Mission to Morocco: a trip back in time – Perspectives, by Deborah Corber

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Deborah Corber is the CEO of Federation CJA. In this dispatch she drafts an excellent piece on the evolution of the Montreal Jewish Community into a pluralistic, multicultural yet diverse group that has come together to form a cohesive, modern and progressive community. A wonderful read. Kol Hakavod Deborah.

Every spring my husband, Maurice, and I have the same disagreement: how to choose and organize the colours of our garden flowers. Maurice argues that the more colours the better, while I insist that we need to keep warm and cool colours separate. I now believe that we can put the dispute to bed.

We just came back from an extraordinary trip to Morocco, home of Maurice’s birth. This was my first trip and Maurice’s first visit back since he left, over 50 years ago. As we drove out of the Atlas Mountains and into Marrakesh I was struck by the profusion of bougainvillea falling gently across the retaining walls along the road. And there it was: bunches of bright colours, warm and cool, all mixed together, and utterly breathtaking.

In that moment, I understood that Maurice’s floral preferences were a natural result of having grown up in this environment of bold and exotic colours embedded in the landscape, and all these many years later, embedded in his unconscious memory.

Our trip was a unique tapestry of personal return and communal journey, covering vast geographic territory from the rugged terrain of southern Morocco (which we travelled privately), to the major cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and Marrakesh (as part of Federation CJA’s Mission to Morocco).

We learned about the rich and extraordinary history of Moroccan Jewry – a history that spans thousands of years. About the important and profound contributions of Moroccan rabbis, scholars and philosophers (including Maimonides, the “Rambam”) to our Jewish heritage.

We listened to young children in Neve Shalom Day School recite portions of Megillat Esther by heart, and could only marvel at the skill and enthusiasm of these 6-year olds. We visited cemeteries restored thanks to the dedication of Jewish leadership and support of the Moroccan Government, and lovingly maintained by Berber and Arab caretakers, elderly people who remember the Jews with fondness and respect.

We walked the narrow alleys of the Mellah (Jewish Quarters), most now emptied of Jews, but filled with ancient synagogues and other remnants of the vibrant Jewish life that once pulsated through these streets. We visited the tomb of Solica Hatchuel, a young Jewish martyr, who chose death (she was dragged by a horse through the streets of Fez in 1834) over a forced marriage and conversion to Islam.

We reveled in Moroccan crafts, admiring the workmanship of their rugs, mosaic, bronze, leather and fabrics as we travelled (and shopped) in the medinas (old cities) of Marrakesh and Fez. We delighted at the Jewish artifacts on display throughout the regions of the Atlas Mountains, where Berbers and Jews lived peacefully together for centuries and where our Berber guide said, wistfully, that the departure of the Jews represented the greatest loss that Morocco had ever known.

We were hosted by the Jewish leadership of Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and Marrakesh, and while their hospitality was great, the bleak reality of a dying Jewish community in Morocco was unmistakable.

And what about our financial obligations as part of the Jewish people? Some folks remember when Federation CJA allocations were evenly split between local needs and supporting Israel. Today, that breakdown is roughly 87% local and 13% Israel & Overseas. Some argue that this split is appropriate, given Israel’s relative economic strength today, and growing needs at home. But there is no right or wrong answer here: only trends in the Jewish world and judgments about what is most fitting today.

The history of Jewish life in Morocco is complex and mixed. Although over two thousand years of Judaism are woven into the very fabric of Moroccan culture, those years were not without their challenges for Morocco’s Jews. There appear to have been instances of pogroms during that period, and it is believed that at least 500 Jews lost their lives during the Shoah, which absolutely did reach Morocco in the form of concentration camps courtesy of Vichy France. And while King Mohammed V has been honoured for having protected the Jews from even worse destruction, that legacy is not entirely without controversy.

The Jews who still live there speak of Morocco as a model of Jewish-Muslim co-existence. And yet, Jacky Sebag, the brilliant rabbi who runs the Neve Shalom school confessed that the parents of his students don’t want their children learning Arabic, which is the official language of Morocco. Quite a stark contrast with many anglophone Jewish parents here in Montreal, who, like myself, want their children to master French so that they will be able to thrive in Quebec.

That said, I am neither a historian nor a political scientist. But I do know something about the Jewish community of Montreal. I know that we have been immeasurably enriched by the thousands of Moroccan Jews who emigrated here in the 60s, 70s and 80s. That they brought with them a depth of Jewish knowledge and tradition that has made an indelible mark on the Montreal Jewish community, and of which we can all be proud. That Montreal Jewry is stronger and more vibrant because of them.

This year, I intend to fill the garden with as many bright colours as I can find, hoping to recreate just a little of the splendour that I found in Morocco for our home here in Montreal. Perhaps our garden will become my own personal metaphor for the magnificent diversity of the Jewish people.


Thousands of Jewish Montrealers eligible for Spanish citizenship

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Spain approves Sephardic Jew citizenship plan

Proven descendants of Jews forced into exile who want dual citizenship will need to pass a Spanish culture test

MADRID, June 6, 2014 — Spain’s cabinet on Friday approved a bill allowing descendants of Jews forced into exile centuries ago the right to dual citizenship, but said applicants will have to take a Spanish culture test in addition to having their ancient ties to the nation vetted by experts.

Sephardic Jews who want to apply must have their heritage checked by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities or by rabbis where they live, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said. She did not provide details about the culture test but said it will be developed by the Cervantes Institute, which promotes Spanish language and culture abroad.

The reform will allow dual nationality, enabling the newly minted Spaniards to retain their previous citizenship. Spain currently grants that privilege only to Latin Americans.

“With this gesture Spain is doing justice and fixing the mistake that led to the expulsion of the Jews,” the federation said in a statement.

The term “Sephardic” means “Spanish” in Hebrew, but the label has come also to apply to one of the two main variants of Jewish religious practice. The other — and globally dominant one — is “Ashkenazic,” which applies to Jews whose lineage, in recent times, is traced to northern and eastern Europe.

Because of mixing between the groups and other factors, there is no accepted figure for the global Sephardic population. Reasonable estimates would range between a fifth and a third of the world’s roughly 13 million Jews.

Hundreds of thousands live in France and already have EU passports. But the largest community is in Israel, where almost half of the 6 million Jews are considered Sephardic.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.
Read more: Spain approves Sephardic Jew citizenship plan | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/spain-approves-sephardic-jew-citizenship-plan/#ixzz33yQmVL00

Dida speaks out – Remarques de la conseillère Berku

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La Presse is reporting that “a candidate nabbed by the Director General of Elections is irritating Côte-Saint-Luc”.  I think it is not just Cote Saint-Luc that is being irritated but the overall Jewish Community as well.

Councillor Berku lashes out that claims by Charles Lugassy, a defeated candidate in the 2009 election in Côte-Saint-Luc, who was found guilty of electoral fraud by the Quebec Court,  “are an insult” and do not reflect reality.

Berku wrote to La Presse, following a story earlier this week, to protest against conspiracy theories put forward by Lugassy.  Lugassy argued that he was a victim of the fury of the town hall of Côte-Saint-Luc, including the clerk, because he is Sephardic.

“All proceedings and investigations are handled by the DGEQ.  None of the proceedings were handled by the City of Côte-Saint-Luc”, says Berku. “It has nothing to do with our City Clerk. ”

“Mr. Lugassy is not the first Sepahrdic candidate to stand for election”, Berku said, contrary to Lugassy’s assertion. She strongly rejected his allegations that the city of 32,000 inhabitants is the “turf” of the Ashkenazi Jewish community, as Lugassy suggested. “It is not a matter of ethnic identity. We are all citizens, residents of Côte Saint-Luc, regardless of our language or religion. Mr. Lugassy only wants to represent his community”.

Councillor Berku, a lawyer, endorsed the conclusions of Judge Johanne White who found Mr. Lugassy guilty on October 16. She considered the story of Mr. Lugassy as “not credible, full of bizarre speculation and not supported by the evidence.”  Lugassy lost the right to vote or stand for election for a period of five years for corrupt electoral practices. He was convicted of trying to pay off a rival candidate, Sonia Cohen-Peillon.

Concerning the electoral defeat of Mr. Lugassy, Berku remarked: “You must get involved in local democracy, come to council meetings, ask questions. We never saw Mr. Lugassy do that”.


I wholeheartedly agree with Maitre Berku, as outlined in my opinion pieces on this blog.  Unlike Mr. Lugassy who never attended a single council meeting, I attended and asked questions, together with Ruth Kovac, for 10 full years before we both ran for election.  Ruth and I had a better attendance record than some councillors back then!  And that was after both volunteering in the Emergency Measures Organization and EMS for more than a decade, at the time.

Lugassy’s self-endorsement was, and is, pure fiction.  By contrast, I have been endorsed by many community leaders in several fields, many of whom stem from the Sephardic community, not to mention my own Sephardic connections.

All that said. Luggasy’s outlandish conspiracy theories stand as an insult not only to me personally, but to all Cote Saint-Lucers and the Jewish community as a whole.  As one example, his heavy handed election team were removed by police from the polling station and parking lot where they were caught pressing people to vote for the “Jewish candidate”, insinuating that I am not Jewish, nor my honourable opponent, Sonia-Cohen Peillon.

Lugassy advocates a divided community, along language lines, cultural and religious lines.  He seeks to represent a single segment of the community.  By contrast, I proudly represent all my constituents, indeed all Cote Saint-Lucers, in the language of their choice, regardless of religion or country of origin.  I’m happy to say that my fellow councillors share the same inclusive sense of community.  And judging by the number of emails and comments I received this week, not to mention the vast majority of voters that cast there ballot for me in the last election, most agree with this notion of unity and harmony as one community.

Today’s La Presse article is posted here.



Publié le 22 décembre 2012


La Presse

Un candidat épinglé par le DGE irrite Côte-Saint-Luc

Les accusations d’un ex-candidat battu aux élections de 2009 dans Côte-Saint-Luc, qui affirme avoir fait les frais des tensions entre les deux communautés juives, «sont une insulte» et ne reflètent pas la réalité, réplique une élue de longue date, Dida Berku.

La conseillère de Côte-Saint-Luc depuis 1990 en veut particulièrement aux thèses de complot évoquées par Charles Lugassi, qui a récemment été épinglé par le Directeur général des élections et privé de droit de vote pour cinq ans pour manoeuvre électorale frauduleuse. Il a été reconnu coupable d’avoir tenté d’acheter une candidate rivale en 2009. Cette semaine, dans La Presse, M. Lugassi a soutenu avoir été victime de l’acharnement de l’hôtel de ville de Côte-Saint-Luc, notamment du greffier, parce qu’il est sépharade.

«Toutes les procédures, les enquêtes viennent du DGE par l’entremise de la plaignante, rien n’est venu de Côte-Saint-Luc, explique Mme Berku au nom de l’administration municipale. Notre greffier n’a même pas parlé avec lui à ce sujet, il n’a rien à y voir.»

Pas une première

M. Lugassi n’est pas le premier candidat sépharade à se présenter aux élections, précise-t-elle. Elle rejette énergiquement ses allégations voulant que la ville de 32 000 habitants soit «la chasse gardée» de l’autre communauté juive importante, les ashkénazes. «Ce n’est pas une question d’identité ethnique. On est tous citoyens résidants de Côte-Saint-Luc, peu importe notre langue ou notre religion. M. Lugassi, lui, voulait représenter uniquement sa communauté.»

La conseillère fait siennes les conclusions de la juge White qui a reconnu M. Lugassi coupable le 16 octobre dernier. Elle considérait la version des faits de M. Lugassi comme «invraisemblable, truffée de conjectures farfelues et nullement supportée par la preuve».

La défaite électorale de M. Lugassi, elle l’explique autrement: «Il faut s’impliquer dans la démocratie locale, venir aux réunions du conseil, poser des questions. Jamais on n’a vu M. Lugassi faire ça.»


Lettre de Dida Berku à La Presse


Dida Berku writes to La Presse in response to article on electoral fraud conviction against Charles Lugassy.  Berku says that La Presse covered this story is a one-sided manner, perpetuating accusations without checking the facts.   Considering that the Quebec Court found Lugassy to be guilty of electoral fraud “beyond a reasonable doubt” and that his statements were “improbable conjectures, outlandish and not supported by the evidence”, Berku says that La Presse should have been more careful in how they presented this piece.

Lettre de Me Dida Berku Conseillère municipale Côte Saint-Luc

20 décembre 2012

Je m’inscris en faux contre l’article de Karim Benessaieh du 19 décembre portant le candidat Lugassy qui fut condamné pour manœuvres électorales frauduleuses commises en 2009 à Cote Saint Luc.

Cette histoire dure déjà depuis plusieurs années et à chaque étape et à chaque occasion qui lui est offerte par les média M. Lugassy profère des accusations de plus en plus malicieuses à l’égard des élus et de l’administration de sa ville. Cette fois ci les accusations vont trop loin et les faussetés sont trop grossières. Il faut les corriger.

M Benessaieh a répété ses fausses accusations à mon égard et à l’égard du Maire et des élus de Cote Saint Luc avec une insouciance telle qui m’oblige de corriger point par point les faussetés gratuites qui y sont faites. Il est inconcevable que le journaliste et votre journal peuvent répéter sans corroboration ni interrogation des parties impliquées, les accusations de la part d’une personne qui vient d’être condamné par la Cour du Québec d’avoir commis une fraude électorale. Je vous souligne que le Tribunal a trouvé M Lugassy coupable « hors de tout doute raisonnable.» d’avoir tenté d’obtenir que Mme Cohen se retire de l’élection en lui offrant un avantage soit de payer pour ses frais électoraux.

Il est clair que votre journaliste n’a même pas lu le jugement car s’il avait lu le jugement il n’aurait jamais pu reprendre les fausses déclarations qui lui ont été avancées par M Lugassy.

On ne peut que conclure que la motivation de votre journal est justement de promouvoir l’hypothèse de M.Lugassy à savoir que le véritable enjeu est «la domination des juifs anglophones ashkénazes» sur la politique municipale dans Côte-Saint-Luc. » Ceci est une fausseté grossière qui ne passe pas le test de la réalité.

M. Benessaieh écarte la condamnation on disant que « la juge Johanne White a essentiellement accordé plus de crédibilité au témoignage de Mme Cohen-Peillon qu’a celui de M. Lugassy ». Mais c’est bien plus que cela.

La Cour du Québec a entendu 6 témoins et a rendu un jugement détaillé de 26 pages dans laquelle Mme la Juge relate les faits et la preuve qui l’ont amené a trouvé l’accusé coupable d’une infraction pénale «hors de tout doute raisonnable ». Il ne s’agit pas du tout comme le prétend M. Benessaieh d’accorder plus de crédibilité à l’un qu’à l’autre, mais plutôt d’appliquer des règles strictes de preuve en matière criminelle. Mme La Juge conclue en disant que « le Tribunal considère que le Directeur général des élections s’est déchargé de son fardeau de preuve. » Elle qualifie au par. 94 de son jugement que la version des faits de M. Lugassy est « invraisemblable, truffée de conjectures farfelues et nullement supportée par la preuve. »… Elle continue au par. 95 « Le Tribunal considère que la version du défendeur ne soulève aucun doute raisonnable quant à l’infraction qui lui est reprochée. » et au par. 109 « Le Tribunal ne croit pas que le Directeur général des élections s’amuserait à entreprendre des poursuites pénales pour assouvir les désirs de vengeance d’une candidate défaite. » Il ne s’agit pas d’une infraction qui a été prise à la légère comme semble impliquée l’article du journal.

A l’appui de sa thèse que la politique est une chasse gardée des ashkénazes anglophones à Côte-Saint-Luc, M Lugassy indique « qu’il a reçu des menaces et de l’intimidation. On se serait cru au goulag, en Sibérie .» Est –ce les élus du conseil qui lui on fait ses menaces ou toute la communauté ashkénaze anglophone de Cote Saint Luc ? Ces remarques sont absolument comme dit Mme La Juge « invraisemblable, truffée de conjectures farfelus et nullement supportés par la preuve… » Il s’agit d’accusations gratuites et malicieuses à l’égard des élus de notre ville qui n’ont pas leur place dans votre journal sans corroboration ou commentaire de notre part.

M. Lugassy allègue que la communauté sépharade représenterait 40% de la communauté juive à Cote Saint Luc, Cette statistique ne tient pas la route. Encore c’est de la conjecture. Selon les dernières statistiques disponibles, en 2001, sur une population totale de 19,785 juifs à Côte Saint-Luc il y avait environ 4,285 sépharades soit 21.7 % de la population de confession juive. Mais peu importe le nombre, les élus de Côte Saint-Luc sont la pour représenter tous les citoyens pas seulement un groupe linguistique ou religieux comme semble vouloir le faire M Lugassy.

« Pour la première fois en 30 ans, la communauté sépharade francophone m’a demandé de me présenter » M Lugassy n’est pas le premier candidat sépharade à se présenter dans les élections de Côte Saint-Luc. En 2006 Mme Aline Malka qui travaillait pour le bureau du maire de Montréal pendant la fusion s’est présentée à l’élection et dans les années 90’s il y avait M Charles Barchechat qui est un homme d’affaires et journaliste. Tous les citoyens de la ville sont invités à s’impliquer dans la démocratie locale. Et tous les élus parlent le français bien que notre ville soit une ville bilingue reconnue par la loi.

« Ils se sont tous ligués contre moi, du maire jusqu’au greffier de la Ville. Il accuse ce dernier de s’être acharné contre lui, notamment en menant, à titre de président d’élections, cinq enquêtes sur sa candidature après la campagne de 2009. » Le greffier de la ville agit comme président de l’élection mais n’a absolument pas de pouvoir d’enquêtes suite aux plaintes portées selon la Loi. D’ailleurs Mme la Juge White en dit autant dans son jugement lorsqu’elle expose au par 17 ce qui suit : « Elle ( Mme Cohen ) a appelé à plusieurs reprises l’avocat de la ville pour lui faire part de la situation, mais cela ne relève pas de sa responsabilité. Elle ne se souvient pas si elle a porté plainte au Directeur général des élections durant la campagne, donc, avant le 1er novembre 2009. ». Le greffier de Côte Saint-Luc qui agissait comme président d’élections n’a pas mené des enquêtes et n’a pas porté plaintes. Toutes les accusations relèvent du Directeur Général des Élections du Québec. Faut il croire maintenant que le Directeur Général des Élections du Québec est au service des « ashkénazes anglophones »?

« Ils veulent envoyer un message au prochain sépharade qui va vouloir se présenter en 2013: la politique est une chasse gardée des ashkénazes anglophones à Côte-Saint-Luc.»

En tant que conseillère municipale depuis 1990, avocate et membre respectée de la communauté Montréalaise, je considère ces accusations non- fondées et très insultantes à notre intégrité et serment d’office. Maire et conseillers nous sommes tous élus pour représenter tous les résidants et non pas seulement les membres d’une communauté linguistique ou religieuse comme semble vouloir le faire M. Lugassy.

Nous avons une harmonie totale à Cote Saint Luc représentant nombreux groupes d’origines diverses ethniques et linguistiques, incluant les personnes d’origine italienne, russe, philippine, irlandais, iranien et israélien. Nous avons une harmonie totale, nous travaillons ensemble, nous jouons aux sports ensemble, fréquentons les mêmes écoles et célébrons les fêtes et la culture en harmonie.

Le conseil est dédié à servir toute la population et tout le monde est libre de participer aux réunions du conseil et participer à la démocratie locale. Jamais depuis que je suis élue ai-je vu M Lugassy s’intéressait aux affaires de la ville. Jamais est il venu à une réunion du conseil pour poser une question. La politique municipale est une politique locale et il faut s’impliquer pour réussir lors d’une élection.

En conclusion le ton de cet article et la façon cavalière que le journaliste a simplement repris les fausses accusations de M Lugassy sont très inquiétant. Dans le contexte actuel ou nous vivons à Côte Saint-Luc anglais, français et allophones de toutes origines et religion ensemble et en harmonie, il est inconcevable que vous faites passer un message si mesquin qui ne fait qu’alimenter les querelles du passé et les comportements d’une autre époque.

Il est d’autant plus incroyable que vous acceptez de reproduire ce contenu sans interroger ni le Directeur Général des Elections, ni la plaignante, ni le maire et les élus de la ville. Le tout uniquement dans le but de promouvoir une manchette sensationnaliste sans mérite ou fondement.

Quand allez vous arrêter d’alimenter l’animosité envers les « anglophones » et la haine envers les « ashkénazes juifs » ? Vous réveillez des querelles qui sont déjà dépassées depuis longtemps et qui ne méritent pas l’attention que vous leur portez, le tout sans vérifier les faits et sans souci pour la vérité.

Electoral fraud case makes headlines – Fraude électorale: privé de droit de vote pendant cinq ans


The electoral fraud conviction against Charles Lugassy made major headlines in La Presse again on Wednesday, December 12.  The Montreal daily gave a one-sided accounting of the verdict handed down by the Quebec Court against the 2009 candidate in the municipal elections in Cote Saint-Luc.  The paper only interviewed Lugassy, who went on another absolutely disgusting diatribe against the Mayor and Council and City Clerk of the City of Cote Saint-Luc, let alone the entire Ashkenazi community.  

La Presse did not interview anyone attacked by Lugassy in the article, and took for fact his allegations, many of which are blatantly false.

Lugassy’s divisive and destructive attitude is contrary to a generation of bridge building by the organized Jewish Community of Montreal.  

Lugassy continues to play the role of victim rather than showing an ounce of remorse for his crime.  He was pursued by the Director General of Elections of Quebec and convicted by the Quebec Court, not by an administrative process at the City level. He cheated, lied and violated the law.  The Chief Electoral Officer prosecuted the case based on complaints by Sonia Cohen, another candidate for election in 2009. Cohen testified that Lugassy offered to pay her expenses to drop out of the campaign and the judge said she found Cohen to be believable rather than Lugassy, who was deemed not credible.

And he is certainly not the first Sepahrdi to run in Cote Saint-Luc.  Sonia Cohen is also Sephardi, as is Aline Malca who ran in the previous election (who was cited in the court transcript as saying Sephardim will not vote for a woman!) as well as Charles Barchechat, another candidate from an earlier election.

Furthermore, on a personal level, it is important to clarify that I am married to a Sephardic woman which means my children are both Sephardi and Ashkenazi.  I learned four languages in Jewish day school and I speak French to any (constituent) who wish to carry on a conversation in their preferred language. My friends and neighbours are also blended Sephardi and Ashkenazi, our kids all play together, study together and attend Jewish community celebrations together.  I represent my District 6 constituents and all Cote Saint-Lucers equally, regardless of their language or religion or country of origin.  

I will not allow Lugassy’s disgusting comments go unchallenged, somehow suggesting that my Jewish heritage doesn’t meet his standards and that my family’s Sephardic roots (just like his) should be disqualified or discounted.  Rubbish!  

Most importantly, contrary to Lugassy’s backward thinking, the Ashkenaz and Sephardi communities are well integrated and live quite harmoniously, as neighbours, and as one family within the Jewish community.  Lugassy speaks for no one other than himself.  His comments are totally unacceptable and should be widely denounced.  


Here is the content of the La Presse article published on December 19, 2012 as reported by Karim Benessiah:

Fraude électorale: privé de droit de vote pendant cinq ans

Charles Chalom Lugassy, candidat battu aux élections dans Côte-Saint-Luc en 2009, a-t-il été victime d’une cabale menée par des juifs ashkénazes parce qu’il est lui-même sépharade? Ou a-t-il réellement tenté d’acheter sa rivale, Sonia Cohen-Peillon, en lui offrant de payer ses dépenses électorales?

Cette histoire peu banale est la toile de fond d’une décision rendue publique hier par le Directeur général des élections du Québec, qui a condamné M. Lugassy à une amende de 1000$ pour manoeuvre électorale frauduleuse, en vertu de la Loi sur les élections et les référendums dans les municipalités. Fait rare, il se voit privé de son droit de vote et ne peut se présenter à une élection à tous les paliers électifs, et ce, pour les cinq prochaines années.

«C’est la victime qui a été condamnée, soutient Charles Lugassy en entrevue. J’ai reçu des menaces et de l’intimidation. On se serait cru au goulag, en Sibérie. Les oeufs sur la brique devant chez moi, ils ne partent pas, ils sont encore là.»

Élection perdue

M. Lugassy, expert en immigration de 61 ans originaire du Maroc et ancien journaliste, a été reconnu coupable le 16 octobre dernier en Cour du Québec. La juge Johanne White a essentiellement accordé plus de crédibilité au témoignage de Mme Cohen-Peillon. Elle a affirmé qu’en octobre 2009, elle a rencontré M. Lugassy, qui était «très gentil» et lui aurait dit: «Il va falloir que tu te désistes […]. On a une organisation, on va te payer tes frais.»

Finalement, les deux candidats ont été balayés par le conseiller sortant Glenn Nashen, qui a obtenu 65,8% des voix. M. Lugassy a obtenu 343 votes (30%), tandis que Mme Cohen-Peillon n’en a récolté que 49 (4,3%).

Une «chasse gardée»

Selon M. Lugassy, le véritable enjeu était «la domination des juifs anglophones ashkénazes» sur la politique municipale dans Côte-Saint-Luc. Plus de 68% des 32 000 résidants sont de religion juive, mais peu de données existent sur la répartition entre les ashkénazes, d’origine européenne, et les sépharades francophones, qui proviennent surtout d’Afrique du Nord. Ces derniers représenteraient 40% de la communauté juive, avance M. Lugassy, et seraient en forte croissance démographique.

Le conseil municipal, composé d’un maire et de huit conseillers, ne compte pourtant aucun sépharade.

«Pour la première fois en 30 ans, la communauté sépharade francophone m’a demandé de me présenter, mais mal m’en prit, raconte Charles Lugassy. Ils se sont tous ligués contre moi, du maire jusqu’au greffier de la Ville.» Il accuse ce dernier de s’être acharné contre lui, notamment en menant, à titre de président d’élections, cinq enquêtes sur sa candidature après la campagne de 2009. «Cinq enquêtes contre un candidat battu, c’est du jamais vu. Ils veulent envoyer un message au prochain sépharade qui va vouloir se présenter en 2013: la politique est une chasse gardée des ashkénazes anglophones à Côte-Saint-Luc.»

Il n’a pas été possible de joindre un responsable à l’hôtel de ville de Côte-Saint-Luc.



The following is an English language Google Translate of the article:

La Presse

Charles Shalom Lugassy, ​​defeated candidate for election in Côte-Saint-Luc in 2009, says he was the victim of a conspiracy led by Ashkenazi Jews because he is Sephardic. Or did he actually try to buy off his rival, Sonia Cohen-Peillon by offering to pay her election expenses?

This story is rather unusual backdrop of a decision made public yesterday by the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec, which sentenced Mr. Lugassy and fined him $ 1,000 for corrupt electoral practice under the Elections Act in municipalities. He was deprived of his right to vote and can not stand for election at all levels for the next five years.

“I am a victim who has been condemned”, says Charles Lugassy in an interview. “I received threats and intimidation. It felt like the gulag in Siberia. Eggs on the brick in front of my house,  they are still there”.

Lost election

Mr. Lugassy, ​​immigration expert of 61 years from Morocco and former journalist, was convicted Oct. 16 in Quebec Court. Justice Johanne White has essentially given more credibility to the testimony of Ms. Cohen-Peillon. She stated that in October 2009, she met Mr. Lugassy, ​​who was “very nice” and told her: “You will have to withdraw […]. We have an organization, we’ll pay your expenses. ”

Finally, the two candidates were swept aside by the incumbent councillor Glenn Nashen, who won 65.8% of the vote. Mr. Lugassy received 343 votes (30%), while Ms. Cohen-Peillon garnered only 49 (4.3%).

A “turf”

Lugassy says, the real challenge was “the Jewish domination of the English-speaking Ashkenazi” in municipal politics in Côte-Saint-Luc. More than 68% of the 32,000 residents are Jewish, but few data exist on the distribution among the Ashkenazi European origin and Sephardic French, derived mainly from North Africa. These represent 40% of the Jewish community, Mr. Lugassy says and show strong demographic growth.

The council is composed of a mayor and eight councilors, yet none are Sephardic.

“For the first time in 30 years, the Sephardic community asked me to present myself, but I did so wrong, says Charles Lugassy. They all conspired against me, the mayor up to the City Clerk. “He accuses them of having pestered him, including  as president of elections, five investigations about his candidacy after 2009 campaign. “Five investigations against a defeated candidate, this is unheard of. They want to send a message to the next Sephardic will want to come in 2013: politics is the preserve of the English-speaking Ashkenazi Côte-Saint-Luc. ”

It has not been possible to reach an official at the city hall of Côte-Saint-Luc.


Letter to the editor: Lugassy shows no remorse


The Suburban, December 12, 2012


I am very disappointed by one thing in the report on Charles Lugassy’s conviction. I would have liked the reporter to speak with members of the diverse Sephardic community of Cote St Luc in an attempt to validate Mr. Lugassy’s claim. As a member of this community, I reject Mr. Lugassy’s divisive and bitter approach. If he wants to get elected, he should start building bridges, not destroying them. This man has show no remorse.


Phil Anzarut, Cote St. luc


CSL candidate found to have violated election rule


Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban

December 5th, 2012

Côte St. Luc council candidate Charles Lugassy was recently found by Quebec Court judge Johanne White to have violated an election rule, relating to the 2009 municipal campaign.

Sentencing took place Nov. 19. Lugassy was fined $1,000, and he was barred from voting or running in a municipal election for five years.

Lugassy ran against incumbent and eventual winner Glenn Nashen, and Sonia Cohen-Peillon.

According to the decision, it was alleged that Lugassy attempted to get Cohen-Peillon to withdraw her candidacy “by promising a benefit, which was reimbursement of [her] election expenses.”

The judge found that testimony offered in the case provided the evidence of the alleged offence and also found that there was no “collusion or conspiracy” between Cohen-Peillon’s witnesses, which included her friend, daughter and sister.

In his testimony, Lugassy “categorically denied” the offer was made to Cohen-Peillon, and that he did not consider her to be a formidable candidate.

Lugassy told The Suburban that his lawyer is evaluating whether to appeal the decision, and that he had decided not to run in the 2013 election before the court decision was made.

“The court decision is completely unfounded, and this is symptomatic of everything that has happened up to now,” the former candidate said recently. He accused the judge of attacking him by saying he instigated a candidate’s meeting at a local synagogue in October 2009 in which community members wanted one representative from the Sephardic community to run for election and not two, when it was actually organized by members of the Sephardic community.

“What is more reprehensible is that this whole thing has been instigated and encouraged by — I won’t mention names — the people who were against me. Nevertheless, there are going to be changes, with what we are seeing in society at large, all these people who are in place for so many years and who may be taking advantage of their positions, this will sound an alarm to the community in general when it comes to electing people who have been there for 20 years or more. By trying to eliminate me in that I won’t be running, that won’t solve their problem, the problem remains — an important segment of the community has not been represented, and they will bring out their voice loud and clear when the time comes.

“In this whole matter, I am the victim, not them. It is unprecedented in jurisprudence that someone who lost an election has five inquiries [against them], three of which did not go through. This is because I was a threat for them in the next election. I got 30 percent after a preparation of two weeks or less. They may do this to me now, but they won’t be able to stop the tide of others who are seeking to have a voice.

“If it’s not me tomorrow, it will be someone else. The demography of the community has already changed in Côte St. Luc — new, young Sephardim that are buying new houses, and settling here. The old community is going away and the young Ashkenazi don’t stay.”