Air Transat brings the Israel experience a lot closer

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Celebrating Air Transat service to Tel Aviv with Robert Presser, Glenn J. Nashen and Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman

A whole lot of Quebecers are about to get an incredible experience travelling directly to Israel aboard Air Transat. The Montreal-based airline kicked off its Trudeau to Ben Gurion non-stop service as a sort of birthday bash, marking its 30 years in business and highlighting Montreal’s 375th anniversary. 150 years of Canadian federation, as well as 100 years of Federation CJA.

The event took place in the ultra-modern Montreal Science Centre at the Old Port. There was an interesting mix of politicos, business leaders, young entrepreneurs and community who’s who. English, French and Hebrew-speaking, Kosher or not, young and less young, the audience reflected the multicultural, hip crowd of would-be travelers that Air Transat is targeting.

Airline prez Jean-Marc Eustache, lead off the formalities by saying that they weren’t looking to become mere transporters. The airline’s strategy is to build travel experiences with local partners in Israel to offer excursions, lodging and tours to meet the needs of Quebec couples, families and singles alike. And, publicity will soon begin to promote Montreal and Quebec as a hot tourist destination for Israelis.

Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman was beaming with excitement at the prospect of tens of thousands of Quebecers seeking a taste of Israel. Whether it’s for the food, the wine or the music, for exploring or for religious travel, Israel has it all, said the coolest diplomat Israel has sent to Montreal in modern times. The Israeli Consul for Tourism, Uri Steinberg, said that the relationship between Israel and Air Transat would flourish, like a romance, as they become closer and closer, falling in love with one another. Quebecers will love Israel, he said.

Glenn J. Nashen, Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser at the Air Transat kickoff of bi-weekly direct service between Montreal to Tel Aviv

Montreal City Councillor and Executive Committee member Lionel Perez said that Montrealers will benefit from being five or six hours closer thanks to the direct flights and that Israelis will come in large numbers to enjoy Montreal’s flair, sites and culture. And we have great religious sites to share with them such as the St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Notre Dame Cathedral and eventually a downtown Expos stadium!

The Transat folks created a true Israeli atmosphere, raffling off two free flights for two to Israel, serving spicy, tasty hors d’ouevres and five kinds of humus provided by Alan Serour of Beso Catering. A 5-piece orchestra belted out Klezmer tunes and Israeli wine flowed freely.

Glenn J. Nashen and CSUQ President Henri Elbaz discussing their next trip to Israel aboard Air Transat

It was great to see my old JGH boss Henri Elbaz and his physician wife Dr. Sandy, CIJA chief Eta Yudin, Senator Marc Gold, Hamsptead Mayor Bill Steinberg and his wife Doris, Outremont City Councillor Mindy Pollak, Israel Day Rally impresario Amos Sochaczevski, Israeli commuter-in-chief Dado Ben Brit, community activists Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser and former news anchor Pascale Dery. CSL Insurance and Travel Professional Ruth Cohen will be plugging Air Transat service from her Cavendish Mall headquarters,

Good luck to Air Transat in finally bringing back direct service to Ben Gurion airport after a decades long gap. Here’s to falling in love with Israel!


CJPAC Action Party 2012

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This year Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, Councillors Ruth Kovac, Dida Berku,  Mitchell Brownstein, Mike Cohen and I attended the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) Action Party at the Arsenal in St. Henri.

Councillor Mike Cohen and I meet Member of Parliament Tyrone Benskin

CJPAC is a unique national, grassroots, independent organization whose mandate is to engage the community in the political process. CJPAC mobilizes the grassroots across the country, builds relationships with elected officials – of all political parties – and works for Jewish community interests, on a multi-partisan basis, during and between elections.

Former party organizers Mike Cohen, Sandie Sparkman and me. We were the leaders of the Jewish Adult Programming Society (aka JAPS) that threw large soirees in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary as well as trips to Israel in the late 80s and early 90s.

We met with several elected officials and their staff from all levels of government along with many young people interested in engaging with politicians.  You’d think that Mount Royal riding, encompassing Cote Saint-Luc, Hamsptead, Town of Mount Royal and a slice of Snowdon was up for grabs as former candidate Saulie Zajdel made the rounds talking up Stephen Harper‘s great support of Israel while the current MP’s (Irwin Cotler) Chief of Staff, Howard Liebman, worked the other side of the room.  Meanwhile, former Mount Royal Tory candidate Neil Drabkin was also in attendance easily working his way across the floor connecting with younger voters.

Mike Cohen and I meet up with former Montreal City Councillor and candidate for MP of Mount Royal Saulie Zajdel. Could Saulie be planning to run yet again?

CDN-NDG Borough Councillor Lionel Perez is a superb local leader who tells me that the Jewish General Hospital has done a marvelous job at promoting the current expansion to the neighbouring residents. Also in attendance were NDG-Lachine MP Isabelle Morin, with whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting one on one with JGH Executive Director Dr. Hartley Stern.  The NDP’s Pat Martin was also in from Winnipeg to experience the Action Party for the first time.  NDP big boss Thomas Mulcair did rounds of the packed industrial party place as did MP Justin Trudeau, DDO Councillor Herbert Brownstein, Hampstead Councillor (and possibly next Mayor?) Bonnie Feigenbaum and longtime political organizers Steve Pinkus, Jonathan Schneiderman and Jonathan Goldbloom.

Could Howard Liebman of the Liberal Party face off against Neil Drabkin of the Conservative Party in Mount Royal riding in the next federal election?

The Action Party is a terrific opportunity to turn young voters on to voting and becoming involved at all levels of government.  One word of advice to the organizers for next year (an I do feel “old” saying it):  Turn down the incredibly loud music so people can hear each other.  There’s hardly any dancing at all but lots of shmoozing where I struggled to lip read what was being said to me (I hope all good things of course).

All in all, a tremendous idea and well organized venture.  Bravo to the sponsors and committee.

Read more on Mike Cohen’s blog.

Read more in the CJN.