A Year In Review: Ashely’s Journey

When I walked into the group MIT interview, I had no idea what was in store. I had no idea that this program would eventually change my life. I was so nervous and anxious when it came time to present my icebreaker.  I left the interview feeling more relaxed and went to the office a few days later for my one-on-one interview. I was even more nervous and found myself over talking and over thinking. I left that interview saying to myself, good luck, you’re going to need it! When I got the email inviting me to the weekend retreat, I was ecstatic! Up north, I got the chance to get to know the other Montreal MIT’s, as well as MIT’s from across Canada.

First MIT Session

This was when I began understanding my role in the Montreal Jewish Community. I realized I could make a difference in the community, and I learnt the skills necessary to becoming a great leader. The retreat was filled with food, rapping and dancing till all hours of the night. It was on this weekend that I made everlasting friendships. Through out the year, there were monthly MIT sessions where we developed our leadership skills. While they were educational, they were also extremely fun and informative. With each session, I felt more and more comfortable, and really felt as though I was a part of something. Everyone in the program was eager to get to know one another, and everyone always had a smile on their face. The energy was so contagious and I always found that after leaving the meeting, I had more energy than when I arrived. I also caught myself going to the BIEC office early or on my own time, because I never stopped laughing! You have to understand, I was never one to get involved with the Montreal Jewish Community. Through the MIT program, I was exposed to many interesting and amazing events. Whether it be latke competitions, serving hot meals to those in need at Le Café or cupcake decorating!

Community Cakes

Iron Chef Latka Competition

This would have been enough in itself to be life changing! I was fortunate enough to have gotten the opportunity to lead a trip with BIEC’s one and only, Jer Heitner. No one could have prepared me for a more rewarding and enriching experience. Being able to watch as some participants saw Israel for the first time, and being able to watch them go from individuals to an extended family was so overwhelming. I came home with a sense of empowerment, repeating Obama’s famous slogan, “Yes, we can!” After completing my MIT program, I will never doubt myself again, because everyone at the BIEC office believed in me. Because of this year long program, I now believe in myself. I will continue to stay involved with the program, because it is now a part of who I am. I hope to give the same comfort and welcoming smiles to those walking in the door to their first MIT adventure. Get ready, it’s going to be an amazing ride!

 

Meet Matthew Richman, the newest member of Team BIEC!!

My Name is Matthew Richman, and I’m currently working at BIEC and couldn’t be happier! I was fortunate enough to go on Birthright Israel during the winter of ’09, and little did I know, my life was about to be revamped. I was at the point where I didn’t know what I wanted, or what the future had in store for me. Due to perfect timing (story of my life), a newly expired work contract, I decided to be on my way to Israel, leaving the continent for the first time, with an open ended ticket and an open mind.

Like most, I didn’t know what to expect going in and wasn’t sure what I would take away from it but was still excited to see what would be. When I met up with everyone at the airport, the groups’ eagerness got me more excited.  I was also fortunate enough to have the infamous Jer Heitner as my Madrich and his contagious, positive energy helped me to immediately realize this was going to be a trip of a lifetime.

After the first falafel, I embraced the ten day trip and began looking forward to my adventure. The Birthright Israel trip as a whole is indescribable until you go, but quite simply, you discover, learn, and you love; these differ for each individual.

For the next two months, traveling was my agenda. New countries, people, and amazing food propelled me into a new world, now a part of my life and thing that helped shape who I am today. When I arrived back inMontreal, and reality, I still wasn’t sure what the future had in store for me, but realized I was bitten by the travel bug and needed to act on my new found passion. I felt compelled to find a new job, and fund my future travels to where I saw fit. Almost eight months had passed, and another freshly expired contract was in sight. The timing couldn’t have been better as I packed up for Australia, to find more answers to my life, again.

This time, I was gone for a year, going to places I’ve never imagined and meeting some of the most interesting people from all different walks of life. Now I started to get more of an idea of what drove me, and what was so amazing in what I was doing; sharing life with my new found community. When I came back toMontrealafter that time, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to bring back that feeling, until hearing about the opening at BIEC.

I knew I would be able to demonstrate the value of community, meet new people, and share my experiences with other Jewish young adults.  This is part of my story and my experiences; I now look forward to getting to know you and hearing about yours…

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Finding light in dark places: reflections on the March of the Living

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”  ~Anne Frank 

It has been over a week since I returned from a whirlwind trip through Poland and Israel, otherwise known as the March of the Living.  Almost immediately upon my return I sat down to write this blog post, but found it simply too difficult.  Anything I could possibly write, any stories I could recount, seemed to simply fail in comparison to the experience I had on the trip, my first time in Poland.  Now a week later, after sharing stories with family and friends, I realize there is one piece of the trip that stands out in my mind; not a specific anecdote or a site we visited, but an incredible life lesson I learned while traveling through Poland with 217 other Jews from Montreal.

March of the Living Montreal in Poland – photo courtesy of PBL Photography

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Vote for Enigma on Canada’s Got Talent!

What do Mel Weinstein, Julie Goldenberg, Tracey Shwartz and Ariela Levi all have in common? Aside from being talented dancers in theMontrealbased dance production Enigma, they are all Taglit Birthright Israel alumni!!!

In just over 48 hours, Enigma will take center stage onCanada’s Got Talent. The four girls along with their group members Florence Brais and Jade Hassoune first auditioned for the show inMontrealearlier in the year, but their story began in 2008. Enigma was born as a unique and inspirational dance outlet, whose mission was to bring awareness to and raise funds for Vision of Hope, a fund created to honor the late Ian Samberg who sadly lost his battle to cancer in 2007.

Since then the group has managed to raise over $140,000 for the cause through two sold out shows, and has caught the attention of local and national press. This time around, the group won’t be looking for dollars, but rather your vote. On April 22nd as of 8pm you have five ways to show your support for them: by phone, online, facebook, text and twitter.

For more information on voting please visitCanada’s Got Talent’s website here.

From everyone here at team BIEC we wish them the best of luck on Sunday, you can count on our votes!

Mel & Tracey at the Bedouin Tents, Israel 2011

Montreal’s Jewish community comes together to support Israel’s newest singing sensation

After Holland’s original reality talent show, “The Voice of Holland,” took off in America last year, many countries have followed suit, including Ukraine, Poland, Mexico, Germany, France, and the UK, each launching their own versions of “The Voice,” now one of the most popular television talent shows.  The latest country to create a new singing sensation is none other than Israel, who announced the winner of their edition of “The Voice” this past Saturday night. Not only were Israeli audiences waiting in suspense to find out the winner…so was Montreal’s Jewish community.

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Meet Sara Goldberg: Team BIEC welcomes a new member!

Hi! My name is Sara Goldberg and I am very excited to be the newest member of Team BIEC, as alumni and outreach coordinator! I went on Birthright Israel in May 2011 and had an amazing, life changing experience. The combination of meeting new people along with the beauty of the country and the amazing activities made this trip unforgettable. My madrichim, Sam and Jeremy, played a huge role making this experience memorable, always going above and beyond in planning activities and our itinerary. Since I had been there before, I went into the trip not expecting it to change me, or my outlook on Israel, however, this trip made me see Israel in a whole new light.

Sara (on the far left) and friends from her Birthright Israel trip in Jerusalem this past summer

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My favourite Birthright Israel moment…the true meaning of paying it forward

This post was written by guest blogger, Stephanie Rishikof, who was a Taglit-Birthright Israel participant in 2007.
 
In July 2007, I went on Birthright Israel and had an incredible experience, as any alumni can attest to. Recently, I was asked by Team BIEC what the highlight of my trip was. Six years ago, I would probably have said floating in the Dead Sea, riding a camel, rafting on the Jordan River, or the Mega Event. Years later, the highlight of my trip has changed.
Steph and fellow Birthright Israel participants rafting on the Jordan River

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Get your art on at Art & the City III – by guest blogger Joella Gencher

Last year, over 200 people gathered at Art & the City II, at Koko Bar & Restaurant

We wanted this year’s Art & the City Vernissage, set to take place on January 23, 2012 at Velvet Speakeasy, to be awesome.  Our team of volunteers and BIEC staff hmm’d and hahh’d over the perfect location, the right nibbles (cupcakes!) and how to nab fabulous young Jewish artists.  As the venue was to be a chic, mood-lit club, exactly which spotlights to rent to illuminate the artwork on display was of utmost importance.  We talked a lot about lighting, a concern that I actually find ironic.

Why?  Because I don’t really think that we “see” art…I think we experience it.  If you’ve ever been amid great art, concerns about beauty and aesthetic value slip away.  What comes to the foreground is a feeling, an atmosphere, a story or idea that has the power to transform, the ability to stir things up, or calm them down.

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A glimmer of light on a snowy Montreal day

Welcome to winter in Montreal!

This year’s winter was awfully slow to start and as someone who loves the seasons, I found myself grumbling under my breath about how global warming was ruining everything, including my desire to stay inside and drink red wine while watching the snow fall, and my snowboarding season…not to mention the polar bears.  My groans were met with eye rolls from my friends, and promises that as soon as January hit and I found myself mid winter, facing knee-deep snow and 30 degrees below temperatures, I would deeply regret ever saying I missed winter.  I was convinced they were wrong.

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Making a difference at MADA

At our latest MIT (Madrichim in Training) training session, we spoke about the importance of “Tikun Olam,” which means to repair the world.  The concept of tikun olam means helping others on every scale, from huge monetary donations to helping someone in need, hands-on.  For me personally, I have always interpreted repairing the world as making small changes and helping people out in small ways, every single day.  From picking up litter on the street to holding the door open for someone, there are so many ways you can make the world a better place on a day-by-day basis.  It was out of this belief that “M.A.D. Mondays” was born.

M.A.D. (Make a Difference) Mondays is a new initiative started by BIEC this fall.  On the first Monday of every month (although time and date change often in order to fit in with busy schedules), a group of BIEC volunteers get together to give back to the community, helping out at different organizations throughout Montreal.  The goal of M.A.D. Mondays is two fold; participants are able to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of various organizations within the Montreal Jewish community, as well as devote a couple of hours each month to giving back to the community and helping those in need.  This truly embodies the meaning of tikun olam.

Volunteers get a tour of the MADA food bank

For November’s M.A.D. Monday project a group of 8 volunteers spent the afternoon at MADA Community Centre.  For those of you who have yet to visit MADA, I highly recommend you take some time to do so.  Not only will you meet amazing people, but MADA also gives volunteers a strong sense of how close knit and caring the Montreal Jewish community really is.  MADA’s mission is to “help people in need with the basic necessities of life, while preserving their dignity and helping them become self sufficient members of the community.”  They do so in many different ways, including serving free meals in their cafeteria, helping provide warm clothes to those in need, welcoming people in for holiday meals, and their Shabbat to Share program, which delivers pre-packaged “Shabbat boxes” to those unable to prepare for Shabbat on their own.  Spending time with other volunteers or anyone who has benefited from MADA’s services, you are able to witness first hand the effect that this organization has on those who are involved.  Pride, gratefulness, joy and generosity are just some of the traits that everyone is eager to share with those who are volunteering or visiting MADA for the first time.

The M.A.D. Monday crew at MADA

MADA truly appreciates and is thankful for all the work that their devoted volunteers do, from large scale to small.  A great example of this happened during our afternoon working with them.  Our group, initially set to help pack Shabbat boxes with the Shabbat to Share program, was told upon arrival that we would instead be helping out in the kitchen.  Unsure of what this meant, we were set up at a long table with plastic gloves, cutting boards, knives…and huge containers of garlic!  Although peeling garlic may not seem as though it makes as much of an impact as packing Shabbat boxes, we were quickly proven wrong.  When one of the MADA employees came to speak to us about the organization, she made sure to mention that we had one of the most important jobs at the centre.  Why, you might ask?  “Without garlic, the food we serve in our cafeteria would be bland and tasteless.  The people who come to MADA don’t only need food…they need a little spice in their lives.  By peeling this garlic, you are bringing that spice!”  With these words we were not only motivated to peel our garlic in double-time; we were inspired to hear that every single action done inside the walls of the MADA Community Centre really does help repair the world.

M.A.D. Mondays will be volunteering with a different community organization each month.  In December, we will be collaborating with the Friendship Circle for “Sufganiyot for the Soul,” making sufganiyot to share with the community.  If you wish to get involved in this, or any other M.A.D. Monday projects, or for more information, please contact Shoshi Rothschild at shoshi.rothschild@bjec.org. Here’s your chance to make a difference in your community, so don’t miss out!

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