JCFM Executive Director lauds iPad Program in Israel

Israel’s Athena Fund, the initiator and operator of the “iPad for Every Special Education Teacher in Israel” program, awarded a prize to a special education teacher from Jerusalem, who won first place in an inspiring story competition. The aim of the competition was to hear how the iPad helped students with special needs and disabilities that led them to extraordinary achievements.

The competition was held in memory of the late Amos Ilani of blessed memory, who was Athena Fund’s operations and logistics manager. This year’s winner was Dorit Menashe of the Kiah School for the deaf and the hard of hearing in Jerusalem. Dorit’s story was that of a student with an intellectual disability and hearing impairment. Using the iPad, the student succeeded in communicating with his surroundings and his entire life changed.

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Pictured in the photo from right to left are: Dorit Menashe – First Prize-winning teacher from Kiah School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Jerusalem, Uri Ben-Ari – President and Founder of Athena Fund; Kathy Assayag – Executive Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, Yaffa Ben David – Secretary General of Israel Teachers Union, Elka Ilani – widow of the late Amos Ilani after whom the competition was named, Jacob Shuri – CEO of Bank Massad, Gad Dei – Deputy Secretary General of Israel Teachers Union, Shlomo Yishay – Director General of Israel Teachers Union’s Professional Advancement Fund, Edna David – Chairman of the Haifa Teachers Union Branch and Deputy Secretary General of the Israel Teachers Union (Photo: Amir Alon)

Kathy Assayag, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, attended the award ceremony held at the Israel Teachers Union headquarters in Tel Aviv. “The Athena Fund’s special education initiative, like the rest of the fund’s programs, greatly advances teaching in Israel and deserves all praise,” said Assayag. “The iPad program is particularly exciting because it is really working miracles among students with special needs.”

“I am happy that one of the most important donors to this program is from The Sylvan Adams Family Foundation” said Assayag. “I have no doubt that the Athena Fund’s programs contribute greatly to the education of Israel’s young generation, which is the key to Israel’s future and strength. This particular ‘iPad for Every Special Education’ program helps students with special needs realize their potential and integrate into society.

Menashe’s winning essay describes a student with an intellectual disability and hearing impairment, who until recently was unable to communicate with his parents or anyone else. Consequently, his frustration manifested into regular tantrums. School staff tried to give him various tools for communication, without any real success. All this changed when he and his teachers received the iPads and began to use it in the classroom. The student’s family were unsure that the iPad would allow him to communicate, but with the unflagging faith and work of the school staff, he began to communicate slowly. He found a way to communicate and share his feeling and the world opened up to him.

“The iPad creates wonders in special education, promotes and improves learning, and enables students with special needs to communicate with their surroundings, to learn and to develop,” Menashe stated at the award  ceremony. “The boy I described in the story even managed to celebrate his bar mitzvah. I see special education as a calling, and I am happy that both my twin sister, my daughter and my brother have also chosen to become special education teachers.” Menashe announced that she will donate half of the prize to the school where she teaches.

The iPad for Every Special Education Teacher program was launched by the Athena Fund in November 2015, as part of a general program providing Israel’s teachers with a digital toolbox. So far, approximately 7,000 special education teachers and kindergarten teachers have received iPads, special applications, and 120 hours of training. An additional 8,000 teachers are expected to receive iPads over the next three years.

Distribution of the iPads is made possible thanks to contributions from the Athena Fund and its partners, including the Israel Teachers Union’s Professional Advancement Fund, Bank Massad, the Ministry of Education, the Ted Arison Family Foundation, the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation, UIA Canada and the local authorities where the iPads are distributed to the special education teachers.

“The competition is another step in our efforts to promote special education in Israel and help school and kindergarten teachers in this field,” said Uri Ben-Ari, president and founder of Athena Fund. “The iPad yields amazing results among students with special needs and helps them express themselves and learn. At the same time, it helps the teachers both in teaching and in communicating with students.”

About the Athena Fund

Established in 2006, the Athena Fund is a non-profit organization working to promote the empowerment of teachers in Israel by providing them with tools for self-fulfillment and professional advancement. The fund was founded by several prominent business leaders under the direction of President Uri Ben-Ari (CEO of UBA Ventures and former Executive VP of Ness Technologies). The Athena Fund’s programs include: Laptop for Every Teacher in Israel (launched 2007); Laptop for Every Kindergarten Teacher (2012); Tablet for Every Science Teacher (2014); iPad for Every Special Education Teacher (2015); and Laptop for Every English Teacher (2018).

To date, the Athena Fund and its partners have provided laptops, tablets and iPads to more than 22,000 teachers across Israel, in 1,854 schools and kindergartens in 145 local authorities (municipalities, local and regional councils). Each teacher also receives 120 hours of techno-pedagogical training from professional instructors, with support from the Ministry of Education. For more information, please visit  https://www.en.athenafund.org/default.aspx.

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Jewish Public Library announces programming

The Jewish Public Library announces its Spring 2019 Cultural Programmes calendar, with highlights including world-class authors Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Michael Ondaatje, Montreal film premieres of Israeli documentary Desert Wounds and Slovakian Academy Award entry The Interpreter, and a special collaboration with Bloomsday Montreal on Jews in Irish literature.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

All JPL events start at 7:30 pm (unless otherwise indicated) and take place at the Jewish Public Library, 5151 Côte-Ste-Catherine Rd in Montreal. Information and ticket purchase: (514)345-6416 or www.jewishpubliclibrary.org .

 Here is the line-up by month:

March

March 27    The Prince and the Dybbuk       

Film in English Italian, Spanish, Polish and German with English subtitles. 

Directed by Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski (Poland/Germany, 2017, 82 min)

The film explores the life of cinematic enigma Moshe Waks, the son of a poor Jewish  blacksmith                       from Ukraine who died as Prince Michael Waszynski in Italy, after having made over 40 films as a                       director and producer during Hollywood’s golden era.

April

April 3         Desert Wounds

                   Montreal film premiere, in English and Hebrew with English subtitles

Directed by Nili Dotan (Israel, 2018, 59 min)

Montreal premiere of an award-winning documentary that follows the journeys of two Christian                       women from Sudan and Eritrea fleeing war, dictatorship, and religious persecution to seek   asylum in Israel. Introduced by director Nili Dotan, followed by a panel discussion with Nili               Dotan, Irwin Cotler OC, David Berger and Zoë Freedman.

April 10       Simon et Théodore

                      Film in French with English subtitles

Directed by Mikael Buch (France, 2017, 84 min)

Simon is a troubled young man; Theodore is a difficult adolescent. A chance encounter      between the two sparks a dramatic clash and ultimately heals wounds. A tough and tender    film about mental illness and love, and how to live with both.

April 15       Mary Morris: Gateway to the Moon

                      Author event             

New York Times bestselling author Mary Morris speaks about her novel, a multi-generational                       family saga in which she traces her family’s history from the Spanish Inquisition to modern-day           New Mexico.

April 18       ‘Books & Booze’ with Bethany Ball & Spencer Wise

                      Author event             

Our ‘Books & Booze’ series presents a lively discussion with two young American authors.     Ball’s What to do about the Solomons explores the secrets and gossip-filled lives of a kibbutz community.        Wise’s The Emperor of Shoes tells the story of a young Jewish American expat who       assumes the helm of his family’s shoe factory in China and his relationship with a seamstress   intent on inspiring dramatic political change.

May

May 2          The Interpreter

                      Montreal film premiere, in German and Slovak with English subtitles

Directed by Martin Šulík (Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Austria, 2018, 114 min)

A bittersweet tragicomedy about two old men who depart on a road trip, weighed down by                       unresolved conflicts that have plagued their lives. The film was Slovakia’s 2019 Academy Award          entry. Presented in collaboration with the Montreal Holocaust Museum.

May 5          Orly Castel-Bloom: An Egyptian Novel

*7 pm          Author event in Hebrew

Israeli author Orly Castel-Bloom blends faction and fiction in this unconventional telling of her             family’s migration from Egypt to Israel, expulsion from a kibbutz and life in modern-day Tel Aviv.               Castel-Bloom is thrice winner of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Award.

May 6          Denise Bombardier: “Une vie sans peur et sans regret”

 Author interview with journalist Elias Levy, in French            

Prominent Quebec journalist, novelist and essayist, Denise Bombardier will discuss her life   and decades-long career. In collaboration with the Cummings Centre.

May 13       Ayaan Hirsi Ali: “Islam, Muslims and National Security”

                      Author event                             

The controversial human rights activist, former politician and author of Infidel states that it is       important to understand the distinction between Islam, a set of ideas and principles, and      Muslims, the diverse individuals that constitute one fifth of humanity. In recent decades         Muslims have, at one point or another, been discussed as a threat to national security. Hirsi Ali          will give her perspective on this incredibly thorny topic.

May 16       Georgia Hunter: We Were the Lucky Ones

                      Author event                             

When New York Times bestselling author Georgia Hunter was 15 years old, she discovered    that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. We Were the Lucky Ones follows her                family as they scatter across continents, determined to survive and to reunite. Her book          has been translated into 13 languages.

May 23       Yiddish Café

                      Music and storytelling event

Our annual evening of stories and songs in Yiddish and English by a group of talented      Montrealers  honouring Yiddish author and playwright Sholem Aleichem’s wish for his name to            be recalled with laughter”. The musical Fiddler on the Roof was based on the stories of   Sholem Aleichem, known as the “Jewish Mark Twain”.

May 30       Pól Ó Dochartaigh: “Hyphenated Identities: Irish-Jewish Autobiographies”

                      Lecture and exhibition in collaboration with Bloomsday Montreal

 Irish scholar Pól Ó Dochartaigh explores questions of identity, Irish and Jewish, through six    twentieth-century autobiographies by Irish Jews. The touring exhibition Representations of             Jews in Irish Literature will be presented in the main lobby of the Federation CJA  building (just          outside  the entrance to the Jewish Public Library) from May 27 to June 17, 2019.

June

June 11       Michael Ondaatje: Warlight

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Michael Ondaatje

                      Author event

One of Canada’s most renowned living authors, Michael Ondaatje will be in conversation      with Joseph Rosen about his mesmerizing new novel, set in the decade after World War II. Ondaatje’s previous work has been awarded the Booker Prize, the Golden Man Booker Prize, the    Giller Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and the Prix Médicis.

And our courses, workshops and literary clubs:

Yiddish for Beginners: starts March 26

Intermediate Yiddish:  starts March 26

Advanced Yiddish:  starts March 25

Russian for Beginners: starts March 7

American Sign Language: starts March 4

Genre Writing Workshops with author Michelle Franklin:  starts March 6

Jewish Genealogical Society Lecture Meetings: March 11, April 1, May 6, June 3, Aug 12

Sunday Morning Family Tree Workshops (Jewish Genealogical Society):   March 3, April 14, May 12, June 2, Sept. 8

Russian Literary Club: Sunday March 17, April 28 and May 19

Hebrew Literary Club: on Tuesdays

Jewish Montreal-centric stage production Daughters of Mile End to premiere

By Mike Cohen, with files from Barbara Ford

Both Claudia Litvak Polachek and Pearl Lottner Rothenberg are children of Jewish immigrants from two very different parts of the world, who came to Montreal under very different circumstances. These  two ladies are behind an upcoming  Labyrinth Stage Productions presentation called Daughters of Mile End (April 3 to 6 ) at the DB Clarke Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West)   of Concordia University

Inspired by true stories, this is a Jewish Montreal-centric creation.  Lottner Rothenberg, lived in Mile End as a girl and one of the play’s characters and experiences are loosely based on her and her family. It sounds like a great story, given the strong ties to a local Jewish neighbourhood,   children of Holocaust survivors and a look at the immigrant experience which is  such a hot topic in the news these days.

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Claudia and Pearl.

 Litvak Polachek is a co-founder and the Artistic Director of Labyrinth Stage Productions. Previously, she started the Akiva Players and spent seven years delighting Akiva students and parents with musical productions. She has also worked at the Segal Centre, done voice-over work and acting, has degrees from McGill University (Political Science), Concordia University (Creative Writing), the Institute of Children’s Literature, and is a Wexner graduate.

Lottner Rothenberg’s love of challenges has resulted in her having several careers in her 70 years.  From the age of 12 she knew her life’s mission was to become a psychologist.  In the journey through her own labyrinth, she first became a wife to Jack and then mother to Robert and Kimberly.  Along the way she did Interior Design, opened a financial company with her husband, and finally went back to school to fulfill her dream of becoming a clinical psychologist. She accomplished her goal at the age of 40 and practiced her beloved profession for 28 years.  Due to an auspicious meeting with Litvak Polachek  the door to her love of writing and theatre/arts opened and another career was born.

The play is about four Mile End girls and the diverse paths their lives take as they grow into adulthood and beyond. The all-female multi-generational cast of 13 is under the direction of Rachelle Glait, with set and costume designs by the multi-award winning John Dinning and Louise Bourret respectively.

With humour, poignancy, and insight, Daughters of Mile End illustrates that despite traumatic family histories, the girls’ shared childhood memories and experiences lead them to a better understanding of their mothers—and themselves—enabling them to live and love more fully.

MIRIAM: “Just because I speak with an accent doesn’t mean I think with an accent.”

“Relationships—with our parents, other family members, our friends and lovers—are the medium through which we develop the tools to meet life’s challenges,”  said Lottner Rothenberg. “As a psychologist, I think that a big issue, not only for these women but for all of us, is whether we end up repeating or repairing the traumas of our past. This often keeps us from becoming authentic, well-functioning individuals. In order to not repeat our traumas with others, we need to develop a conscious awareness and understanding of what took place and why. This is not easy to do when there are often so many secrets … a major theme of this play. How different the characters are, despite their seemingly common background. As they mature and their lives become busier and more complex, they still manage to stay connected.”

 “Using the specific to explore the universal is where this play excels,”,added Litvak Polachek. “Each woman travels a different road but their combined stories touch on major human dilemmas that we all face at one time or another, from generation to generation. The audience, as silent witnesses, walks away feeling as if they’ve known these women for decades, not just a couple of hours … and in a way they have. Rachelle Glait’s direction, especially the scene transitions, is masterful, and Mike Sinnott’s dreamlike lighting for the memory sequences of the characters as young girls takes the play to a whole new level of awesome!”

Glait also had a personal connection to the story and its locale, one of the reasons she was at the top of the list of prospective directors for the new play. “It’s rare to have the opportunity to direct a production that mirrors one’s own life experiences. Daughters of Mile End examines very familiar territory: women whose mothers, like my own, survived the milchume (Holocaust) and grew up in Montreal neighbourhoods that have their own unique and extraordinary history,” she said.  “Audiences will recognize themselves in the characters as they journey through more than fifty years of engrossing reunions. With this wonderful all-female cast, including four remarkable young girls, the production travels well beyond the borders of reminiscence and nostalgia.”

For more information call 1-800-838-3006 or purchase your  tickets at  www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4048627. 

Young breakout artists to perform Sunday

Local  pop singer, songwriter, rapper, producer composer and artist management man about town Yo Natan is preparing for a big event this Sunday, March 10 (7 pm)  at the Dollar Cinema at Decarie Square

Yo Natan

Yo Natan has pegged this unprecedented  event as the first ever  MTL Breakout Artists Extravaganza. Local, unsigned artists, musicians and dj’s will be collaborating for a night of hip hop, pop  and rock music. ” Our goal is to introduce local Montreal communities to emerging talents from multiple backgrounds, burrows and ethnicity,” says Yo Natan, whom I first saw perform  in the Sukkah of Chabad CSL Rabbi Mendel Raskin a few years  back.

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Yo Natan strikes a pose.

The event will feature a cash bar ($4 Cocktails), coat check as well as seating and standing areas for the show.

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.

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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 www.orangetheoryfitness.ca . 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.

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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.

golem

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 workshops@qwf.org.