Jewish businessman brings Orangetheory Fitness to West End

When local Jewish businessman Mitchell Heft invited me to come  visit his new Orangetheory  Fitness studio on Somerled Avenue in NDG,  near Madison, I  was  curious.

I arrived at 7:30 pm to the facility, which previously housed a large Russian bakery. Orangetheory is a  one hour, full body workout, focused on training endurance, strength, and power. They use heart-rate based interval training, which burns more calories post workout than traditional exercise. When wearing their exclusive OTbeat heart rate monitors, the real time results of clients are displayed on large screens throughout the studio. Intensity is based on the person’s individual heart rate zones, making the workout effective for all fitness levels. To top it off,  certified coaches like Côte Saint-Luc’s Melanie Shernofsky lead the workout to prevent you from over or under training.

On this day Melanie had arrived at work  by 5:45 am for her first class.

Mitchell Heft, Cynthia Brunner, sales rep Sasha Lagarde and Melanie Shernofsky.

There are  1,100 Orangetheory locations in 19 countries. Heft and his partner Cynthia Brunner met at the Pointe Claire franchise. Heft was working out and Brunner was a trainer, When they decided to open their own  studio they needed to find out what territories  were not already  occupied by other Orangetheory franchisees. The NDG-Côte Saint-Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West sector was available.  They soon landed the  3,200 square foot Somerled storefront and after pouring in the necessary $750,000 investment to bring the premises up to Orangetheory  standards they opened last fall.

Business keeps improving, with people of all ages signing on. A women’s  only class,  which could appeal to members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, may  start soon.

Orangetheory is geared toward all  levels of fitness, and everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace. They recommend signing up for a free* introductory workout, then discussing any thoughts or questions you may have regarding your fitness goals with  a coach before class.

The workout room has a variety of equipment, including treadmills (bikes and striders as alternatives), WaterRowers, and floor equipment, including dumbbells, benches, TRX suspension trainers, medicine balls, BOSU trainers, and Ab Dolly’s.

There are a variety of membership options. Just call 514.500.5464 or log on to . The address is 6275 Somerled Avenue.

Encrypted Histories: Nuit blanche à Montréal at the Museum of Jewish Montreal

For its sixth consecutive year, the Museum of Jewish Montreal is participating in the Nuit blanche à Montréal festivities! Join in for an evening of live performance and an immersive art experience playing with cultural identity, visual language and communication.


Immerse yourself in a labyrinth of stories from the past to imagine a future of disrupted communication. Discover The Ocean Between Us, a photo and video based installation by Russian-Jewish artist Yuula Benivolski, inspired by letters written by an imprisoned Jewish Trotskyist dissident poet and journalist on the KGB watch list in the 1970’s.

For one night only,  on Saturday March 2   (9 pm to 1 am), the Museum of Jewish Montreal  (4040 Boul. St. Laurent  #R01)  will be transformed into an ethereal labyrinth, designed by artist Jordanna Ibghy, inviting visitors to immerse themselves completely in Benivolski’s work. Throughout the evening, the museum will host a series of live letter-readings in English, French and Russian. The performers will take turns translating each other’s words, creating a chorus of spoken word. The event is free and open to the public.

“The Ocean Between Us emerged when I came into possession of a stack of letters written by my great granduncle Misha in Moscow to his daughter Nina in Jerusalem in the 1970s,” said Benivolski. “These letters are my most precious possession. To me, they simultaneously represent both the wound and the cure: the physical distance between members of my family, and their coping mechanisms.”

The Museum of Jewish Montreal is a not-for-profit organization that explores and shares the diverse histories and experiences of Montreal’s Jewish community.

Jacob Potashnik to share his expertise with screenwriting workshops at Atwater Library

By Mike Cohen

Montreal author, screenwriter, producer and educator  Jacob Potashnik has had quite a prolific career, so it is enlightening to hear that he will be sharing his expertise via screenwriting workshops for the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) for eight consecutive Wednesdays, March 6 to April 24 (8 pm to 10 pm), at the Atwater Library (1200 Atwater) entitled Whose Story Is It? From Prose To Screenplay In 8 Painless Lessons.

Potashnik’s most recent publication is called The Golem of Hampstead and Other Stories, a collection of short stories written over 30 years about Montreal and other places is in the tradition of Saul Bellow, Mordechai Richler, and reminiscent of the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholom Aleichem, among others. It was shortlisted for the 2017 QWF Concordia First Book Prize.


The jurors stated the following “Steeped in the texture of Jewish immigrant Montreal from the 1950s through to the present, from the culture of survival and working-class collaboration with the Québécois, to the spiritual perils of the nouveau riche, Potashnik’s tales are not only beautifully written, they combine a sense of heritage with the potential, along with the impoverishment, of everyday lives.These richly detailed and multilayered stories draw a picture of a Montreal that is both mythic and tangible. his is a confident, self-assured, muscular book. Potashnik writes in an effortless, fluid, clear, compelling prose. This is an author who revels in language. There is a filmic/visual quality to the storytelling, which is always, deft, sharp, witty and smart. Potashnik writes fully realized characters who exude personality and spirit.”

Potashnik studied communications at Concordia University and cinema at New York and Columbia Universities. In his youth, he travelled, and lived in Europe, working primarily as a sous chef. He has spent 36 years in film, television and new media production, starting from the bottom and working his way up through production manager and assistant director to director, line producer and producer for some of the best known production companies in Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles. In 1996, at the behest of Denys Arcand, he co-wrote the WGC award-winning feature film Stardom, which closed the 2000 Cannes film Festival and opened the Toronto festival that same year. Since then, he has co-written the screen adaptations of Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and wrote the English adaptations for Arcand’s Poverty and Other Delights, Jean Bergeron’s award-winning documentary on M.C. Escher, Achieving the Unachievable and the narration for Donald Sutherland’s voice-over for Jean Lemire’s, The Last Continent. In 2009, he translated the web ite content and museum texts for Le Jardin des Glaciers in Bay Comeau

The workshop fee is $160 for QWF members and $190.For more information, or to register call 514.933.0878 or email

A People’s Soundtrack: special preview of film on Montreal’s greatest tenors and sopranos

By Mike Cohen

Montreal has long been known worldwide as a center of cantorial music. The Jewish equivalent of classical music, it enjoyed its cultural craze in the 50’s and 60’s but subsequently came to be known as a lost and dying art. When the late cultural icon, singer / songwriter and native son Leonard Cohen returned to his Montreal Jewish roots with his final Grammy award-winning album You Want It Darker, his collaboration with renowned Montreal Cantor Gideon Zelermyer thrust the ancient art-form back into the spotlight giving it widespread attention.

Cantor Zelermeyer.png
Cantor Gideon Zelermyer

A People’s Soundtrack explores this long and rich musical history and its relationship to both Montreal and its, celebrated, Jewish history. Mixing rare photos, intimate interviews, candid family moments and performance footage from some of the city’s greatest, Jewish tenors and sopranos, A People’s Soundtrack celebrates the unique ways the active voices of today are fighting to keep the ritual observances and emotional expressions of their communities alive.

Mountain Lake PBS and ONTIC Media will present an exclusive sneak preview of the new film on Saturday, March 2,  ( 7:30 pm) at The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts  (5170 Cote St. Catherine).Seating is limited so those interested must reserve early at The  program will feature renowned Montreal cantors Sidney Dworkin, Rona Nadler, Adam Stotland, Daniel Benlolo  and Gideon Zelermyer. A People’s Soundtrack will premiere on Mountain Lake PBS on Tuesday, March 5  at 8 pm

The documentary is executive produced by Marvin Rosenblatt and directed by Evan Beloff (2017 Canadian Screen Award finalist for his documentary “Kosher Love”, and more recently “Daughters of the Voice” for CBC’s documentary strand “Absolutely Canadian / Absolutely Quebec”).

“The cantorial profession is a sacred calling,” said Cantor Dworkin, “The cantor is able to go into a whole different realm with the music, a very holy place. The cantor, who is the leader of prayer, is a messenger of the people. Our real function is to gather the prayers of all the congregants and to present them to God on high.”

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical tells the story of a nice Jewish girl who hit the top of the charts

By Mike Cohen

Long before she was Carole King, she was Carol Klein, a young Jewish girl growing up in Brooklyn with a passion and gift for music. As a teenager, she fought her way into the record business and began writing hits for the biggest music acts around.

Sarah Bockel is fantastic as Carole King.

Beautiful- The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, alongside her husband and fellow songwriter Gerry Goffin, and her fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Along the way, she managed to make beautiful music and become one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Montreal’s opening night of Beautiful at Place des Arts (Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier). This fantastic production continues through February 17. While other family members had the opportunity to see this show with the original cast on Broadway, for whatever reason I chose another activity that day. Well I have made up for that error. We do not get Broadway shows too frequently here in Montreal, and one this moving really is not to be missed.

Beautiful features a stunning array of beloved songs written by Carole King/Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, including “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend” and of course, the title song. The show opened on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in January 2014, where it has since broken all box office records and recently became the highest grossing production in the theatre’s history.

In this touring version, Sarah Bockel portrays King. The Chicago native does an outstanding job. Others who are part of this Tony and Grammy Award-winning hit musical include Dylan S. Wallach (Gerry Goffin) and Alison Whitehurst (Cynthia Weil), Jacob Heimer (Barry Mann), James Clow (Don Kirshner) and Suzanne Grodner (Genie Klein).

This show really keeps you on your toes—it features in equal measure intimate numbers and big production numbers. In fact, most songs begin by being played around a piano by the writers during the creative process, until the lights flash and suddenly the group that made these songs famous appears to sing them in full. The stark contrast between King’s understated versions and the way the songs were popularized is always entertaining.

“I am thrilled that Beautiful continues to delight and entertain audiences around the globe […] and that we are entering our fourth amazing year of touring the U.S.,” producer Paul Blake said. “We are so grateful that over five million audience members have been entertained by our celebration of Carole’s story and her timeless music.”

Since the tour’s launch September 2015, Beautiful has played 1,130 performances in 82 cities over 142 weeks to nearly 2.5 million patrons.

Shows are Feb 13- 16 at 8 pm, with 2 pm matinees Feb 16 and 17, and closing night at 7:30 pm. Info: Tickets are on sale at the Place des Arts Box Office. You can call 1-866 842-2112. Tickets start at $45.85 (including taxes and service fees).