recounting of the Passover story from a Google point of view:

Happy Passover – Celebrating freedom, even in Cuba

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This is a Passover card from ORT Cuba 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.

Several 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.

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.  And thanks to Jacob Kincler for sending me this beautiful ORT card.

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