B’nai Brith condemns desecration of Torah scrolls and religious items

B’nai Brith Canada is shocked and appalled by the violation of a local synagogue,  Congregation  Sépharade  Kol Yehouda  on Baily Road in Côte Saint-Luc, one of the worst such incidents to take place in Canada in years.

On Wednesday, a congregant visited a small  synagogue on Baily Road in Côte St-Luc, Que. with his son to retrieve ritual items for use at home over the Shavuot holiday, which begins Thursday night. He was horrified to find Torah scrolls dumped on the floor, and other religious items stuffed into toilets. Torah scrolls are considered extremely sacred in Judaism, to the extent that damaged scrolls are typically buried in a cemetery, rather than being disposed of in any other manner.

A look at some of the desecration.

Since the synagogue has been closed for months on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear precisely when the break-in and desecration occurred.

B’nai Brith Canada swiftly reported the damage to Montreal Police, and requested that other local synagogues be checked as well, in case they have also been vandalized while congregants have been absent.à

“This disgusting act of antisemitism comes on the eve of our holiday of Shavuot, a celebration of the Jews receiving the Torah, especially the Ten Commandments,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

“B’nai Brith has been in contact with the clergy of the synagogue to offer our assistance and we are in contact with the Montreal Police & Hate Crimes Unit. This brazen and shameful incident comes on the heels of the release of our 2019 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, in which over 2,000 incidents were reported across Canada for the fourth straight year.”

MADA Introduces “Meals à Partager” – Delivery of Prepared Meals to Most Isolated Members of Community

MADA, a non-profit community center with a mission to care for people in need by providing basic necessities, today announced the launch of “Meals à Partager”, a new program to deliver prepared kosher meals to the most isolated members of the community.

“Meals à Partager” offers three prepared/pre-cooked meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), per person, per day. Deliveries are made twice weekly.  All meals are planned with nutritional requirements in mind and based on ease of preparation. For example, many meals are pre-packed in aluminium dishes for easy reheating in the oven. In its first week, the program served about 800 people. That number is expected to double and may go higher in response to demand. Meals are delivered by car, driven by volunteers, directly to clients’ doors. Recipients must be 65 years of age or older, in self-isolation and/or suffering from pre-existing medical conditions.

This program is being launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but will be permanent and is intended to address larger issues that predate the current crisis: Many seniors lack the resources to feed themselves, some wrestle with medical challenges and limited mobility, and others suffer from the mental health risks associated with isolation.

“The Covid-19 crisis has been difficult for everyone but particularly hard on the elderly who often live alone and are now being told to stay home,” says Rabbi Chaim Cohen, Executive Director, MADA. “We are launching this program in response to feedback from the community. People need the safety and convenience of home deliveries. Plus, prepared meals must be quick and easy to reheat. Our mission of feeding people in need has not changed. But, we have adjusted how we do it.”

“Our success rests on the support of the community. We need volunteers and donors. There are many ways to contribute. For example, we have volunteers who may not make deliveries because they are self-isolating but continue to reach out to clients by telephone. We know from experience that the client/volunteer relationship is mutually-rewarding. That may be truer now than ever before,” adds Rabbi Cohen.

“While MADA delivers food, we are also committed to ensuring that everyone in our community is able to live with dignity. We are all part of the same family. Clients, volunteers and donors – everyone is important. Many must self-isolate but they should not be made to feel lonely. By delivering prepared meals we want to give people hope and help them maintain their dignity. Our message is: While you may be isolated because of this virus, you have not been forgotten by your community,” concludes Rabbi Cohen.

Please note: MADA’s Cafeteria remains open. All meals are served in individually-wrapped containers for “take-out” only.

Jewish General Hospital Foundation launches $5M COVID-19 Campaign. Three Quebec women are leading the way with gifts totalling $1.3M

A comprehensive COVID-19 campaign has been launched by the Jewish General Hospital Foundation and already has the support of three major Quebec
philanthropists:

• Sharon Azrieli – C.Q., D.Mus.
• Sophie Desmarais – recipient of the Quebec National Assembly Medal of Honour and
• Lisa Mierins on behalf of the Mierins Family Foundation – former JGH Foundation Board member

The three women have proudly stepped up to fund the front-line fight against the worldwide pandemic  today, tomorrow and well beyond the peak of the novel coronavirus. They are asking for those who  can, to join them.

Sharon Azrieli

Dr. Sharon Azrieli has generously contributed $563,000 to fund the the Sharon Azrieli Creative  Space which will be equipped initially with three state-of-the-art industrial 3D printers. “In our  tradition, we believe strongly in the proverb – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I conceived of the Creative Space with this in mind. Not only will the JGH be able to prototype ventilators now but once they have helped  battle COVID-19, they will be able to create other critical equipment for the future” said Dr.  Azrieli of the first-in-Quebec space she personally made possible. “I honestly believe in this
idea, and if the community likes it too, I ask that they give generously. I will match whatever  additional amount is raised up to $500,000,” said the Montreal born-and-raised opera singer and  creator of the Azrieli Music Prizes.

Sophie Desmarais

For her part, Sophie Desmarais has made a $500,000 gift towards COVID-19 research at the JGH. “The Jewish General Hospital is one of the top Hospitals in Quebec, and when they informed me of these  projects, I immediately decided to get involved. I am compelled to support our hometown research  and expertise in the face of this global pandemic. We are all in this together. We need to come  together and support the exceptional efforts made by medical professionals and researchers. It is  essential everyone contributes what they can. Together we will get there,” said Ms. Desmarais.

Lisa Mierins

The $250,000 donation of Ms. Lisa Mierins, on behalf of the Mierins Family Foundation, is directed à to the immediate COVID-related equipment needs of the JGH. “It is not an option to do nothing when there is so much need. Whether big or small, we all must step up. Our family has benefited in many ways over the years from the hospital’s incredible doctors and medical services. It is our  pleasure to help the hospital and the JGH Emergency Department deal with the COVID-19 crisis during  these unprecedented difficult times,” said Ms. Mierins.

COVID-19 related initiatives funded by the $5M campaign include projects such as

• The first of its kind in Quebec:
o The Sharon Azrieli Creative Space equipped initially with three state-of-the-art industrial 3D printers, where the JGH will begin prototyping 3D ventilators and other medical equipment
• High-impact research to keep our healthcare professionals ahead of COVID-19 such as:
o Creating a biobank that will make predicting optimal treatment for COVID patients possible;
o Using artificial intelligence to predict where the coronavirus will hit and warn at- risk people;
o Investigating what makes this new coronavirus transmit so rapidly and what drugs could combat it;
o Reducing the time and space required to diagnose COVID-19;
• Important mental health programs – such as telepsychiatry to help people through  pandemic-related distress
• Patient-centred eldercare – aiding the most vulnerable members of our community using  technology like ESOGER1, an online tool used to evaluate the socio-geriatric situation of a  specific elderly person
• Critical resources for now and beyond COVID-19 – including:
o COVIDOM, an e-health application that allows patients who are COVID-positive (or suspected) to  benefit from home monitoringè

“The JGH is part of a global community and there are no borders when it comes to COVID-19. We are  striving to strengthen efforts in the face of this virus. These three women and those who join them  will change the course of this worldwide pandemic saving thousands of lives,” said Bram Freedman, President and CEO of the JGH Foundation.

Edinburgh News chronicles Côte Saint-Luc native’s brush with intolerance

An Edinburgh bagel shop owner was left “shocked” when her landlord branded her request for a rent break during the Covid-19 lockdown as “typical Jewish behaviour.”

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 4:45 pm

Larah Bross, who runs the Bross Bagels shop in Portobello, said she tried to make alternative rent payment arrangements with Mario Aydemir Demirezen for the next three months due to the economic impact of the pandemic, as she has done with the landlords at her four other Edinburgh shops.

But Mr Demirezen, who is retired and has deteriorating health, said he is stuck in Turkey due to the lockdown after going there recently for private medical care. He says he wants April’s rent payment now because he is unable to sort out any financial assistance from outside of the UK.

Speaking from Turkey, the 66-year-old claimed Miss Bross has the money to pay this month’s rent and said that small businesses in other commercial properties he owns in Portobello have done so.

And he said his reference to her “typical Jewish behaviour” in a text message to Miss Bross concerning the dispute should be viewed as a compliment on her ability as a clever businesswoman, and that he has “no intention of upsetting anyone” or “going against any religion.”

But Miss Bross, whose Jewish identity is reflected by the kosher menu in her Montreal-style bagel shops, is adamant she can not pay after being forced to close her five Edinburgh shops – Potobello, Leith, Bruntsfield, West End and Stockbridge – and furlough 39 of her 47 staff.

The 42-year-old says she was “shocked and disgusted” by the text message, which was sent at the weekend and has been seen by the Edinburgh Evening News. She said: “My first thought was ‘wow,’ I can not believe that someone, not only in this day an

Miss Bross says the fallout has exacerbated an already stressful situation which has involved shutting her shops and dealing with endless paperwork for rent rearrangements for her other landlords, bank loans and staff furlough payments.

She continued: “I want people to realise this is a difficult time and want to help other people who might be struggling here, other independent businesses.

“I want landlords to be considerate to their tenants who are just trying to make it through, just like they are.”

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The Portobello Bross Bagels shop. Copyright: Other 3rd Party

She says she also offered a compromise to Mr Demirezen to review the situation with coronavirus in May instead of automatically deferring the next three months’ rent.

But she is unsure if they will be able to sustain a relationship in the future given recent discussions.

‘She should be proud’

Mr Demirezen, who says he recently had two heart bypass operations and two strokes and is currently hooked up to an oxygen machine, said: “We are talking about the relationship between landlord and tenant here and she is a clever Jewish lady and she is taking advantage of Covid-19 and making more (money) than anyone else.

“When I say typical Jewish, I mean they are the richest people in the world and very clever people. She should be proud of her Jewish identity. Jewish people are always clever and there’s nothing wrong with that, she should be proud.

“She has got money but not paying it. She is doing quite well in Edinburgh with the opening of all of these branches and she has five shops. If you are running five shops in three years then you must be clever.

“I do not wish to fall out with her as a person and it’s nice to be nice to people.

“I have no intention to go against any religion.”

Home delivery

Miss Bross says she has furloughed 39 staff across her business and that her new ‘Bross Deli’ home delivery service is helping to pay some of their wages while they wait on the UK Government’s furlough payments coming through.

The new home delivery offering, which is run by eight staff from her Bruntsfield shop, sends deli ingredients to customers to make up their own bagels at home during the lockdown period.

Miss Bross said: “We’re trying to continue the food service and keep the company in operation so there is a business for the 39 staff members to return to.

“All I want to do is put some kind of arrangement in place.”

In response to Mr Demirezen’s explanation for the meaning of his text message, Miss Bross said: “I would love to know in any context at any time where the term ‘typical Jewish’ was used as a compliment. I will be happy to offer free bagels for a year to anyone who can provide me with one.”

Miss Bross has been in discussions with her Portobello landlord over deferring rent payments since March 23rd.

Established in August 2017, owner Larah Bross has seen big success with her authentic Montreal style bagels. Organic and kosher, they are homemade in the Bross bakery in Leith.

Financial assistance

Where they are paying business rates, commercial landlords may be eligible for support, including rates relief, grant funding and loans – depending on individual circumstances –during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Montreal Jewish Community Unites to Make MADA’s Passover Food Distribution a Success Despite Challenges of Covid-19 Crisis

MADA, a non-profit community center with a mission to care for people in need by providing basic necessities, today announced that individual volunteers, the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF), Federation CJA (FCJA) and Centraide Montreal have united to help MADA fulfill its mission of delivering Kosher for Passover food to thousands of Jewish households in Montreal.

Around 2,000 Passover baskets have already been delivered and more than 5,000 “Seder in a Box” packages are being delivered today. 

 Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, MADA has tripled its efforts to deliver food to an increasingly large number of vulnerable people. Working with a skeletal staff, MADA is primarily reliant on the tireless efforts of about 350 volunteers who contact clients by telephone, prepare food, package food and deliver it by car. All volunteers are observing strict health policies including social distancing and the wearing of gloves and masks.

“We wish to thank all volunteers, the JCF, the FCJA and Centraide Montreal for their support,” says Rabbi Chaim Cohen, Executive Director, MADA. “MADA has become the principal platform for feeding vulnerable members of Montreal’s Jewish community. Thanks to our combined efforts, we are completing our mission of ensuring a blessed Kosher Passover for thousands of households, despite the Covid-19 crisis. Our community is more resilient that ever and on behalf of the MADA team, I wish to thank everyone who contributed.”

Founded in 1993, MADA is a volunteer-based organization that relies upon private donations from individuals and foundations. Based on the vision that protecting individual dignity is inseparable from the provision of care, we provide our patrons with social and crisis services free of charge and serve as a safe haven for those in need. MADA’s mission is to help people with the basic necessities of life, while helping them to become self-sufficient. MADA’s food bank feeds more than 4,500 people, on average, per month. Our cafeteria ends the loneliness and indignity of hunger in an uplifting environment. Friendly volunteers bring delicious meals directly to patrons’ tables, restaurant style. MADA also delivers meals and friendly visits to elderly patrons with limited mobility. Rooted in Jewish tradition and founded on a vision of caring, MADA welcomes, supports and embraces all people, irrespective of religion, race or nationality. MADA is committed to treating all people with dignity. Feeding people is often the end result but the approach involves opening hearts, acting as an extended family and treating people with respect. For more information on these and other services, please visit www.madacenter.com.

World premiere of new Yiddish translations of two songs

By Ben Gonshor

In the fall of 2018, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre presented A Bintl Brief, one of our most popular and produced plays.

One of the new elements we brought to this Bintl was the incorporation of music and song that weaved throughout the play. Most notable was the medley of two iconic English songs: “The Ballad of the Triangle Fire” and “Bread & Roses.” These songs commemorate the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claimed the lives of 146 young women in March 1911, while highlighting the pioneering role that women, in particular, played in fostering political, social, labour and economic reform in its aftermath.


The medley was the high point of the play – a moment so dramatic that it is indelibly etched on our minds to this day. This could not have been foreseen, yet became so due to the unique, remarkable phenomenon that is the DWYT.

Yes, we performed the medley – but in Yiddish. It didn’t exist in Yiddish. So… how? Why? What a question. Because that’s the DWYT! And when the decision was taken, it took no time at all for the sui generis team of Aron Gonshor and Edit Kuper –  two lifelong, devoted members of the DWYT –  to deliver poetry equal to the iconic, original English lyrics.

Not everyone got to see Bintl and experience that powerful moment. Now they can.

In commemoration of those who perished and in homage to pioneering women (including the namesake of our theatre company), I have the distinct honour of presenting to you the Yiddish language world premiere video of the “Triangle Fire & Bread and Roses” medley, as performed by the DWYT.

Here is the video

Please go to this website for more information: https://www.segalcentre.org/en/triangle-fire–bread–roses

 

MADA Initiates COVID-19 Emergency Plan – Food Distribution Now “Take-Out” Only

Pandemic expected to be particularly difficult for the elderly and socially isolated

MADA, a non-profit community center with a mission to care for people in need by providing basic necessities, today announced its COVID-19 emergency plan.

Specific measures include:

  • Clients, volunteers and employees are asked to avoid MADA if they:
    • Have been in contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19
    • Have been outside Quebec in the last 14 days
    • Are showing cold-like symptoms
  • Children under 18 and seniors over 70 years of age are asked to avoid MADA until further notice.
  • Clients, volunteers and employees will wear gloves and masks, and adhere to a strict social distancing policy.
  • The Cafeteria remains open. All meals will be served in individually-wrapped containers for “take-out” only. Access to the building will be restricted. Meals will be distributed in a temporary tent in MADA’s parking lot.
  • The Food Bank also remains open, but groceries will be distributed in pre-packed bags.
  • Shabbat to Share food boxes will be delivered on Thursdays. Volunteers will leave boxes at clients’ doors. They will no longer be permitted to enter clients’ homes.
  • All communal Passover Seders have been cancelled, however “Seder in a Box” will be available to clients who register online.
  • Passover Food Baskets will be distributed as planned. Pick-up will be from a temporary tent in MADA’s parking lot.
  • The Clothing Depot is closed until further notice. Donations of clothing may be deposited in bins in the nearby Decarie Square parking lot.
  • The Furniture Depot is closed until further notice.
Safely packing Passover boxes at the MADA warehouse.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting people all over the world,” says Rabbi Chaim Cohen, Executive Director, MADA. “At this difficult time, we are focused on caring for members of our immediate community – the elderly and often alone – who are among the most vulnerable in our society. We are committed to distributing food to as many people as possible. However, to reduce the risk of infection, all food will be for “take-out” only. While the reduction of personal human contact between clients and volunteers is a big loss for all concerned, it is necessary to protect public health. Our top priority remains our clients, whose needs are greater than ever during this unprecedented time. We thank everyone for their support and understanding.”

Founded in 1993, MADA is a volunteer-based organization that relies upon private donations from individuals and foundations. Based on the vision that protecting individual dignity is inseparable from the provision of care, we provide our patrons with social and crisis services free of charge and serve as a safe haven for those in need. MADA’s mission is to help people with the basic necessities of life, while helping them to become self-sufficient. MADA’s food bank feeds more than 4,500 people, on average, per month. Our cafeteria ends the loneliness and indignity of hunger in an uplifting environment. Friendly volunteers bring delicious meals directly to patrons’ tables, restaurant style. MADA also delivers meals and friendly visits to elderly patrons with limited mobility. Rooted in Jewish tradition and founded on a vision of caring, MADA welcomes, supports and embraces all people, irrespective of religion, race or nationality. MADA is committed to treating all people with dignity. Feeding people is often the end result but the approach involves opening hearts, acting as an extended family and treating people with respect. For more information on these and other services, please call(514) 342-4969 x 770 or visit www.madacenter.com .

 

Prominent rabbi shares his insight on how to clean and prepare fruits and vegetables

Hosted by MK, Canada’s Kosher Certifier , Rabbi Yossi Eisen,  was in Montreal for a whirlwind 48-hour visit to share his insights on how to clean and prepare fruits and vegetables.  He is a world-renowned expert in kashrus and hilchos tolaim,

“I was impressed with the comprehensive approach of MK and the strength of the organization’s leadership and commitment to ensuring Montrealers benefit from the highest quality of kosher food,” noted Rabbi Eisen. “At the same time I was overwhelmed by the interest in preparing fruits and vegetables in keeping with our traditions, from the students I met at the different schools to the impressive crowds at my public lectures.”

Rabbi Yossi Eisen world expert on infestation with Rabbi Berel Bell & Rabbi Saul Emanuel of MK – Canada Kosher

Rabbi Yossi Eisen is the chief administrator of the Five Towns Far Rockaway Kashrus agency in New York City. Rabbi Eisen is a world expert in the subject of Hilchos Tolaim and removing infestation from fruits and vegetables.

On Sunday evening Rabbi Eisen met with the rabbinical leadership of the Jewish Community Council and them made a multimedia presentation entitled “Tell the Bug to Bug Off to over 400 community members at the Montreal Torah Centre. The following afternoon over 250 attended a repeat performance at the Congregation Toldos Yakov Yosef Of Skver. In between the Rabbi met with students at different school  and provided a tutorial for 20 cooks at a private home in Côte Saint Luc.

“Our goal in inviting the Rabbi was to send out a positive message about the preparation of kosher food and the importance of following the rules and regulations that have been set to ensure the Kosher standards and well being of Jewish Montrealers,” explained Rabbi Saul Emanuel. “His dynamic and informative was a practical tutorial on how to identify and remove infestation.”

MK certifies over 850 companies across Canada, including close to 100 establishments, caterers and synagogues across the island of Montreal. MK Canada Kosher has eight  Rabbis from across the city who meet weekly and is known worldwide as a highly respected Kosher Certification agency

Evening of Musical Inspirations at Dorshei Emet April 3

Congregation Dorshei Emet in Hampstead will be hosting  a wonderful event on Friday April 3 with a Kabbalat Shabbat evening called Musical Inspirations.  which will be led by two of  members Olga Gross and Deborah Kraus. The former is a harpist and pianist with the  MSO and Ottawa Symphony;  the latter,  an opera singer.

“What better way to welcome the arrival of Shabbat than an evening of song?” asks Ms. Gross.   “We  will present musical arrangements of the Shabbat liturgy to transition us from the bustle of the week to a place of contemplation and renewal.

There will be a potluck dinner afterwards. Participants should  bring a vegetarian or dairy dish. They can also call the office for more information 514-486-9400 and RSVP to programdirector@dorshei-emet.org.

 

Author of book recounting his mother’s survival from The Holocaust wants to speak in Montreal

By Mike Cohen

Seven years after the death of his mother, Malka, Stanley A. Goldman traveled to Israel to visit her best friend during the Holocaust. The best friend’s daughter showed Goldman a pamphlet she had acquired from the Yad Vashem that documented activities of one man’s negotiations with the Nazi’s interior minister and SS head, Heinrich Himmler, for the release of the Jewish women from the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. While looking through the pamphlet, the two discovered a picture that could have been their mothers being released from the camp. Wanting to know the details of how they were saved, Goldman set out on a long and difficult path to unravel the mystery.

After years of researching the pamphlet, Goldman learned that a German Jew named Norbert Masur made a treacherous journey from the safety of Sweden back into the war zone in order to secure the release of the Jewish women imprisoned at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Masur not only succeeded in his mission against all odds but he contributed to the downfall of the Nazi hierarchy itself. This amazing, little-known story uncovers a piece of history about the undermining of the Nazi regime, the women of the Holocaust, and the strained but loving relationship between a survivor and her son.

Left to the Mercy of a Rude Stream: The Bargain That Broke Adolf Hitler and Saved My Mother is Goldman’s book about his mother

Montreal broadcaster Peter Anthony Holder, who continues to air his excellent online radio show The Stuph File, interviewed Goldman recently. You can hear the interview and the entire show at this link.

Holder told me that Goldman is eager to come to Canada to speak to interested groups.  Interested parties can email me at info@mikecohen.ca and I will forward the requests.