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.

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

• 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.