Category Archives: Arts and Culture

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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Pssst….it’s time to share your secret!

The following post was written by guest blogger Suzanne Moscovitch.  A past intern in the Outreach and Engagement department at CJA, Suzanne has been working on her project, Signed, Anonymous, since March 2011.  Here is the story behind the interactive art exhibit, which will take place this Sunday, September 25th at EM Café (5718, av du Parc, Montréal), from 6pm-9pm.

After completing my undergrad over a year ago, I was starving for a change. I had a vision of moving to a new city, meeting new friends and landing an awesome job- something that would allow me to get creative. Eventually, I made the move to Montreal, a city I’ve been in love with since I was old enough to appreciate its vibrant artistic culture. Within months of non-stop networking and exhausting my resources, I landed an internship working for outreach and engagement within the Jewish community. Question: What in the world did that even mean?! Better question: What in the world did I know about being Jewish?!

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Get in “Le Mood” for the most exciting new festival in Montreal

I know that it may not quite seem like it yet, but despite the weather outside, it is officially summer in Montreal!  And, according to yours truly, the best thing about summer in Montreal (or any season in Montreal, for that matter) are the festivals!  Just for Laughs, the Fringe Festival, Beerfest, and the Jazz Festival are just a few of the many weekends to look forward to this summer.  Whether you like live music, delicious food and drink, or stand-up comedy, this city really does have something for everyone.

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Cocktails and Kimonos – An Evening for Japan

Since the initial shock, the last few weeks have allowed me to meditate on what is going on in Japan. By now, we are all aware that on March 11th, the northeastern coast of Japan was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami and resulting in incredible damages throughout the country.  To better understand the devastation, I sat myself down at the computer and started Googling away. I learned that:

  • 11620 (as of April 1st) people have died and over 17,000 still missing.
  • It’s been reported there are still 300,000 people living in shelters
  • 1 million people living in homes without water.
  • 14,000 buildings destroyed and 100,000 damaged.

To put things in perspective:

The entire student body at any major university in Canada is about 20,000 people, which is about the same as the combined number of deaths and missing persons in the Japan.

1 million people living in homes without water?  That’s equivalent to all of Ottawa, our capital city, living in these types of conditions.

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Are you “Chai” on Israel?

Ever get a card on a simcha (a happy occasion like Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding) with a check in it for say, 144$ (a multiple of 18)? Or ever plant a tree with JNF for 18$? As Passover is right around the corner, did you know 18 minutes is the maximum time matzah is to be cooked until it becomes unkosher? Without too much detail, once the dough hits 18 minutes, it begins to rise. 18 is also the date in the Hebrew month of Iyar when Lag B’omer occurs. We get this number 18 from the numerical value of the Hebrew word for life, “חי” or “Chai.”  The ח or “chet” is the 8th letter in the Hebrew alphabet and is worth 8 and the “י” or “yud” is the 10th letter and is worth 10, hence the connection between Judaism, life and the number 18.

The Intricate World of Stop Motion Video

As a former film student I was always turned off by cartoons and animation, but I did have a soft spot for stop motion. One of my favorite stop motion films is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s quite remarkable if you think about how long it took the eclectic Burton to make.

There are countless films and videos that use stop motion animation, all of which are extremely time consuming. Once you understand the technique involved you’ll be able to appreciate the amount of work that goes into it.

According to Wikipedia, stop motion is:

An animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. Clay figures are often used in stop motion for their ease of repositioning. Motion animation using clay is called clay animation or clay-mation.

One amazing use of stop motion that I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed is Oren Lavie’s music video for his single Her Morning Elegance. Besides the fact that I love the song, upon further research I discovered that there are several Israeli/Jewish connections to the video. Firstly, the musician Oren Lavie is a Jew born and based out of Tel Aviv. Secondly, the woman who stars in the video is Israeli-born actress/model Shir Shomron. The video was also co-directed by Lavie and fellow Israelis Yuval and Merav Nathan.

The video was nominated for “Best Short form Music Video” at the 2010 Grammy Awards and has racked up more that seventeen million hits on Youtube! Can you say viral video?

Here’s what the video looks like…

Here’s a version of the video split up to its core. The behind the scenes…

Hope you all enjoyed that. Let me know if you find any other stop motion videos that YOU enjoy. Here are fifty other great stop motion videos for you to kill some time…

The lesser-known Jews of my life’s soundtrack

Music has always been a passion of mine.  Now don’t misinterpret that statement; I am in no way a creator of music (my musical talents include knowing how to play 3 chords on the guitar and failing to be able to sing on key, ever), but I pride myself on being a strong appreciator of other people’s musical talents.  Since I was a small child, I have been surrounded by music, whether it was on long family car trips, going to concerts, singing around campfires, or just sitting in my basement with friends, upon the discovery of my mother’s old record player.  Many of my fondest memories come from such moments and I have, therefore, been able to create (in my head, of course), a soundtrack of my life, based on these many musical moments.

I came to an incredible realization the other day, while searching for “Jewish celebrities” online.  Researching to do a blog post on a completely different topic, I ended up discovering that many of the artists I have grown to know and love over the past 24 years of my life are, in fact, Jewish!  It was one of those great moments, like when you’re traveling through a foreign country and you see a fellow backpacker with an Israeli flag on their pack.  You feel an instant connection to them, and, despite the fact that you are meeting them for the first time, something feels just…comfortable.  Of course, a few of my favourites I always knew were members of the tribe (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen), but some were complete surprises!  So, I decided to compose a play list of all those tracks that have had an impact on my life, whether they are mentally linked to great moments, or just songs that make me smile.  Here they are: my favourite songs by my favourite (newly discovered) Jewish artists.

1) Baby Beluga – Raffi

This one is half for laughs and half for a trip down memory lane, as I’m sure everyone in my age demographic has a soft spot for this beloved song.  It’s probably one of the first cassettes that any of us owned, and I’m guessing there are a number of you lucky ones out there that have even seen it performed live.

2) The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel

Like I mentioned before, in my family, car trips were filled with music.  Before my sister and I were old enough to fight over which tape we would listen to, my parents would put on their own favourite albums, which greatly contributed to the development of my musical taste.  James Taylor and Van Morrison were both regulars on these trips, but for me, it was Simon and Garfunkel that I grew to love the most, with this being my favourite of their songs.

3) One Headlight – The Wallflowers (Jakob Dylan)

It wouldn’t be a proper recount of my musical history without a shout out to the ‘90s.  It was during this time period that I really started to discover my own taste in music, buying my first CDs and recording mix tapes off of the radio.  I have to say, in terms of ‘90s one-hit-wonders, this is one of my all-time favourites!

4) Blues Run the Game – Adam Durtiz (of the Counting Crows)

Throughout my musical journey of the ‘90s, I came across a band that, from that moment on, I will forever refer to as my ultimate favourite.  I got my first Counting Crows CD for my 12th birthday, and since then have taken every opportunity to see them perform live (a total of 4 times in 3 different countries).  One of my favourite performances by far was lead singer Adam Duritz’s cover of Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run the Game, performed outside at a concert in Central Park, New York.

5) Us – Regina Spektor

I have been lucky enough, over the course of the last 10 or so years, to have experienced some incredible live performances.  One of my best experiences was attending Bonnaroo Music Festival last year, in Tennessee.  Although I have always appreciated Regina Spektor’s music, Bonnaroo gave me the chance to see her perform live, and I was totally blown away.  Despite the 40 degree weather and intense levels of dehydration, it was still one of the greatest moments from the 4-day event.

Today has been a great day for me!  Not only have I spent the day listening to some of my favourite songs of all time and reminiscing on great life moments, but I also discovered that I share an incredible connection to these amazing musicians that I have respected for so long.  I encourage all of you to take the time to think about your greatest musical moments, and you might be surprised as to what you find!

Art and the City: celebrating young Jewish artists

With a love for the arts, I have always found myself attracted to the beauty of an image; the range and mix of colors, the textures of sculptures and the message behind a printed word.  Unfortunately my artistic talents are extremely limited and so I often find myself searching for avenues where I am able to expose myself to artist’s point of views and creations.  Last year, after talking to some of BIEC’s volunteers, I found that others shared the same love for the arts as I do, and so we took it upon ourselves to create an art exhibit. Our objective was to put together an art vernissage different from all others available in the community; we wanted to provide the opportunity for young Jewish adults from the Montreal Jewish community to showcase their artistic talents, whether they be recreational or professional.

Over 15 excited young adults came together to brainstorm about ways to make this idea a reality. With hard work and creative minds, Art and the City was born. Unsure of the reach this event would get, we decided to have a small scale art exhibit and see the reaction the community would have. With the perfect venue in mind, we reached out to the W Lounge. Centrally located, in the heart of Old Montreal, it was the perfect intimate space we looking for. We were amazed by the turnout, as more than 200 people were in attendance. The young atmosphere, cool crowd, creative artwork and funky drinks resulted in the perfect night out!

With the success of last year’s Art and the City, we decided to revamp the concept and hold the event again this year!  BIEC, alongside a group of amazing new volunteers, came together to plan Art and the City II, which will exhibit the artwork of 25 talented young adults from Montreal’s Jewish community. From painters to photographers, fashion designers to writers, this year’s exhibits promises to be an event not to be missed.

To balance the works of these artists we have found the perfect venue; KOKO restaurant + bar, which will add an element of sophistication and modernity. 

This night is an expression of artistic talent that is rarely showcased in Montreal. I hope you can all join me and the rest of the team, and discover for yourself the amazing artwork that the Montreal Jewish community has to offer.

I am extremely excited and look forward to making KOKO our very own contemporary art museum!

Art and the City II – Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 8 PM. Tickets are 15$ and provide you with a delicious complementary drink. 

Contact Team BIEC at 514-345-6449 for tickets.

Art in the City, 2009
Art in the City, 2009
Art in the City, 2009
Art in the City, 2009
Art in the City, 2009
Art in the City, 2009

Winter in Montreal…more than just snow and ice


There are few things you can do in order to make winter bearable when you live in a city whose average temperature in January lands at 15 degrees CelciusTaking up snowboarding or popping some vitamin D pills and hiding at home, waiting for the worst to be over may seem like your only options, now that the excitement of the first snow fall has worn off, and the warmth of the holidays are behind you.  Well, good news for all you winter grinches out there; turns out, Montreal in the winter really isn’t so bad.

Over the past few years I have come to realize that, despite Montreal’s infamous winter weather, this city breaks through all winter hibernation stereotypes and manages to come alive during the darkest months.  Festivals, music and warm, delicious snacks are just a few of the reasons why I love Montreal…even when it is 30 degrees below. 

Igloofest is definitely one of the greatest things about winter in Montreal.  For those who have heard about or experienced an afternoon at Piknic Electronik, think of this as the winterized version. For three weekends in January, Montreal’s Old Port is transformed into the setting for what can best be described as a giant, outdoor dance party.  Igloofest features some of the best artists of the electronic music scene, light shows, outdoor bars and a hilarious ski suit competition!  It runs from January 13-15, 20-22 and 27-29 from 6:30pm-midnight and is definitely worth facing the cold for.  In minus 30 degree weather, sometimes you’ve got to dance to stay warm.

And on the topic of crazy, winter, night time adventures in the city…Montreal’s High Lights Festival, more commonly known as Nuit Blanche is an annual all-night, city-wide festival that celebrates the culture, music, art and creativity of Montreal’s best and is, by far, one of my favourite nights of the year.  The STM offers free bus routes to take you all around the city, from the Mile End to the Old Port, where most of Montreal’s galleries, museums and cultural centres stay open all night and feature over 175 (mostly free) activities.  In the past, I have spent the better parts of my Nuit Blanche nights making masks for the masquerade ball at the McCord Museum, sliding down the massive ice slide that runs through Old Montreal, listening to gospel choirs at Notre Dame Basilica and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire outside the Science Centre.  The greatest thing about Nuit Blanche?  It truly caters to people of all ages. From loud, drunken university students to adorable children in snowsuits, there really is something for everyone, right up until its time to head to Beauty’s for breakfast. This year, Montreal’s Nuit Blanche starts at 8:00pm on February 26th with activities running well into the morning hours. Recommended: really, really warm socks.

Montreal's Old Port during Nuit Blanche

Arts and Crafts at the McCord Museum's Masquerade Ball

This really wouldn’t be an adequate review of winter in Montreal without a shout out to the ultimate winter treat; hot chocolate. For those of you who have yet to experience it, you need to check out Juliette & Chocolat (on Laurier at Parc, St. Denis at Ontario or St. Laurent at Prince Arthur) for the best hot chocolate in the city, according to yours truly.  A far cry from the usual “just add water” instant hot chocolate, Juliette et Chocolat’s hot chocolate (which comes in extra-bitter dark, dark, milk, or white chocolate) comes closer to warm chocolate pudding than a liquid drink.  And while you’re there, you should probably also try one of their delicious, warm, freshly made brownies…the fleur de sel (chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce) and the ivory (white chocolate and coconut) are two of my all-time favourites.

Juliette & Chocolat’s Fleur de Sel Brownie

All these years, summers in Montreal have been getting the glory while Montreal winters have been the unfortunate target of harsh hatred from the people who call it home.  So this winter, give the city a chance and check out some of the amazing night life, food and culture that Montreal has to offer.  And if there’s anything I’ve missed, feel free to post it below; I’d love to hear about your favourite winter-in-Montreal traditions!

Televisia Israeli

Among the many things I love about Israel, one of them is Israeli TV. What is so special and different about TV in Israel? One of the things that makes Israeli TV so special is that it is so familiar; the places, the slang, the Jews, and of course the Israelisms. For instance, in a couple of my favorite shows, Asfur and Haborer the 2 main characters’ army records become integral to the show’s plot as we get to know them and their stories better. In another very popular and, as of November, Emmy award winning sitcom, Ramzor, one of the characters is involved in a scandal in a Kosher grocery store when he comes to the cash with a dairy sample and a meat sample in his mouth and hands.  As a result, he gets chased out by a group of not so happy Haredim or Ultra-Orthodox Jews.  To me, that’s pretty hilarious, Jewish, and very Israeli. Asfur takes place in Jerusalem, where we are offered a nice taste of Jerusalem slang and are constantly reminded of how important Beitar Yerushalayim is for soccer supporters from the holy capital. Israeli TV has perfectly infused its vast and imposing culture into creative works for homes, internet streaming and flat screens.

Israeli TV has also done something incredible with shows that I could never bring myself to watch on my basic Videotron setup. Kochav Nolad is the amazing Israeli version of American Idol, whose main host is Israeli comedian, Tsvika Hadar and whose judges feature top names in the music industry. Their flare and humor topples that of the judging panel of their American counterpart. Kochav Nolad has also taken its camera crew to different corners in the world in search of Israeli talent; in season 6 they went in search of Israelis in India, season 7 in America and in the latest season, season 8, to Sao Paulo to find backpacking Israelis with loads of talent, and there’s always an Israeli backpacking somewhere. Other notable reality shows that have been recreated with major success in Israel are Survivor or Hisardut, The Biggest Loser or Laredet Bagadol and of course Big Brother.

As a final note about the creativity of these shows, Ramzor won an Emmy last week for “Best Comedy series of 2010” and its idea was bought by Fox for an American adaptation that will begin February 9th, 2011. Another show that was adapted by American TV is BeTipul which is known as the popular HBO series In Treatment.

Check out Ramzor’s Emmy victory here

Here’s the show with english subtitles…

Obviously there are many, many more incredible Israeli Shows, but I’ll let you discover those on your own. Let me know if you’re interested in watching some amazing TV and I’ll set you up! 


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