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 workshops@qwf.org.


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 emb@onticmedia.com. 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: www.evenko.ca. 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).

To the rescue of a piece of Israel in the heart of the Parc Jean Drapeau

Written by Guillermo Glujovsky

Collaborated: Alice W. and J. Ederly

Full of religious and spiritual symbols that evoke the typical landscapes of the Promised Land, “The Israel Garden” is in an accelerated process of deterioration due to the ravages of time, a lack of proper maintenance by the City of Montreal and recent vandalism.  Located in the center of Parc Jean-Drapeau, The Israel Garden was built in 1980 on the occasion of the exposition Floralies Internationales[1]. The garden was conceived by Meyer Chaouat, Director of the Botanical Gardens at the University of Jerusalem, with the collaboration of the architects, Eim Karen and Shlomo Aaronson.

Historic, symbolic and religious values

The garden is full of historical, religious and spiritual symbols closely linked to the history of Israel:  the door that opens onto the garden is a replica of ones that can be found in the ancient Middle Eastern cities; there are two stones sealed together from the reign of King Herod; two columns, on either side of the tower, topped with an ancient slab found near Jerusalem. A Shomera[2], a mosaic brought from an ancient Israeli synagogue, aromatic, medicinal and religiously symbolic plants,all contributed to recreate an atmosphere typical of an Israeli plain.

A worrying reality

The replicas that endured in Israel for millennia have not fared so well in Montreal. After 39 years, the garden is heading towards an irremediable destiny: the slab that surrounds the columns are falling, which in the not too distant future will cause the collapse of the entire structure[3]. The mosaic brought directly from Israel is missing pieces while the plaque located at the entrance describing the characteristics of the garden has recently been vandalised.  As members of the Jewish Community we need to step forward and rescue the Israel Garden from its imminent disappearance. The City of Montreal needs to maintain this area of Parc Jean Drapeau just as it maintains all of its parks. If it is not possible to repair it, or at least execute the minimum maintenance to preserve its structure, why do not transport It to a safe place where it will be better appreciated and preserved by people who really value it.

[1] The New York Magazine (in its edition of 24 of March, 1980) described the exposition Floralies International as the first exhibition brought to North America outside Europe, where participated more than 20 countries from different parts of the world.

[2] The Shomera (from Hebrew, guardian, female) is an observation tower that is found in most of the gardens in the countryside around the city of Jerusalem. Is a symbol which represents that the flock and the orchard belongs to the owner. Also, is a sign to protect the residence.

[3] The authorities of the City of Montreal put many fences to protect the columns, without having taken any action to repair and preserve it.

A Bintel Brief: Yiddish Theatre alive and well in Montreal

By Glenn J. Nashen

 The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre opened its 60th season this week with its latest production of A Bintel Brief. This performance at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts  is brought back to the stage after it originally opened in Montreal in the 1970s. It is a story based upon real letters to the editor of a Yiddish language daily newspaper in New York City in the early 1900s.

The production is composed of a series of true stories of Jewish immigrants coming to America and trying to adapt to their new world. It not only connects the stories of immigrants in the early 20th century to their former lives in Russia and Europe but it also connects them to their descendents 100 years later.

A Bintel Brief peeks inside the immigrant experience of long ago and reminds us that little has changed and that the struggles and efforts made are both timeless and universal.

The show is brought to life by budding director Michelle Heisler who has previously acted in the DWYT and works with young children’s theatre. Heisler is a talented actor and singer having performed on stage across Canada, the United States and Europe.

The cast is an energetic and spirited group of youngsters, young adults and older folk who come together as though they were a true family.

Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein are iconic in the DWYT and for good reason. Their vaudeville singing and dancing with old-fashioned, side-splitting humour kept the audience in tears of laughter. Their schtick was out of Wayne and Shuster and they were classic funnymen. They also took on serious roles in skits ranging in theme from overworked and underpaid, depressed immigrants to tragic episodes involving loss of life and great despair. If there are lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance in Yiddish theatre this duo is certainly right for the prize.

Mikey Samra is known for  his many performances in the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society but his stage presence in Yiddish was equally spectacular. He is a compelling young actor who will continue to flourish in whatever language he chooses.

Jodi Lackman has played at the Segal before but her performance in A Bintel Brief takes the cake. Her facial expressions and shrieking voice at learning her husband has another wife and children, her melodramatic overtones in yearning for her secret lover and her comedic expressions are worthy of praise and applause.

The list of talented and dedicated young actors who have put in tremendous effort to speak a language that is probably quite foreign to most of them is long and impressive. Kudos to all of them for entertaining the audience with song and dance, with drama and comedy and by keeping the language and rich history alive.

One particular skit involves a class of immigrants trying to learn to speak English. It is ridiculously funny with mispronunciation and misunderstanding. I could just imagine my Bubby and Zaida in such a class with their thick yiddishe accents trying to learn their new language. Indeed, I still remember the words of my very funny Russian-born Zaida who’d say, “I speak 12 languages and don’t understand any of them!”

The stage was simple and old fashion in the Segal Centre’s smaller theatre. Presented with English and French supertitles it is an easy-to-understand show even if you’re not fluent in mama-loschen. The four piece band was fun and lively under the musical direction of Nick Burgess.

Despite the young children who sing and dance in the first act (they leave at intermission to get home for bedtime) the heavy adult themes would give this musical performance a PG-13 rating, not age appropriate for pre-teens.

DWYT President Ben Gonshor thanked the capacity opening-night audience for continuing to support community theatre, particularly in Yiddish. With such great benefactors such as Alvin Segal, Barbara Seal and the Azrielli Foundation and Federation CJA Montrealers are fortunate in that they will continue to be treated to such memorable and entertaining evenings for years to come.

A Bintel Brief continues at the Segal Centre though October 21. Tickets are available at SegalCentre.org or by calling 514-739-7944.

McGill IBD Fundraiser to feature international entertainer and mentalist Oz Pearlman

By Mike Cohen

The McGill IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Research Group will hold its annual fundraising event on Thursday, November 15 (6 pm) at Oscar Peterson Hall (7141 Sherbrooke Street West) at Concordia University Loyola Campus in NDG, featuring international entertainer and mentalist Oz Pearlman.

The goal of the upcoming program, entitled “A Mind-Blowing Event,”   is to raise $175,000 to secure funds critical for IBD research, patient care, and clinical training opportunities.

Lorne Mayers, Melissa Diamond, event coordinator Emily Shore and Dr. Ernest Seidman at the 2017 program.

This year’s honoree will be “YOU, the IBD Patient,” acknowledging those who have lived with IBD through the life stages as well as the McGill IBD community which we have built around these individuals. “You are our heroes, the reason we exist and to whom we hope our work makes a difference,” said Lorne Mayers, president of the McGill IBD Research Group.”

Joanne Cutler and Nick Burgess from Que Sera.

The evening will consist of a cocktail dînatoire provided by Java-U Catering, with musical entertainment provided by Que Sera, followed by Oz Pearlman, who will read minds and WOW the audience.

The McGill IBD Research Group

The McGill IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Research Group is dedicated to ensuring financial support for IBD clinics at McGill University’s teaching hospitals, MGH, JGH, and the MCH.  The funds raised with the help of our dedicated volunteers provide important services for those living with IBD, as well as their friends and family, with the overall goal of improving quality of life, training the next generation of IBD clinicians and scientists, and raising awareness through patient education and community outreach programs.

Oz meets former President Bill Clinton.

The Remarkable Oz Pearlman

Dazzling audiences with his unique mind-reading ability for over a decade, Oz Pearlman is a world-class entertainer and one of the busiest mentalists in the country. A top 3 finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2015, Oz has also appeared on a variety of both national and international networks, including NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Kelly and Ryan, The Today Show. Watch with  here with Jenna Hoda on Today.

Oz uses his magic.

Pearlman has been making a name for himself as one of the busiest mentalists/magicians in North America since he left the comforts of Wall Street in 2005. But making it to the finals of America’s Got Talent truly shot him to fame. “It was like rocket fuel,” he said, “and opened so many doors. I landed an agent and a new fan base.”

Oz waves to an adoring crowd.

A world-class entertainer and one of the busiest mentalists in the country, Pearlman developed an interest in magic at a young age and what started as a hobby quickly became a lifelong passion. After a couple of years spent working on Wall Street, Oz decided to pursue his dream and become a full time entertainer. He has now been dazzling audiences with his unique mind-reading ability for over a decade.

Pearlman’s client list reads like a who’s who of politicians, professional athletes, A-list celebrities, and Fortune 500 companies. His natural charisma and charm make him the perfect choice for corporate events and private parties alike. His unique blend of mentalism and mind-reading create an interactive experience that is redefining the very nature of a magic show…one that truly needs to be seen to be believed.

Pick a card- any card!

When he isn’t blowing the minds of audiences around the world, Pearlman is an avid marathon and ultra-marathon runner, having completed such grueling races as the Badwater 135 Miler, Hawaii Ironman World Championships, Western States 100 and Spartathlon. He takes great pride in his marathon PR of 2:23:52 and has won dozens of races throughout the country.

So what is mentalism? Think of it as “magic of the mind.”  Rather than utilizing sleight of hand and fast fingers, mentalism requires a deep knowledge of human behavior. It combines a multitude of techniques including the art of suggestion, subliminal messaging, body language reading, statistical analysis and neurolinguistic programming. Every show is different because every person is different, adding to the element of excitement and surprise at Oz’s performances.

It was at age 13 that Pearlman fell in love with magic. While on a cruise with his family, he was brought on stage and witnessed the miracle known as the sponge balls. A sleepless night ensued trying to figure out how in the world one ball transformed into three while squeezed so tightly in his own hand. That night set in motion years of tireless study of all things magic and mentalism. It is all but certain that if you bumped into him anytime between the ages of 13 and 23, he had a deck of cards in hand and coins rolling up and down his fingers. By age 14, he landed his first steady gig at a local Italian restaurant in Farmington Hills, Michigan and discovered his passion for amazing audiences with his abilities. Over the years his focus went beyond sleight of hand magic and into mentalism, learning from the legends in the field while also creating his own original techniques.

Pearlman has spent years learning how to read people and analyzing what guides their decision making processes. He is neither a fortune teller nor a psychic and does not claim to have supernatural powers. He will be the first to tell you that if he knew the future, he would have won the lottery by now…probably more than once! Mentalism is wholesome entertainment appropriate for ages 9 through 99 and will have you amazed at the uncharted potential of the human mind.

Oz and Elisa at their wedding.

Meeting his Hampstead born wife via JDate

Pearlman met his wife Elisa on JDate. Today they are the parents of two young children. Elisa, who grew up in Hampstead, serves as his booking agent and publicist.  “I also tend to be the guinea pig when it comes to testing out new routines and mind reading methods,” she says.

Let’s go back to 2009 when the couple first connected. “I was 26 years old and Judaism wasn’t exactly my top priority at the time,” Pearlman shared on a JDate testimonial. “Fresh off a long-term relationship with a non-member of the tribe, my running pal and training partner (our aforementioned character) gifted me a book titled ‘Why Marry Jewish?’ At first, I found it to be a bit absurd, as I could barely even be considered a ‘High Holiday Jew.’ But as I leafed through chapter after chapter, it dawned on me how important Judaism was to me in a cultural and traditional sense. My sense of humor, group of friends and many other facets of life were inextricably tied to my identity as a Jew.

“So what does any normal twenty-something do upon being thoroughly persuaded? I signed up for JDate, of course! There were some good dates, there were some bad dates… but the date that revealed the love of my life was destined to take place quite late on the night of January 13, 2009. After some wild partying on New Year’s Eve, I woke up with a slightly throbbing headache and zero desire to brave the frigid winter weather. I logged onto JDate and started chatting with a beautiful Canadian girl who was in Florida at the time. She was nursing a hangover and we both exchanged war stories about the last night’s various partying debacles. A half hour soon became an hour, then two, and before we knew it, most of the day had flown by. The conversation flowed and she seemed to like my jokes, which is without a doubt the key to my heart. Over the next week, we kept chatting every day and escalated this long-distance relationship to Skype.”

As luck would have it Elisa had landed an internship for a PR agency in Manhattan and was fulfilling her lifelong dream of moving to the big city. She had lived in the same house all her life in Montreal and was ready for a change of pace, and wanted to meet some new people through JDate. “In fact, our opening chat was during her first few hours logged onto the site,” Pearlman explains. “As they say, timing is everything in life! Fast-forward two and a half years to sunny San Diego, California. Deception is the name of the game and what pays my bills, so you better believe I had a few tricks lined up when popping the question. For several months leading up to the proposal, I kept Elisa in the dark, going so far as to make her think our relationship was a little rocky. All is fair in love and war, and it made the surprise to come all the more memorable. I flew out to Southern California, unbeknownst to her, and waited for her to arrive later that day for a business trip. She ordered room service at her hotel and I showed up instead, on one knee, with a ring, asking for her hand in marriage. A year later and that beautiful Canadian girl I loved chatting with on JDate became my wife!”

 Tickets for the fundraiser are available online at www.mcgillibd.ca or by calling 514-398-2787.The cost, including a cocktail dînatoire (6 pm)  provided by Java-U Catering and musical entertainment provided by QueSera, is $250. A special price of $150 is available for those aged 35 and under. There is also a show only option (7:45 pm entry) for $75.

 Watch  the first episode of his 2018 Summer  NBC show Oz Knows here:


Canada Council nominates translation of Jacob Isaac Segal book for Literary Award

The Canada Council for the Arts has revealed the 2018 finalists for the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks).These 70 Canadian books are among the best published this year in seven categories, both in English and in French. They are the works that stood out to peer assessment committees from close to 1,400 titles submitted for consideration.

One of this year’s finalists, Vivian Felsen, is a finalist in the Translation category for her translation of Jacob Isaac Segal: A Montreal Yiddish Poet and His Milieu. Felsen is a first-time finalist, based in Toronto.

Vivian Felsen (Photo by Tineke Jorritsma.jpg)

The connection between Felsen and Segal goes much deeper than her being the translator of this work — Segal was in fact a colleague and friend of Ms. Felsen’s grandfather. The personal connection between the two is a unique bond that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Jacob Isaac Segal: A Montreal Yiddish Poet and His Milieu is a series of poems, lyrics, essays and articles, by the Ukranian-born writer. In the early 1900s, Segal relocated to Montreal, where he became one of the first Yiddish writers in Canada. Felsen translated the work of Pierre Anctil, from French to English, analyzing the artistic, spiritual and cultural importance of Mr. Segal’s work.

The translation depicts both his biography and work highlights, explaining how he lived in Montreal throughout the Holocaust, and how his Yiddish language and writing helped prosper the Jewish culture in Canada.