Book Review -Bibi: The turbulent life and times of Benjamin Netanyahu

By Elaine Cohen

Anshel Pfeffer, senior correspondent and columnist for Haaretz and Israel correspondent for The Economist, deserves praise for his comprehensive, objective biography of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  A significant figure, Netanyahu is the first Israeli-born head of state and is about to either catch up or surpass David Ben Gurion as the country’s longest serving leader.

Israelis and seasoned “Bibi” followers may be familiar with Netanyahu’s personal background, Israeli battles and events but a high percentage of world Jewry and non-Jews will gain a better understanding of the leader after reading Pfeffer’s 421-page book Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu. Published by McClelland and Stewart , the title “Bibi” refers to Netanyahu’s childhood nickname.Netanyahu’s family roots and upbringing, as well as his educational and career environment in the United States and Israel, have influenced his demeanor and approach to politics. Haaretz, a liberal leaning publication, and Netanyahu oppose each other’s philosophy and opinions. Nevertheless, Pfeffer offers a fair assessment. Netanyahu is not ultra-Orthodox but he caters to his observant supporters and garners their votes.

His grandfather and father, Benzion, were Revisionist devotees and admirers of party founder Ze’ev Jabotinsky. A perceptive academic, Benzion, pointed out how Jews in Spain, Germany and elsewhere sealed their fate by rationalizing racial intolerance would subside if they emulated the status quo but anti-Semitism escalated. Benzion left Eastern Europe to settle in Palestine but wrote and taught at universities in United States, as well as in Israel.

Born 1949 in Israel, Benjamin, had an older brother Jonathon “Yoni”, who died in 1976 and was cited a hero in the Entebbe Hostage Rescue. Their younger brother, Iddo, a physician, followed Yoni and Benjamin serving Israel in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. Benzion’s sons attained graduate degrees in university and received their schooling in Israel and the United States. Like their father, their writings were published. Benjamin praises his mother Tzila as the “axis of our family.”

Pfeffer describes Benjamin as an articulate orator, adept at currying publicity and socializing with wealthy American Jews and influential dignitaries. When a Jewish extremist assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Netanyahu was accused of “incitement” but Pfeffer didn’t share that view. Furthermore, he does not side with those who believe Netanyahu promotes combat. He contends Netanyahu intends to hold on to territory, is assertive in talks with world leaders but he doesn’t choose battle lightly. He alludes to Netanyahu’s romantic relationships, marital history and family life without dwelling on hearsay. Benjamin and Sara, who have two sons, were accused of corruption and extravagant living. Pfeffer addresses the topic but avoids sensationalizing it.

Whether readers are pro or against Netanyahu’s territorial stance or share his alarm over Iran’s nuclear plans, they will be in a better position to comment after reading Bibi.

A Bintel Brief coming to the Segal Centre October 14 to 21

 The Segal Centre for Performing Arts will  present A Bintel Brief, a Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre (DWYT) production. One of the DWYT’s most beloved plays, A Bintel Briefpresented in Yiddish with English and French supertitlesreturns to the Segal Centre Studio (5170 chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine) for eight performances from October 14 to October 21, 2018.

Aron Gonshor and company 

A Slice of Life in the Early 20th Century

A Bintel Brief (“A Bundle of Letters”) is based on letters written by Jewish immigrants to the editor of the Yiddish newspaper, Forverts (The Jewish Daily Forward), in the early 20th century. From romantic quandaries, family quarrels, and the challenges of assimilation to the hardships, tragedies, and disillusionment they faced following their arrival in the New World, these letters reflect the daily realities of Eastern European Jewish immigrants adapting to their new lives in North America. Told through comedy, drama, and song, A Bintel Brief presents the real stories of strangers in a new land and serves as a poignant reminder that the immigrant experience is universal and timeless.

Mikey Samra and company (Photo by Leslie Schachter)

The DWYT Celebrates its 60th Anniversary with a Beloved Classic

Founded in 1958 by Dora Wasserman, the DWYT celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and to mark this milestone, they will be mounting their 15th production of A Bintel Brief. “That we wanted to pay tribute to our company’s history by presenting one of our most popular productions was worthwhile in and of itself,” said Ben Gonshor, President of the DWYT. “But in light of the reality of the times we’re living in,” he continued, “the true life stories of how our forebears came to North America and made their way upon arriving in the new world, touched a raw nerve in all of us and lent an urgency to presenting the play.” Originally commissioned by Dora Wasserman in the 1970’s, A Bintel Brief has toured throughout Canada and the United States. While the letters included in the play were written as early as 1905, the themes of immigration, assimilation, and hope are as relevant as ever.à

Talented Volunteer Performers Take the Stage

The multi-generational cast of both veteran and new DWYT performers bringing this story to life include:  Salomé Assor, Cheryl Blum, Danielle Buch, Mark Buch, Maia Cooper, Mia Cooperman, Jonathan Eidelman, Kinneret Finegold, Rachel Finegold, Joel Fink, Aron Gonshor, Jodi Lackman, Bram Lackman-Mincoff, Betty Kis Marer, Catherine Marmen, Veronica Schnitzer, Mikey Samra, Sam Stein and features YAYA kids from the Segal Centre Academy.

Tickets are on sale now at 514.739.7944 or at


Hebrew Academy plans its next Fun Run

On Sunday morning, October 7, 2018, Hebrew Academy will host its third annual 5K Fun Run/Walk in Côte Saint-Luc – a family-friendly event for members of the school community of all ages celebrating school pride and the start of a new academic year.

Participants from last year’s run.

About 350 people attended last year’s event – including Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein – which featured upbeat music, healthy snacks, an exciting raffle draw, and warm-up and cool-down exercises led by a certified personal fitness trainer.

The 5K run/walk will begin outside the school on Kellert Avenue, circle through Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park, continue along Mackle Road and loop around Hudson back onto Mackle. As in past years, families with young children will have the option of participating in a 1K run through the park and back along Kellert. The event  will culminate with fun activities in the school playground for children of all ages.

“The enthusiasm in past years was contagious,” said Hebrew Academy Executive Director Linda Lehrer.  “It was so heartwarming to be able to reunite with all members of our Hebrew Academy family and to kick off the new school year with such a fun, spirited activity. I can’t wait until the next Fun Run!”

The event will proceed rain or shine.

For more information go to


Joseph Kaiser Returning to Temple for High Holidays

The internationally acclaimed Montreal-born tenor Joseph Kaiser will be performing cantorial duties at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom for the High Holidays. Mr. Kaiser will be the guest cantorial soloist for Erev Rosh Hashanah (Sunday, Sept. 9 at 7:45 pm), first day of Rosh Hashanah (Monday, Sept. 10 at 10:30 am), Kol Nidrei (Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 5:45 pm and 8:15 pm) and Yom Kippur (Wednesday, September 19 at 10:30 am).

Joseph Kaiser

“The Days of Awe are a season of renewal, reflection, and repentance,” explained Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, Senior Rabbi at Temple. “Through his extraordinary voice and powerful presence, Joseph brings an added dimension to our services, inspiring us, as individuals and as a community, to be our best selves. We are indeed grateful that he has agreed to return to Temple, out of his commitment to our congregation and to the Jewish community of Montreal.”

Joseph Kaiser is a Montreal native now living in New York. He will be singing the role of Lensky in a new production of Eugene Onegin with the Canadian Opera Company this fall. He is frequently featured at the Metropolitan Opera, and enjoys success in opera, oratorio, and concert throughout North America and Europe.

Joseph Kaiser is internationally acclaimed as one of the most gifted artists of his generation, recognized for his beauty of tone and innate sense of style and elegance.

In a 2009 article in Opera News, Joseph Kaiser stated that the highlights of his career until that point were: “In three very different ways, the movie (Kenneth Branagh’s Magic Flute), singing the national anthem at a Montreal Canadiens game, and singing at my synagogue for the high holidays. All those things were the greatest experiences.” Since then Kaiser’s career has flourished as he has appeared with world class orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.

“One of the distinctive features of the High Holidays is its music and its special melodies which we hear only once a year,” noted Mr. Kaiser. “I am thrilled to be returning to Temple, my spiritual home, to share my voice with my fellow congregants and join with them in celebrating this sacred period of the year.”

For guest tickets please email Rosie ( or call 514-937-3575 ext. 213.