Beyond All Memories – The Semer Ensemble and the Rescued Treasure of Jewish Musical Life in Nazi Berlin

November 9, 2020 marks the 82nd remembrance day of the German Reichspogromnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”).

Together with Liberation75, the German Embassy and Consulates want to remember this night in 1938 and reflect on its significance and lessons today. The Webinar tells this story: “Beyond All Memories – The Semer Ensemble and the Rescued Treasure of Jewish Musical Life in
Nazi Berlin”

A short film preview and ensuing discussion will showcase newly interpreted music originally recorded by Jewish musicians in 1930’s Berlin).

Date: Monday, November 9th at 2 pm (Eastern Standard Time).
Moderated by Laila Biali, singer and CBC Radio 2 presenter; Ben Wittman, percussionist, composer.
Participants: Dr. Alan Bern, director of the Semer Ensemble, Dr. Rainer Lotz, music historian and discographer, and Sasha Lurje, singer in the Semer Ensemble. Greetings by Marilyn Sinclair, Director of Liberation 75 and the German Ambassadors in the United States and in Canada.

Please access the following link and register according to the instructions in order to join the

The stage show Semer Reloaded features music from the Golden Age of Jewish Music, songs of love and jealousy, dreams and daily life. The music, originally composed and performed by Jewish musicians in 1930’s Berlin, was recorded by Hirsch Lewin through his label ‘Semer.’ Originally the
owner of a Hebrew bookstore in Berlin, Lewin began recording and collecting music by Jewish artists after founding his label in 1932. Lewin was able to create thousands of recordings and produce
hundreds of records. The Semer label defiantly recorded even as the Nazi oppression of Jewish cultural life continuously increased.

Lewin’s important work was violently stopped by the Nazi’s during the Reichspogromnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9th, 1938.
His label destroyed, the collection was then forgotten for decades, only to be recovered by Dr. Rainer Lotz, a German music historian, in the 1990s. Lotz travelled the world for years, managing to find all of the original records.
The Jewish Museum in Berlin tasked Dr. Alan Bern, a renowned musician and composer, with the evaluation of the musical collection. He found treasures. Ever since, Dr. Bern has gone on to reinterpret and perform the music with the ensemble of outstanding musicians that he united, most of them living in Berlin. The Semer Ensemble brings to the German capital and the world a remarkable cultural heritage that was long lost and has been rescued, a story beautifully captured in Christoph Weinert’s short film, “Beyond All Memories – The Semer Ensemble and the Rescued Treasure of
Jewish Musical Life in Nazi Berlin.”

McGill IBD Research Group proceeds with Zoom fundraiser featuring mentalist Oz Pearlman

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the show must go on and  The McGill IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Research Group will indeed hold its annual  “Laugh Your Butt Off” fundraising event  – this year dubbed “Laugh Your Butt Off (At Home!)” on Thursday, November 12 via Zoom, featuring international entertainer and mentalist Oz Pearlman.

Oz Pearlman

The evening will also serve as a tribute to the late Dr. Ernest Seidman, the renowned gastroenterologist who was a Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics, Canada Research Chair in Immune Mediated Gastrointestinal Disorders and the Bruce Kaufman Endowed Chair in IBD at McGill. He passed away shortly after last year’s fundraiser, after havingimproved the lives of thousands of patients in his 40-year career.

Back by popular demand, Oz Pearlman has been reading the minds of America’s Got Talent judges, audiences everywhere, and now Zoom viewers. In addition to a 45-minute show, Oz will be doing eight private meet-and-greets with some lucky sponsors.

“These last few months have been uneasy for everyone and one could have never predicted how our world has been shaken,” said Lorne Mayers, chairman of the McGill IBD Research Group. “With all this uncertainty, and emphasis on social distancing, this time has also proven to be one where people have managed to come together for support and comfort, showing resiliency and strength.”

Dr. Ernest Seidman

The McGill IBD Research Group, with its dedicated IBD clinics at the Montreal General, Jewish General, and the Montreal Children’s, was no exception. The clinical team, comprised of the doctors, nurses, and psychologists, quickly established themselves to provide exceptional care through telemedicine, 24/7 email accessibility, online educational sessions for both patients and their families, as well as a rapid-access clinic that remained open during the pandemic. The research team also continued their academic and research trials in both the adult and pediatric populations. “While the world may have been experiencing the unexpected, those with IBD were able to rely upon us to fulfil our mandate to provide expert medical care, services, and resources to those affected,” said Dr. Peter Lakatos, who has tried to fill part of the void left by Dr. Seidman’s passing.

Sponsorships are still available.  

About Oz Pearlman

Dazzling audiences with his unique mind-reading ability for over a decade, Israeli-born Oz Pearlman is a world-class entertainer and one of the busiest mentalists in the country. A top three 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 him her on America’s Got Talent.

About The McGill IBD Research Group

The McGill IBD Research Group was established in 1992 by concerned members of the community to ensure financial support for IBD clinics at McGill University’s teaching hospitals. Its mandate is to continue to provide important services for those living with IBD, as well as their friends and family, with the overall goal of improving quality of life and preventing complications. Services include accessible, state of the art patient-centered care provided by multidisciplinary teams; clinical research on the genetic and environmental causes of IBD, novel, non-invasive diagnostic methods, the most up to date therapies in both the adult and pediatric populations; training the next generation of IBD clinicians and scientists; and  raising awareness about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis through patient education and community outreach programs.

Tickets for the fundraiser are available online at or by calling 514-594-0614. The cost is $500 per device.    

Ve’ahavta Creates an Innovative Virtual Volunteerism Campaign Designed to Make Real Impact in the Lives of People Affected by Poverty and Homelessness

As cooler weather begins to take hold, the ongoing Covid19 pandemic continues to significantly impact the manner in which we go about our everyday lives. The effects exacerbate significantly for those currently experiencing poverty and homelessness. Food and housing insecurity are on the rise. With an estimated 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto right now, an increase of approximately 15% from last year’s stats. Unfortunately, that number is expected to increase due to the economic impacts of Covid-19.

Now more than ever, there is a need for those able to help those less fortunate than them. In response, Ve’ahavta has created an innovative virtual volunteerism program – The Ve’ahavta Project: Act to Impact, in hopes of inspiring the public to get involved and enable them to make a real difference from the safety of their own home. Last year marked the launch of the campaign, where hundreds of volunteers gathered together in person, creating a variety of items for people living in poverty and experiencing homelessness, essentials such as mattresses, blankets, and food packages.  The event secured 400 volunteers and $500,000 was raised. 
This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions and with the health and safety of all involved in mind, the program is going virtual. This year’s program includes a variety of elements designed to truly engage with volunteers.  In addition to fundraising, participants will be able to choose from four different activities including cooking, baking, blanket making, and creating harm reduction kits. Participants will also learn about some of the core issues that cause and exacerbate homelessness – Affordable housing, food security, mental health, and substance abuse. The virtual campaign will be hosted through ZOOM, and starts Sunday, November 8, at 2 PM EST.

“This won’t be your typical “stare-at-the-screen Zoom meeting,” says Brandon Lablong, Director of Development, Ve’ahavta. “In addition to participating in the activities in real-time, participants will be able to engage live with facilitators, educators, and fellow volunteers. They will also have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Ve’ahavta’s clients who have faced hardship and be inspired by their personal stories on how they transformed their lives,” says Lablong.

“We know that people are looking for ways to actively help those in need, but aren’t sure how to during a pandemic when they have to stay home to keep themselves and others safe,” says Cari Kozierok, Ve’ahavta’s Executive Director. “Virtual volunteerism is a great opportunity to engage in some productive hands-on activities with the family, to make supplies that will be immediately useful for people living on the streets of Toronto and others experiencing homelessness. People will also learn the key issues that contribute to homelessness in this city and how they can make a real change by volunteering for our other programs that provide training and assist people to move onto employment or further their education,” says Kozierok.

In addition to the event, Ve’ahavta is making it very accessible for the public to donate to initiatives that directly benefit those in need. For example, as little as $5 can be donated to the 10 x 10 underwear challenge which provides this essential item to keep individuals healthy, warm, and feeling positive.  Bedrock Clothing is sponsoring this challenge and will match people’s donation pair for pair with a goal of donating 10,000 pairs!
Event DetailsSunday, November 8, 2020, at 2 PM on ZOOMInterested participants can sign up HEREVolunteers and Ve’ahavta program participants will create blankets, food packages, and harm reduction kits for those experiencing poverty and homelessness.

For more information about Ve’ahavta and The Ve’ahavta Project, see and
Ve’ahavta is a Jewish humanitarian organization dedicated to promoting positive change in the lives of people of all faiths and backgrounds who have been marginalized by poverty and hardship. Ve’ahavta mobilizes volunteers in meaningful, hands-on experiences to fulfill our collective responsibility to care for our neighbour.

Sidney Margles remembers the October crisis

It was Yom Kippur.  A Saturday. So this high holiday season it brought back some memories. It was October 10, 1970.

For those who do not remember, we were at the start of The October crisis. British Trade Commissioner Jasper  had been kidnapped from his Montreal home five days earlier. The Robert Bourassa Quebec government and the Pierre Trudeau Federal government and the Jean Drapeau municipal governments were all in a quandary.

 So Saturday, October 10 was Yom Kippur in the Jewish calendar. I was at the Adath Israel Synagogue for services, but because I was “on call,” by Bellboy, one of those original pagers was “on,” and Rabbi Michael Kramer told me his office would be unlocked so I could use the telephone if it became necessary.

 At mid-afternoon, I was paged, left the sanctuary, and called in to CJAD where I was the lead reporter. Quebec Justice Minister Jerome Choquette was to speak at 5:30, and as I was the one to translate his remarks as we did a live broadcast, I left the synagogue to go to the radio station.

 After The broadcast, where there was an appeal to Cross’ kidnappers, I was going to return to the synagogue for the final services of that holy day. As I was about to leave, minutes after 6 p.m., I heard, over the police radio.

The October crisis.

“Monsieur Laporte…enleve…a St. lambert.” I knew the late Pierre Laporte, the current Labour Minister who had been a journalist in his earlier days.

I immediately called the Montreal police dispatcher to confirm that indeed it was the Pierre Laporte that I knew who had been kidnapped from in front of his home.   Without any hesitation, I went into the announce studio where Bob Fisher was reading the sportscast.  I moved his chair (on wheels) out of the way, and in broadcast fashion, interrupted to announce the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte.

I stayed in the studio, ad libbing, telling our listeners what we knew, adding information as it came in and carried on.

 I never did get back to synagogue that day, the only time in my many, many years in broadcasting that I ever worked on Yom Kippur.

I now wish to share my memories of what happened the night when Pierre Laporte’s body was found, as many of my friends may recall that terrible time.

The Laporte funeral.

It was a Saturday, about a month after the first significant event, the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James “Jasper” Cross.

For the first time in weeks, I was able to go out to dinner with my wife and friends, Dr.and Mrs. Joseph Gauze.  We were at the Beaver Club of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, just completing our dinner, when the maître d’ advised me that there was a flurry of activity by some Quebec officials in the lobby (Robert Bourassa, the premier, had temporarily taken up residence there).  I called in to CJAD’s newsroom where they did not know what was up.

But I was a hunch player and decided we should leave so I could be free to follow up what was happening. Driving from the Queen E to my home in Town of Mount Royal saw me take Cote Sainte Catherine Road. As I passed the corner of McNider, in Outremont, where Justice Minister Jerome Choquette lived, I decided to stop and speak to his bodyguard who was parked outside.

I was told something was up on the South Shore, near the St. Hubert airport, but he did not know anything else.  So, I immediately told my wife and friends to leave the car and take a taxi home while I turned around and headed to the CJAD studios.  This was around 11 pm.

While enroute, through our mobile radio system, I tracked down Rick Leckner who worked with me.  He had gone out to dinner with his wife to a South Shore restaurant, so I told him to head to the St. Hubert airport.

Minutes after 11, we received confirmation that the car in which Pierre Laporte had been abducted was found abandoned at the airport. By that time, Rick had reached the airport perimeter, and I had entered the studio to broadcast the news update.

We received confirmation that the car’s trunk had been opened and Laporte’s body was inside. Rick provided me with updates, and I anchored the live broadcast, adding in additional information from my own recollection, augmented by material provided by the newsroom, and from our Ottawa bureau where they were working because the House of Commons was in special session, debating the implementation the day before of the War Measures Act. Because of our hook-up with our Ottawa bureau, we heard, live, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and a variety of politicians throughout the night.

I should note that with the report of Laporte’s death, all kinds of rumours began circulating that Jasper Cross had been found, as far away as Rawdon, I had our newsroom check out all the rumours and Quebec Provincial Police denied the Rawdon rumor.  I therefore consistently said the rumours were unfounded, and I was proven to be correct. (Jasper Cross remained in captivity for a few more weeks before police uncovered the hideout and rescued him in an exchange where the kidnappers were given safe passage to Cuba).

I remained continuously on air until dawn when a colleague took over the broadcast.

Temple Emanu-el-Beth Shalom Kol Nidre to be livestreamed

The following is a message from Temple Emanu-el-Beth Shalom

Temple Emanu-el-Beth Shalom in Westmount has announced  that  they will be opening up their online Kol Nidre service to the wider community. The service will be livestreamed for all, beginning 7:45 PM, on Sunday September 27  from their website:

As we grapple with how to create community at a distance – coupled with new citywide, COVID-19 alerts – we want to provide a community service to those outside of our congregation who have been impacted suddenly by the COVID-19 Level-3 Alert recently issued by the Quebec government and are no longer able to attend in-person services.  Additionally, we have taken steps to ensure our elders are not cut off from community; we have taken a small first step by making this Kol Nidre service available to residences this year, and providing tablets too, when possible.

We are excited to be able to offer our Temple members and the entire community-at-large the opportunity to share this meaningful service with us online. Rabbi Lisa Gruschow will be leading the sermon, along with Musical Director Rona Nadler.

Kol Nidre is an Aramaic declaration recited in the synagogue before the beginning of the evening service on every Yom Kippur.  The Reform Judaism organization explains, “For most North American Jews, Kol Nidrei surely is the single piece of liturgy that best represents Yom Kippur. This haunting melody, often played by a cellist then chanted by the cantor and choir in front of the open ark, causes all who are present to delve deeply into their heart and soul, looking for forgiveness. We are so appreciative to the cantorial soloist is Joseph Kaiser, and to our soloist, choir members, organists for their moving performances.  We are especially grateful that our cellist Denis Brott will be playing Kol Nidre after months of illness with COVID-19 and a long recovery. All the music has been prerecorded to ensure everyone’s safety, and will be incorporated into the live-streamed service. We invite you to watch a preview here:

Denis Brott

Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom is Montreal’s only Reform synagogue. With more than eight hundred member families, Temple is a caring, supportive and inclusive congregation built on Jewish tradition, education, celebration and community. Temple offers worship, learning and social opportunities for all ages, including programming for teenagers and 20 – 30 years old group and social action initiatives. For more information, please visit or contact Marci Stepak at

NY Times story on herd community includes sharp focus on Jewish community

What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

In what may be the world’s most important math puzzle, researchers are trying to figure out how many people in a community must be immune before the coronavirus fades.

The Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn was hit hard by the coronavirus, reaching thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths by April.
Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

We’ve known from the beginning how the end will arrive. Eventually, the coronavirus will be unable to find enough susceptible hosts to survive, fading out wherever it briefly emerges.

To achieve so-called herd immunity — the point at which the virus can no longer spread widely because there are not enough vulnerable humans — scientists have suggested that perhaps 70 percent of a given population must be immune, through vaccination or because they survived the infection.

Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews with The New York Times, more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less. If that’s true, then it may be possible to turn back the coronavirus more quickly than once thought.

The new estimates result from complicated statistical modeling of the pandemic, and the models have all taken divergent approaches, yielding inconsistent estimates. It is not certain that any community in the world has enough residents now immune to the virus to resist a second wave.

But in parts of New York, London and Mumbai, for example, it is not inconceivable that there is already substantial immunity to the coronavirus, scientists said.

“I’m quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “What happens this winter will reflect that.”

“The question of what it means for the population as a whole, however, is much more fraught,” he added.

Herd immunity is calculated from the epidemic’s so-called reproductive number, R0, an indicator of how many people each infected person spreads the virus to.

The initial calculations for the herd immunity threshold assumed that each community member had the same susceptibility to the virus and mixed randomly with everyone else in the community.

“That doesn’t happen in real life,” said Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. “Herd immunity could vary from group to group, and subpopulation to subpopulation,” and even by postal codes, he said.

For example, a neighborhood of older people may have little contact with others but succumb to the virus quickly when they encounter it, whereas teenagers may bequeath the virus to dozens of contacts and yet stay healthy themselves. The virus moves slowly in suburban and rural areas, where people live far apart, but zips through cities and households thick with people.

Once such real-world variations in density and demographics are accounted for, the estimates for herd immunity fall. Some researchers even suggested the figure may be in the range of 10 to 20 percent, but they were in the minority.

Assuming the virus ferrets out the most outgoing and most susceptible in the first wave, immunity following a wave of infection is distributed more efficiently than with a vaccination campaign that seeks to protect everyone, said Tom Britton, a mathematician at Stockholm University.

His model puts the threshold for herd immunity at 43 percent — that is, the virus cannot hang on in a community after that percentage of residents has been infected and recovered.

Still, that means many residents of the community will have been sickened or have died, a high price to pay for herd immunity. And experts like Dr. Hanage cautioned that even a community that may have reached herd immunity cannot afford to be complacent.

The virus may still flare up here and there, even if its overall spread is stymied. It’s also unclear how long someone who has recovered may be immune, and for how long.

ImageHealth officials screened residents of the Koliwada neighborhood of Mumbai in April.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

The coronavirus crashed this year’s Purim celebrations in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods of New York City, tearing through the parades and masquerades in Brooklyn on March 9 and 10.

Schools and synagogues soon shut down to quell the spread, but it was too late. By April, thousands in the Brooklyn communities were infected, and hundreds had died.

“It’s like a black hole in my memory because of how traumatic it was,” said Blimi Marcus, a nurse practitioner who lives in Borough Park, which was hit hard by the virus.

But all that has changed now, Ms. Marcus added: “The general feeling is one of complacency, that somehow we’ve all had it and we’re safe.” 

Is it possible that some of these communities have herd immunity? In some clinics, up to 80 percent of people tested had antibodies to the virus. The highest prevalence was found among teenage boys.

But people at clinics are more likely to be showing symptoms and therefore more likely to be infected, said Wan Yang, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York. Random household surveys would probably find lower rates — but still well above the 21 percent average reported for New York City, she said.

Researchers in Mumbai conducted just such a random household survey, knocking on every fourth door — or, if it was locked, the fifth — and took blood for antibody testing. They found a startling disparity between the city’s poorest neighborhoods and its more affluent enclaves. Between 51 and 58 percent of residents in poor areas had antibodies, versus 11 to 17 percent elsewhere in the city.

The lowest-income residents are packed tightly together, share toilets, and have little access to masks. “These factors contributed to a silent infection spread,” said Dr. Jayanthi Shastri, a microbiologist at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai who led the work.

Most researchers are wary of concluding that the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Brooklyn, or even those in blighted areas of Mumbai, have reached herd immunity or will be spared future outbreaks.

But models like Dr. Britton’s hint that it’s not impossible. Other researchers have suggested, controversially, that herd immunity can be achieved at rates of immunity as low as 10 or 20 percent — and that entire countries may already have achieved that goal.

Criticism trailed Sunetra Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University, after a widely circulated interview in which she said that London and New York may already have reached herd immunity because of variability among people, combined with a theoretical immunity to common cold coronaviruses that may protect against the new one.

“That could be the explanation for why you don’t see a resurgence in places like New York,” she said.

Most experts reject that notion. Several studies have shown that certain immune cells produced following infection with seasonal coronaviruses may also recognize the new coronavirus.

But “where is the evidence that it’s protective?” asked Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida.

“We are still nowhere near back to normal in our daily behavior,” said Virginia Pitzer, a mathematical epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. “To think that we can just stop doing all that and go back to normal and not see a rise in cases I think is wrong, is incorrect.”

A second wave might also hit groups or neighborhoods that were spared by the first, and still wreak havoc, she said. Immunity is a patchwork quilt in New York, for instance: Antibodies were present in 68 percent of people visiting a clinic in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, for instance, but in just 13 percent of those tested at a clinic in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn.

But another group, led by the mathematician Gabriela Gomes of the University of Strathclyde in Britain, accounted for variations within a society in its model and found that Belgium, England, Portugal and Spain have herd immunity thresholds in the range of 10 to 20 percent.

“At least in countries we applied it to, we could never get any signal that herd immunity thresholds are higher,” Dr. Gomes said. “I think it’s good to have this horizon that it may be just a few more months of pandemic.”

Other experts urged caution, saying these models are flawed, as all models are, and that they oversimplify conditions on the ground.

Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, said it wasn’t clear to him that Dr. Gomes’s model offered only one possible solution. And he was suspicious of the big ranges among the four countries.

“I think we’d be playing with fire if we pretended we’re done with this,” Dr. Shaman said.

The new models offer food for thought, he and other experts said, but should not be used to set policy.

“Mathematically, it’s certainly possible to have herd immunity at these very, very low levels,” said Carl Bergstrom, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Those are just our best guesses for what the numbers should look like.”

“But,” he added, “they’re just exactly that, guesses.”


Borough Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., late last month. Fewer than 1 percent of people tested at neighborhood clinics in Brooklyn over the past eight weeks have had the virus.
Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

But what about immunity at levels lower than those needed for herd immunity?

“Definitely the disease would not spread as well if it gets back into New York,” said Joel Miller, a mathematical modeler at La Trobe University in Australia. “The same level of behavior change will have more effect on the disease now than it did four months ago.”

Thinking of a city or country as composed of subgroups, demarcated by age, race and level of social activity, might also help governments protect those with the least immunity.

That perspective also might help put a renewed focus on groups who require the higher levels of immunity, because of greater exposure levels and other inequities, including Black and Latino residents, said Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease expert at Emory University. “That’s where this info is very useful,” he said.

The models also suggest a vaccination strategy: Rather than uniformly vaccinate all groups, governments could identify and immunize those most likely to be exposed in “superspreader” events.

“Getting those people vaccinated first can lead to the greatest benefit,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. “That alone could lead to herd immunity.”

Vaccination schemes for other pathogens have successfully exploited this approach. For example, when children were given the pneumococcal vaccine in the early 2000s, rates of bacterial pneumonia in the elderly rapidly dropped because of a “herd effect.”

Vaccines that offer just 50 percent protection are considered to be moderately effective, but at that efficiency, even a low herd immunity target would require that a large proportion of the population be immunized, Dr. Bergstrom noted.

If there are early reports of side effects that may scare away some people, he said, “we’d do well to start thinking about all that now.”

Back in Brooklyn, fewer than 1 percent of people tested at neighborhood clinics over the past eight weeks were infected with the virus. But there are still handfuls of cases, Ms. Marcus said, adding that her 10-year-old niece was in quarantine because a counselor at her day camp had tested positive.

“Sometimes that’s all you need, right?” she said. “I’m still hoping we don’t see what we had in March and April, but I’m not so sure that we’ve seen the end of it.”

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.