Category Archives: Montreal

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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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 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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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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Lost in time…

Gilad Shalit has been a prisoner in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip for the past 1713 days and counting; today is his 242nd Shabbat away from home. 1713 days away from friends, family and home without any contact from anyone besides his captors. For 1713 days the Red Cross has not been allowed to visit him, and his exact location is unknown. His only crime is that of being an Israeli defending his country and his people.

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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
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