Category Archives: Community

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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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!

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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Team BIEC’s Summer Wrap-Up

It is already three weeks into September and, I’m sorry to say, summer is officially behind us. Team BIEC had an incredible summer, and we would like to apologize for not keeping you more posted on all of our crazy adventures…and take this opportunity to catch you up.

Summer at BIEC usually means one thing, and one thing only….Birthright season!  This summer, however, we managed to not only send 360 young, Jewish Montrealers on free trips to Israel (and spend a little time in the Holy land ourselves), but we travelled around to Montreal-area camps, hanging out with staff and doing some great team building activities, as well.  Oh yeah…and we also put together a great fundraiser basketball tournament for the Trevor Williams Foundation, held an amazing Birthright Reunion, picked an awesome new batch of leaders for our Madrichim in Training program, and welcomed one returning and two new members to our team (Hi Yoni, Sam, and Sarah!).

Phew.

So now that you are probably back in school and looking for entertaining ways to make the time in your classes go by faster, here’s a brief look back on one of Team BIEC’s most successful summers!

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BIEC’s Madrichim in Training Program – by guest blogger Samantha Schneider

Samantha Schneider was a participant in BIEC’s 2010-2011 Madrichim in Training (MIT) program and is an active volunteer with the Bronfman Israel Experience Centre. She just got back from leading her first Birthright trip to Israel!  If you are interested in applying for the MIT program please go to: http://biec.wufoo.com/forms/canada-israel-experience-madrich-application-2011/

Sam with other graduates of the MIT program (Sari Katz and Yoni Loeub) and Team BIEC professionals at the Mega Event in Israel this past May.

Hey guys!

I went on Birthright as a participant last May, 2010 and I had the most incredible experience! Little did I know that coming home and applying to participate in the Madrichim in Training (MIT) leadership program would change my life. I am a very studious person and I spend most of my time doing my schoolwork. On an honest note, I had never really had any associations with the Jewish community, or participated in any of the programs it offers. My parents have always been very insistent on my potential involvement within the community, and I saw this program as an ideal approach.

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