Remarkable art exhibit by Shushana Caplan at CSL Public Library from a child Holocaust survivor

On the occasion of Jewish Heritage Month, our Côte Saint-Luc Public Library is presenting a most interesting exhibit by artist Shushana Caplan, who re-creates her childhood memories of being a refugee in Siberia. She uses reproductions of photos that her parents brought with them during the war from Brest, Belarus to Siberia to create her unique artworks.

Shushana’s father had been in the Polish army in 1939, but with the German occupation of Poland, he I knew that his family’s only chance of survival was to leave his hometown of Mezrycz. He and most of his siblings and his wife’s siblings took refuge at his brother’s home in Brest-Litovsk, a Polish city that fell under Russian rule as a result of the German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact of 1939. I met with Shushana last week for a personal tour of her paintings. The story is fascinating and given the scenes we see on television every day related to the war in Ukraine, very timely.

 

Shushana
Shushana Caplan at her exhibit.

 

“I am a survivor,” Shushana says. “For some reason that fact seems of utmost importance to me at this time of my life. Perhaps it’s because I never expected to survive in the first place and certainly my parents never held out much hope for my continued existence. When my mother was pregnant with me, they chose to leave their home, their parents and everything they loved and treasured to escape the Nazi onslaught that was consuming their country, Poland. We spent a month on cattle cars. Many did not survive.


“It was fear that drove them to leave their home, their parents and their comfortable life. Their greatest fear was that the Nazis would destroy everything in their way and as Jews, they feared for their lives. They had heard the stories of how Jews were being treated in Germany, their rights removed, indignities heaped on them and removal to concentration camps. Finally, the news of the violence and destruction of Kristallnacht struck terror in their hearts and convinced them that they had to leave, now.”

Here is my video chat with Shushana.


Shushana says her parents tried everything to convince their own family members into joining them in fleeing to Russia. All their siblings agreed to pack up their families and go. “My mother’s youngest brother, Velvel, his wife and three children, Pearl, Esther and Arelle came with them,” she explains. “My father’s two brothers also agreed to leave. Uncle David and Aunt Pearl had two young boys, Tevia and Gershon that they brought along as well.


“My grandparents refused to let my father’s youngest brother, Nute, join them. As a teenager he was still under the protection of his parents. ‘He’s too young to leave home, ‘they claimed, and that was that. Miraculously he did survive the war, but they didn’t.”

The story of her survival is a miracle.


“I was only one month old when we were deported to the Gulag, the slave labour camps of Siberia,” says Shushana. “Extreme conditions awaited us; freezing temperatures, backbreaking labour and the constant threat of starvation. With a tiny infant to care for, my parents struggled to feed themselves while keeping me alive. There was no medicine and very few doctors. Before the age of three, I had contracted diphtheria, whooping cough, pneumonia twice and even malaria. It’s no wonder they constantly feared that I would die. Many other children had.”


Shushana says that this pervasive sense of doom followed her for many years, even as an adult in the safety of her home in Canada. But survive she did. “As the survivor, I am here to tell the story of our enslavement and the terrible years we spent in Siberia during the war,” she declared. “We survived and made our way to safety. It is my legacy to describe the journey of my younger self, Raizelle, to the next generation, my children, and their children.”


From Siberia, the family ended up in the Ukraine, then Germany. Her father found a way to get into Canada while falsely claiming he was a tailor, a trade that was in need. Ironically, he did find work in that area here at a factory.


Shushana was nearly eight when they arrived in Montreal, settling in the Plateau area of town. And an artist she would become. She received her education in art at the Saidyie Bronfman Centre and Concordia University, where she earned degrees in Fine Arts as well as in Fine Arts Education. Mixed-Media painting is her preferred approach at present, using a base of abstract acrylics with collage. Her work is autobiographical in the sense that it is an ongoing narration of her inner thoughts. Personal memories and fantasies are explored aesthetically, but the actual process of painting is discovery. For her painting is more than simply creating pictures, it is an act of finding meaning.


Shushana resides in CSL and teaches abstract acrylic with collage at our Aquatic and Community Centre

The exhibition represents different stages of Shushana’s life. Her parents carried with them through their travels across war-torn Poland and Russia a package of family photos, some over a 100 years old. Shushana creates “dreamscapes” using many reproductions of these photos; the paintings evoke stories, which she hopes will become a legacy for her family. It is a specialization in art I have not really been exposed to. You must go to the CSL Public Library and see it for yourself. I received a VIP guided tour and a detailed explanation of each picture.

Une artiste et professeur d'art


Shushana Caplan est une artiste et professeur d'art qui a grandi à Montréal, au Canada. Elle est née à Brest, en Biélorussie, en 1940, juste au début de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. La famille a été envoyée en Sibérie pendant la majeure partie de la guerre. Shushana a émigré au Canada en 1948 avec ses parents et son frère Harry.


Elle a reçu sa formation en art au Centre Saydie Bronfman et à l'Université Concordia, où elle a obtenu des diplômes en beaux-arts ainsi qu'en éducation aux beaux-arts. La peinture en techniques mixtes est présentement son style préféré, utilisant une base d'acryliques abstraits avec collage.
Le travail de Shushana est autobiographique. Il s'agit d'une narration continue de ses pensées intérieures. Les souvenirs personnels et les fantasmes sont explorés esthétiquement, mais le processus réel de la peinture est la découverte. Pour elle, la peinture est plus qu'une simple création d'images, c'est un acte de recherche de sens.


Actuellement, Shushana explore ses premières expériences en tant qu'enfant réfugiée en Sibérie et l'héritage de ses parents et grands-parents en Pologne. Ses parents ont emporté avec eux tout au long de leurs voyages à travers la Pologne et la Russie déchirées par la guerre un paquet de photos de famille, certaines datant de plus de cent ans. Shushana crée des « paysages de rêve » en utilisant de nombreuses reproductions de ces photos ; les peintures évoquent des histoires dont elle espère deviendront un héritage pour sa famille


The Equinoxe Marc Chagall to present its first concert on May 29

The Equinoxe Marc Chagall rental condo apartments in my District 2 has a new dynamism under recently installed property manager Nathalie Pariente.

Last December Nathalie organized a highly successful holiday market, with most of the vendors coming from the two apartment towers. Now comes a special musical evening planned for Sunday, May 29 (11 am) featuring violinist Isabella d’Éloize Perron and pianist Michel Fournier in the complex’s multi-purpose lounge. It is open to the community at large so not only will it be a treat for the residents, but also a terrific marketing tool for prospective tenants.

Seating is limited and tickets cost $50 plus tax.

Equinoxeconcert

Both artists have pretty impressive bios, starting with d’Éloize Perron. She started playing the violin at the age of two and gave her first concerts at age five Her guest appearances with orchestra include Orchestre Métropolitain (Montréal) and the I Musici String Ensemble, all before the age of 10; she has also appeared as a soloist with the Peninsula Symphony (San Francisco, CA), with the National Theater Orchestra (Prague National Theater), the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony, the Lethbridge Symphony and many other orchestras across Canada and the United States. Between 2010 and 2017, she studied at the Conservatory of Music at Mount Royal University in Alberta with violinist Bill Van der Sloot.

Watch her talent here.

Praised both as a soloist and a chamber player, Fournier has performed with a number of orchestras and is widely appreciated for the many recitals he has given in Canada, Europe and United States. His repertoire covers a broad spectrum of piano music from different eras and styles. He has a special fondness for French music and has earned critical acclaim for the originality of his interpretation and his refined sound. He toured extensively with world class musicians and ensembles.

You can purchase tickets on EvenBrite.

Equinoxe Marc-Chagall est synonyme des arts et de la culture. C’est donc avec grande fierté que nous vous proposons une soirée musicale dans notre salon. Isabella d’Éloize Perron, violoniste, ainsi que Michel Fournier, pianiste, serons sur place le dimanche 29 mai pour vous offrir un concert privé dans un environnement intime.


Les places sont limitées pour assurer le confort de nos invités. Les billets sont offerts à 50$.
Joignez-vous à nous et encouragez nos artistes


Révélation classique de Radio-Canada pour 2020-2021, la violoniste prodige Isabella d’Éloize Perron obtenait tout récemment le Premier Prix ainsi que le Prix « coup de cœur » du public au prestigieux concours « Orford Musique » 2021. En novembre dernier, elle jouait à guichet fermé à la Maison Symphonique de Montréal ainsi qu’au Palais Montcalm de Québec.

Isabella fait preuve d’une étonnante maturité et d’une musicalité à la fois unique et sincère. Elle a fait ses débuts à titre de soliste à l’âge de 7 ans avec l’Orchestre de chambre I Musici de Montréal, et a joué avec de nombreux orchestres, dont l’Orchestre Métropolitain (Montréal), le Peninsula Symphony (San Francisco), le National Theatre Orchestra (Prague), l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Calgary et l’Orchestre symphonique de Vancouver. Ses prix et distinctions incluent le premier prix au Concours radiophonique international pour jeunes musiciens Concertino Praga (2015), le deuxième prix au Klein International String Competition à San Francisco (2015), et de nombreux Prix au prestigieux Concours de Musique du Canada. Pour leur saison 2017-2018, l’Orchestre philharmonique de Calgary l’a nommée « artiste émergente ». En 2020, elle a reçu le prix Michael Measures du NYO par le Conseil des Arts du Canada.

Au cours de sa longue carrière, le pianiste canadien Michel Fournier s'est produit avec plusieurs orchestres et est largement apprécié pour les nombreux récitals qu'il a donnés au Canada, en Europe et aux États-Unis. Son répertoire couvre un large éventail de musiques pour piano de différentes époques et styles. Il a une affinité particulière pour la musique française et a été acclamé par la critique pour l'originalité de son interprétation et sa sonorité raffinée.


Michel Fournier a fait de nombreuses tournées avec des musiciens et des ensembles de classe mondiale ; il a plusieurs enregistrements de la Société Radio-Canada (CBC), de nombreux albums et bandes sonores de films à son actif. Les nombreux CD de Michel Fournier ont été acclamés par le public et la critique partout au Canada.

Info ici.


Bill 96 rally won't cost the CAQ votes, but their international representation is at risk

Did the May 14 Bill 96 rally and march accomplish anything?

For one thing, given the fact so many activities have been held virtually these past two years, it was indeed a morale booster. A few thousand people gathered outside Dawson College. The 10 am start was delayed and difficult to hear speeches went on for close to an hour. Then those who remained marched in unison to Premier Francois Legault’s office.

Bill 96 rally
Protesters Rally against Bill 96. (Glenn J. Nashen Photo)

 

Bill 96, the obscene new language legislation drafted by Legault’s CAQ, is expected to be adopted this week. There is no question that during the four years of the CAQ’s mandate they have spoken loud and clear that anglos and minorities are now second-class citizens in this province.

The CAQ has only one goal in mind and that is to get re-elected in October with a massive majority. Without an effective opposition and a clued-out electorate in the regions, they will coast to such a victory. The CAQ makes the Parti Québecois of old look like an English choir group. They have handed down laws that would even make the late René Lévesque spin in his grave. I am certain that former PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard would not endorse their inflammatory legislation ever.

The rally, in my opinion, was a necessary activity. It will not cost Legault any votes. In fact, he will likely secure some more PQ and Liberal ridings as a result of it. However, but what former businessman Legault has not realized is how media coverage of a rally likes this affects Quebec’s image nationally or internationally. Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon’s mandate is to attract to attract corporate business to the province. What non-francophone would want to move their family to Quebec where a religious symbol precludes you from becoming a schoolteacher and any connection to “English” translates into a dirty word? Lévesque and Bouchard were always particularly mindful of this.

People I spoke to felt good they were there. However, had I been the organizer, I would have scheduled it for a weekday at noon. Saturday prevented busloads of Shabbat observing Jews from attending; Sunday would have impacted church services. I would have started on time, presented far few speeches and like lawyer Michael Polak told me, “not play festive music at the start. We were not here to celebrate!”

As the manager of marketing and communications at the English Montreal School Board, a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc and a columnist/blogger/podcaster for Quebec’s largest English weekly newspaper (The Suburban), Bill 96 will have an enormous impact on my life and my livelihood. Sadly, there is nobody out there to help us – not our Prime Minister or the other federal parties nor the once effective Provincial Liberal Party. (Mount Royal Liberal MP has spoken out loudly; too bad he is not in cabinet). The future for all of us looks very bleak.


Elie Wiesel's son joins us for bench dedication in the memory of his late aunt

Did you know that the sister of  Elie Wiesel lived in Côte Saint-Luc before she passed away in 1974?
 
I was unaware of this fact until the Foundation for Genocide Education welcomed Elisha Wiesel, the son of Elie Wiesel, to come speak at a fundraising event at Beth Israel Congregation.
 
Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He authored 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.
 
Wiesel1
 
On the afternoon of the lecture we invited Elisha to the park we named in honour of his late father at the corner of Cavendish and Kildare and in my District 2. Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and some others joined us as we unveiled  bench plaque at Elie Wiesel Park  honouring Beatrice Wiesel Jackson - Elie's sister.
 
Wieselplaque

As part of Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation, and Prevention Month, the Foundation for Genocide Education recently announced the official publication of the pedagogical guide Studying Genocides. Available in French (in English in fall 2022) to all high school teachers in Quebec at education-genocide.ca, this guide will enable over 343,000 students in 800 schools to study the history of nine significant genocides of the 20th century.

Wiesel2

 

 


Young Côte Saint-Luc resident excels on the cello thanks to generosity of others

The Montreal Cello Ensemble, based in NDG,  gives talented local children a full scholarship opportunity to learn from and perform with cellists Genevieve Guimond and Gary Russell of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, educator Josh Fink, and pianist Sandra Hunt. The  goal is to ensure that the highest level of music education is made available at no financial cost to children who show talent, dedication, and a love for music.  This is  a registered charity that has received support from private donors, the Dr. Julien Foundation, the Unitarian Church of Montreal, Luthiers, Wilder & Davis, Carrefour jeunesse emploi - NDG, and  the law firm BLG.

Amaka6
District 2 resident Amaka and her cello.

 

Fink tells me they are planning on adding many students for this summer and families should apply by May 15 if they are interested via https://www.cellomontreal.ca/demande-application . They just released their debut album, Petits mondes endormis, which contains 10 original songs. Each one is written and performed by one of their young cellists:

Students  come from across the island, meeting in person Saturday mornings at either The Unitarian Church of Montreal or the  Carrefour jeunesse emploi - NDG. “During the pandemic we did a lot  online, as well as outdoor classes when the weather permitted. We developed an extensive online curriculum of around 3,000 at-home practice videos," says Fink. 

One such success story is nearly seven year old Amaka, who started with the cello at age four years. An incredible talent, she just composed and recorded a  track on their album: https://cellomontreal.bandcamp.com/track/i-love-my-barbie-doll

The Côte Saint-Luc District 2 resident attends  École Des Amies-du-Monde.

Amaka  was born in May 2015 and hails from Issele Azagba in the  Delta State of Nigeria. A series of events caused the family to leave Nigeria and they arrived here in January 2018. As with most new endeavours, settling into a new environment definitely came with its challenges and one of the most difficult was finding an affordable daycare for her as she was so young and her parents couldn’t afford the private daycares at that time. She had to stay home while the family searched for ways to keep her engaged. As luck would have it,  a neighbour turned friend named Rachel, who is also a musician,  happened to introduce her to Fink. “He told me about this amazing free cello music program for kids that was in the works and suggested I have one of my kids try out for the auditions to get in,” said mom Joan. “We had never ever heard of  or seen a cello so this was a totally new experience for us.” 

Amaka was the very first to audition and she fared very well  and this began her journey into the wonderful world of the cello.  Added her mom: "Amaka has always loved listening to music and also singing as we would occasionally find her tapping away on the keyboard at home as she was fascinated by the sounds it made but her keen ear and appreciation for music was brought to my attention by her amazing instructors at Cello Montreal."

“She is also very excited about her very first song which she composed under the guidance and expertise of her instructors titled I love my Barbie doll and is looking forward to making more music,”  Joan continued. “Playing the cello has become one of her very favourite things to do and she never misses a chance to play at any occasion whenever it is requested. It’s amazing to see how far she has come and how talented she is and we appreciate her instructors who are helping  to nurture her talent and open her up to possibilities which we would never have imagined.” 


Tribute: Beryl Peletz was a stalwart with the CSL Men's Club and a true mensch

While I knew Beryl Peletz was in his 90s, he was one of those individuals whom I thought would simply live forever.

I had the pleasure of being his city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc District 2 these past 16 years. He and his wife Miriam were model constituents, always providing  timely advice. When there was an issue they would call me together, with one of them doing the talking and the other sharing comments from the background.

When it came to election time and campaigns, Beryl would give me the ultimate compliment when I knocked on his door by saying, “you don’t need to ask our vote…it is guaranteed.”

DavidHBeryl
David Haltrecht and I with Beryl (right) at the 2018 Men's Club Dinner.



Beryl was a true leader  with the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club.

“There are no simple words that I can use to pay tribute to Beryl,” said Sidney Margles. “There can only be superlatives. Beryl only had friends. He was always there. A pillar of the Cote Saint-Luc Men’s Club, he will be sorely missed.”

Irving Leiner called Beryl “a treasure whose absence will be deeply felt by many. I had the privilege of meeting and knowing Beryl when I first joined the Men's Club. His friendship and support for me was always evident and his willingness to help and take charge of anything that was required for our live evening events contributed to making these events enormously successful.”  

Syd Kronish noted that Beryl was  his key man during his eight years years as a member of the executive, including four as president. “He assumed with pleasure the job of heading the breakfast meetings which fed 200 to 275 members every month.” He said.  “He also was the leader of our monthly trips to Morrisburg to see some wonderful live shows what a man, always ready to help wherever he could. “

Phil Matlin resided in the same condo as Beryl on Rembrandt Avenue . “He was one of a kind,” he said. “When I moved into the Briar Cliffe I was elected to the board the same year as Miriam was. Beryl introduced himself to me as Miriam's husband. It didn't take very long to become friends. Beryl was always there for me and many others. We lost a man who was the definition of mensch. There will never be a man quite like Beryl.”

Mannie Young, another former Men’s Club president, wrote , “As I sit here writing this obituary , I am shivering not yet realizing that my mentor has left me.”

Debbie Adelstein-Posner called Beryl “ aremarkable man with an outstanding personality. He made everyone who met him feel important and loved and valued. Beryl was a pillar of his community, admired and respected by the many people he had come to know over his years particularly those in the Men’s Club.”

 Adelstein-Posner said that when  her  father stopped working and could not longer golf (his joy in life), Beryl reached out and invited him to community outings, to lectures and bridge games. “He let my father know that he was there for him at any time for any social need,” she said. “Beryl is leaving his legacy in the heart of my friend, who would, and does, go to the end of the earth for me, her friends, acquaintances and yes, without question, strangers.”  

Donations in his memory may be made to the “Abe Beryl Peletz Memorial fund” for Pancreatic cancer c/o the Jewish General Hospital Foundation (514) 340-8251 or the Sam Klinger chapter of Montreal Hadassah WIZO Organization of Canada (514) 933-8461.

Our sympathies go out to his family.

 

 


 Tordjman becomes the first candidate to confirm interest in D’Arcy McGee Liberal nomination

In my previous blog, I had a recommendation for how the Quebec Liberal Party can turn their fortunes around in the October provincial election. That would be to oppose  Bill 21 (prohibits Quebec citizens who work in public service from wearing religious symbols while fulfilling their duties), Bill 40 (abolition of English public school boards) and Bill 96 (the draconian new language law) and transform this opportunity into an attractive array of candidates.

The Liberals have an opening in the D’Arcy McGee  riding, with David Birnbaum stepping down. Imagine party leader Dominique Anglade campaigning in a core CAQ region with her new D’Arcy McGee hopeful wearing his kippa. She can explain to those voters what a kippa is and how  this individual can run for public office, yet is not eligible to become a teacher, vice-principal or principal unless they remove their religious symbol.  The same route could be followed for  her candidates with a hijab, turban or a cross around their neck. Wow, would the CAQ be on the defensive!

Tordjmanfamily
David Tordjman says he has the support of his wife and five children to pursue the Liberal nomination in D'Arcy McGee.

 

Since I live in D’Arcy McGee, I decided to reach out to some potential candidates who do wear kippas to see if they would be interested in the nomination for the Liberals – and whether Bill 21 serves as motivating factor.  David Tordjman,  who sat with me on Côte Saint-Luc City Council for four years, responded immediately: “As you’ve pointed out, the Legault government has a track record of violating fundamental rights: banning Quebecers who wear religious symbols from working as teachers, lawyers, and police officers with Bill 21; stripping the rights of parents to democratically elect and manage school boards with Bill 40; and restricting access to the judicial process in English while freezing enrolment in English-language CEGEPs with Bill 96, which was flawed from its inception and does nothing to nurture the English-speaking community. Rather it creates limitations and divisiveness.”

I asked David if he would pursue the Liberal nomination. The answer was “yes.”

“Bill 21 in particular hits home,” said David, a fully bilingual Sephardic Jew who attended English public school. “As a practicing Jew who wears a kippah, I recognize that this legislation impacts me along with countless Quebecers. Most importantly, it affects those presently working in the civil service, and dissuades our youth who aspire to serve the public. As a father of five children, this is not the society of diversity, inclusiveness, and acceptance I wanted to raise them in.

“Many of your readers know me as an active political figure in Côte Saint-Luc. They should also know that I’m not afraid to spark a discussion on why I and others wearing religious symbols can contribute positively to Quebec society at all levels.”

Just imagine David in Shawinigan with Anglade, speaking flawless French and explaining to the audience what Bill 21 really means. The CAQ hierarchy believes that all Quebecers support this law. But they don’t; there are merely too many of our citizens who need to be educated on what the real implications are.

“This election, Dominique Anglade and the Quebec Liberals are best positioned to take on the CAQ. While some may wish to divide our community’s voice at the ballot box, I believe we must stay united in fighting against a government that enacts legislation harming women, religious minorities, racialized people, and immigrant communities.”

As for the two anglo rights parties now forming, unless they find a way to merge neither will have any impact at all on the Liberals. By feuding in the media, leaders Balarama Holness and Colin Standish are losing credibility by the minute.

The Conservative Party of Quebec will get some  votes and I would not be surprised to see their kippa-wearing candidate from 2018, Yaniv Loran, back in the race.


The Quebec Liberal Party's best chance at a comeback is this recipe to "educate" the regions about Bills 21, 40 & 96

Can the Quebec Liberal Party make a comeback in the next provincial election?

Heading into the October vote, polls indicate the Quebec Liberals may get shellacked. Thus far leader Dominique Anglade and the party seem unable to connect with voters. However, I see  a real  opportunity for Anglade..

Bill21
The Liberals need a winning formula.

The party  must come up with many new candidates due to retirements. Since Anglade has made it clear in recent interviews that her party is against Bill 21 (prohibits Quebec citizens who work in public service from wearing religious symbols while fulfilling their duties), Bill 40 (abolition of English public school boards) and Bill 96 (the draconian new language law), why not look at this as an ideal opportunity for a rebranding?

“Unlike the governing CAQ, we are a party that accepts all Quebecers as equals,” Anglade can say by introducing a diversified group of candidates. Imagine how something like that would resonate!

In D’Arcy McGee, name a candidate who wears a  kippa; for Laval find someone with a hijab or turban; in L’Acadie,   identify a high profile English public school official; in Marguerite Bourgeoys (LaSalle) engage someone from an English CEGEP;  for  Vimont Laval convince a representative from the Catholic Church; for Mount Royal (if Pierre Arcand retires), bring in a representative from the Indigenous community. Could you just imagine all of these people sworn in as MNAs and sitting in  Quebec as Bill 21 continues to roll its way through the courts? An orthodox Jew wearing the same kippa that  would  ban him from doing so as a school teacher – ditto for a woman with a hijab. That would be ironic!

Suddenly, the Liberals would have an identity. These MNAs could then travel the province with Anglade  and “educate”   CAQ loyalists in the regions what a religious symbol means. Most of these electors are not exposed to these things. It is support by ignorance.

With all of the opposition parties, including the newly popular Conservatives, the best case scenario for the Liberals would be a minority CAQ government. In order to not get wiped off the map, Anglade needs to think outside of the box and this idea could put them back in the game.

As for the two new anglophone rights parties headed by Balarama Holness and Colin Standish, unless they merge the Liberals have absolutely nothing to fear as they will merely split the vote.


We have made the case that hybrid city council meetings work; is the Quebec government listening?

Last Monday (April 11) Côte Saint-Luc City Council  convened for our first in-person meeting in over two years,

Despite the fact we have over 60,000 cases of COVID-19 daily in Quebec, the CAQ government is in election mode so no matter how backed up our emergency rooms get and regardless of how many crucial surgeries are cancelled due to the explosion of the pandemic it is business as usual according to our National Director of Health.

So, among the many senseless things our provincial government has done is force councils back in public. It was ironic that on the day  we did return, former Councillor Sam Goldbloom was admitted to the Jewish General Hospital with a serious case of COVID. I spoke to Sam today. His condition is improving and he should be released in the coming days. The list of people I know who have come down with COVID in the past two weeks is endless. Yet here we were in the Council Chamber, albeit everyone masked and distanced,asked to meet in the presence of the public. Vaccine passports are now part of our past.

MeinMaskatFirstInPersonMeeting
Seated at our first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic.

The council meeting proceeded similarly to those of the past two years. While we were indeed all seated in the Council Chamber, we wore headphones and via Zoom the session was broadcast live on YouTube. One member of the public showed up, but she left before we got started. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and I are immunosuppressed. So after the agenda was approved, we each went to separate rooms and continued to participate in the meeting. Oh yes, we did have plenty of questions and all of them came online.

What we proved on April 11 is that hybrid meetings do work. We adopted a resolution, calling upon the Quebec government to allow us to conduct such meetings. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, St. Laurent Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa and The Association of Suburban Mayors back this format. Will the Quebec government budge? It would be nice for this occur, but I am not betting on the CAQ doing the right thing where COVID protocols are concerned until after the October election.

Here I am on CTV Montreal

Here I am on CJAD

Here is the video of our first in person meeting

 

RESOLUTION TO REQUEST LEGISLATIVE AMENDMENTS TO ALLOW REMOTE PARTICIPATION OF THE COUNCIL MEMBERS:

            

WHEREAS Ministerial Order 2020-029 authorized the remote participation of elected officials in municipal council meetings as well as in public consultation assemblies due to the state of the declared public health emergency throughout Quebec;

WHEREAS Ministerial Order 2022-024, taken on March 25, revoked Ministerial Order 2020-029, thus requiring physical presence at municipal council meetings and public consultation assemblies;

WHEREAS the sixth wave of the COVID-19 infections is causing a sharp rise in cases across Quebec;

WHEREAS an elected municipal official is at the heart of municipal democracy and that its presence is essential in order to fulfill his duties and obligations;

WHEREAS the remote work mode promotes the participation of elected officials on the move, work-family balance as well as the possibility of voting at a municipal council meeting even in the event of illness;

WHEREAS experience shows that remote communication is done effectively within the framework of the various council meetings;

 

             It was

                       MOVED BY COUNCILLOR Andee Shuster

                       SECONDED BY COUNCILLOR Sidney Benizri

             AND RESOLVED:

            THAT the Council of the City of Côte Saint-Luc ask the government and the National Assembly of Quebec, by means of a letter addressed to the provincial deputy, to adopt the necessary legislative amendments in order to confer on municipalities the power to determine, by by-law or resolution, the procedures for the remote participation of elected officials in meetings of the municipal council as well as in public consultation assemblies.

             THAT a certified copy of this resolution be sent to the MNA of D'Arcy-McGee, Mr. David Birnbaum, to the ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation, to the Union des Municipalités du Québec as well as to the Association of Suburban Municipalities ;

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

 

RÉSOLUTION POUR DEMANDER UNE MODIFICATION LÉGISLATIVE RELATIVEMENT AUX MODALITÉS DE PARTICIPATION À DISTANCE DES ÉLUS MUNICIPAUX

            

ATTENDU QUE l’Arrêté ministériel 2020-029 autorisait la participation à distance des élus aux séances du conseil municipal ainsi qu’aux assemblées publiques de consultation en raison de l’état d’urgence sanitaire déclaré sur tout le territoire québécois ;

ATTENDU QUE l’arrêté ministériel 2022-024, pris le 25 mars dernier, a abrogé l’arrêté numéro 2020-009, obligeant ainsi les élus municipaux à siéger en présentiel aux séances du conseil municipal et assemblées publiques de consultation ;

ATTENDU QUE la sixième vague d’infections à la COVID-19 provoque une forte hausse des cas à travers le Québec ;

ATTENDU QU’un élu municipal est au cœur de la démocratie municipale et que sa présence est ainsi primordiale afin de remplir ses devoirs et obligations ;

ATTENDU QUE le mode de travail à distance favorise la participation des élus en déplacement, la conciliation travail-famille ainsi que la possibilité de voter à une séance du conseil municipal même en cas de maladie ;

ATTENDU QUE l’expérience permet de constater que la communication à distance s’effectue efficacement dans le cadre des différentes assemblées du conseil ;

             Il fut

                       PROPOSÉ PAR LE CONSEILLER Andee Shuster

                       APPUYÉ PAR LE CONSEILLER Sidney Benizri    

             ET RÉSOLU :

 

            QUE le conseil de la Ville de Côte Saint-Luc demande au gouvernement et à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec, par le biais d’une lettre adressée au député provincial, d’adopter les modifications législatives nécessaires afin de conférer aux municipalités le pouvoir de déterminer, par règlement ou résolution, les modalités de participation à distance des élus aux séances du conseil municipal ainsi qu’aux assemblées publiques de consultation.

             QU’une copie certifiée conforme de la présente résolution soit transmis au député provincial de la circonscription de D’Arcy-McGee, monsieur David Birnbaum, au ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation, à l’Union des Municipalités du Québec ainsi qu’à l’Association des municipalités de banlieue ;

ADOPTÉE À L’UNANIMITÉ

 


New Orthodontist Clinic coming to The Avenue

City Council has approved the signage for the first tenant on the ground floor of the District 2 apartment building on The Avenue. It will nice to see the brown paper come down from the windows, although there is still another section the owners can rent out.

It has been five years since residents began occupying the building right across the street from the side entrance of Quartier Cavendish. He ground floor has always been zoned commercial and in a few weeks Nemes Ortho will set up shop there. Operated by Dr. Jordan Nemes (whose parents own J & R Kosher), this will be a nice addition to the community. Of course, at Quartier Cavendish, the legendary Dr. Marvin Steinberg continuest to make kids' teeth straight at Smile Creations.

Ortho (2)
A look at what the outside will look like.

 

Nemes Ortho  currently operates on the West Island and at Decarie Square. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree from McGill University, Dr. Nemes received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from NYU’s College of Dentistry. Dr. Nemes then completed a multidisciplinary general practice residency program at the Jewish General Hospital (McGill University) where he received advanced dental training in various dental specialties and emergency care.

Nemes
Dr. Nemes with a patient.

 

Following his residency, Dr. Nemes practiced dentistry in Montreal and the West Island. Dr. Nemes obtained his Master’s degree and specialty training in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics from the University of Manitoba and is a fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada in Orthodontics. During the course of his studies, Dr. Nemes earned several academic awards and honor.

Marvin2014
Dr. Steinberg

Dr. Steinberg, who is also one of my constituents, received his dental training at McGill University in Montreal and his Orthodontic training at Boston University School of Graduate Dentistry in Boston. He holds a Certificate in Orthodontics as well as a Masters of Science in Dentistry degree. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, a Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada, a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, and as well, a Fellow of the International College of  Dentists. Dr. Steinberg is a Past-President of the Federation of Dental Societies of Greater Montreal, a Past-President of Alpha Omega-Mount Royal Dental Society and Past President of the Quebec Association of Orthodontists.

Let the record show that thanks to my parents, I had braces as did my brother Chuck and sister Lisa. Our orthodontist was Dr. Eric  B. Reich, who had his office at the Kildare Medical Centre. He was such a sports fan that before each appointment he'd call me into his private office to discuss the latest news in the NHL. Everytime I smile with my straight teeth I am grateful to my parents and Dr. Reich.


Hillsdale Golf & Country Club to relocate to Meadowbrook

The Board of Directors of Hillsdale Golf and Country Club has sold its sprawling grounds in Mirabel for  $50 million, effective 2024, subsequently purchasing Meadowbrook Golf Course.

Work will begin immediately to build a state of the art clubhouse, restaurant and reception hall. Bravo to Côte Saint-Luc’s Deputy Mayor Dida Berku, who has worked tirelessly for well over three decades to keep Meadowbrook green.

While Hillsdale is a members only club, arrangements have been made for non-members to golf on Tuesdays from 7 am to 4 pm

Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific West bought the land in 2006 for $3 million and was in talks with the city to build what it called an environmentally friendly, 1,600-unit residential complex dubbed Petite Rivière.

Hillsdale Golf Club began in 1953 with a group of dedicated men who shared a dream and had the determination needed to make their vision a reality. Since then, Hillsdale has grown into a multi-cultural club with a rich history of traditions, memorable moments, and great golf.

“What an opportunity this is for us,” says Hillsdale board member Michael Wagen, the Chief Executive Officer of Delmar Cargo. “Such a large chunk of our membership lives in the West End of Montreal. The drive to Mirabel is long. Now we will build a state of the art facility and contribute to our local community at the same time.”

Berku will meet with Councillor Mitch Kujavsky, Chair of the Planning Advisory Committee, this week to begin the process of planning consultations. Approval will also be required from the  City of Montreal, since part of the golf course is in Lachine.

Meadowbrook
The beautiful grounds of Meadowbrook, soon to be renamed Hillsdale.

 

Berku says the new Hillsdale facility has the potential to become a gathering place for  community events,  receptions and celebrations like weddings.  Efforts will be made to lure a hotel.  Hillsdale will bring its popular restaurant the Grill Room  to the new facility. Chef Eric Hamel, will help you discover these new products whether it is with our daily specials or with our table d’hôte during dinner.  The  Lounge will serve as the perfect place for a game of cards with a group of friends, serving  a wide selection of wines, spirits, and other beverages.  Two snack bars will allow golfers grab a quick bite before they tee time or between the 7th and 8th holes. Here you will find daily items such as paninis, salads, and desserts, all of which are packaged to-go in the easiest and simplest way for you to enjoy your meal while continuing your activities.

Dave Gandell,  president of The CSL Men’s Club, says his membership is overwhelmed. “Many of us will sign up as  members,” he said, noting that Past President Mannie Young was secretly assigned to a private negotiating committee.

Well, I don’t know about you but this sounds like a dream come true! However, this is April Fool’s Day so I regret to inform you it is a merely a wish.    Deputy Mayor Berku, though, has always told me she would love to see something like this occur. So, perhaps I have  planted a seed?


"Forcing" municipalities to return to in-person public meetings represents another example of pretending COVID is over

The Quebec government continues to dig its head in the sand, doing away with COVID-19 measures as if this is a race.

Public Health Director Luc Boileau said today that he may delay the lifting of the mask mandate past mid-April. Well,  that makes sense. We are now officially in a sixth wave. Hospital workers are out in big numbers. A number of restaurants and pubs have had to shut down and while the hard to get PCR testing numbers show over 3,000 cases a day, Boileau  admitted that the real number of daily infections in Quebec is likely closer to 30,000.

Head in sand
Some people from our government do indeed have their heads in the sand.

 

I know it is an election year for the Quebec government, but if the governing CAQ continues to act like COVID does not exist they are removing the incentive for people to get vaccinated or boosted - and just watch as hospital emergency rooms go beyond capacity.

As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc,  I am at loss to understand why municipalities have just been advised that we are now being forced to return to in-person public meetings.  For the past two years we have been convening virtually. The process has worked exceptionally well and while we all want to do this again with the public in attendance and for them to be able to ask questions directly to us, it really is all about timing. Since we now have live webcasts of these meetings, more people than ever are tuning in.  And nobody can argue about the safety factor.

As this sixth wave begins,  no less than nine Members of the National Assembly - including the Premier and the Deputy Premier- sit home isolating because of COVID. Would it not make more sense for the government to leave this choice up to each municipality? Clearly they are spreading the new variant among each other in Quebec City.

Today, Health Minister Christian Dubé spoke about not entirely lifting the State of Emergency; that the government still requires the power to make some urgent decisions. He took a lot of heat for this. Well, here is a perfect opportunity for him to grant municipalities to return to public sessions at the very least when this sixth wave subsides.

Here is the memo municipalities received


À la suite des derniers développements concernant les mesures de la COVID-19, le ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Habitation confirme que l'arrêté 2020-029 du 26 avril 2020, qui permet la participation à distance des membres de toute réunion, séance ou assemblée d’un organe délibérant (dont le conseil d’un organisme municipal), a été abrogé le vendredi 25 mars dernier par l’arrêté ministériel 2022-024. Dans ce contexte, l’ensemble des séances du conseil doit de nouveau se tenir en présentiel, conformément aux règles prévues, entre autres, à la Loi sur les cités et villes et au Code municipal du Québec.

Le site Internet du MAMH sera mis à jour sous peu pour tenir compte de cette abrogation.

I was interviewed by CTV Montreal News. You can see the report here.

CBC also did a report. You can see it here.

 


Developing closer ties with our colleagues on Hampstead Town Council

A few weeks ago I suggested to Mayor Mitchell Brownstein that our council hold a virtual meeting with our colleagues in Hampstead, something we have not done since I first elected 16 years ago.

HampsteadZoom
CSL and Hampstead councils meet.

 

Having a virtual platform made this process so simple and the one hour we spent together was  very productive. Mayor Brownstein and his counterpart, newly elected Hampstead Mayor Jeremi Levi, spoke about some common goals. Councillors introduces ourselves. We are immediate neighbours and of course, for four years during the forced mergers we were part of a borough with Montreal West.

Some of the topics raised included traffic signs on Fleet Road, the extension of Cavendish Boulevard, dedicated bus lines that will start on the Montreal side of Queen Mary Road,  Bill 96, Dawson College and how we may be able to form even closer ties.

We all agreed that more such meetings will be scheduled.

 

 


Handicapped accessible washrooms being installed at Rembrandt Park Chalet

Renovations  are underway at the  Rembrandt Park Chalet’s washrooms.

Our Public Works team are gutting them completely and installing new  floors ceilings, toilets, and more. We are changing both the men's and women's bathrooms to become  wheelchair accessible. One stall in each will be dedicated to this. Also a ramp will be installed at the front entrance.1

REmbrandtChalet
The Rembrandt Chalet.

 

I want to thank Public Works Director Beatrice Newman and her staff for being able to complete this work in-house, saving the city thousands of dollars.

While the work is being carried out,   we ordered a portable bathroom for a minimum of several weeks until everything is  completed. 

Rembrandt Park has become a true hub of activity over the years, with people of all ages spending time there.  Seniors with mobility issues will really appreciate this initiative.


Spotlight on Côte Saint-Luc Merchants for March: Coop Sportive Santé gym/Marchands locaux en vedette pour le mois de mars : Coop Sportive Santé

The Côte Saint-Luc  Local Commerce Committee is pleased to recognize Coop Sportive Santé gym.

As the Spotlight on Local Merchants recipient for March 2022, Coop Sportive Santé gym, located at the corner of Côte Saint-Luc and Westminster Avenues, has been providing to hundreds of members, of all ages and fitness levels, a place to exercise, partake in various physical activities and feel part of the community.

CoopSportiveSante_group-w-Steven
From left to right: Nelson (boxing coach), Patrick Pierre, Ngala Tanyu Johnson, Haleh Hashemzadeh, Nandini Dendukuri, Steven Erdelyi.
De gauche à droite : Nelson (entraîneur de boxe), Patrick Pierre, Ngala Tanyu Johnson, Haleh Hashemzadeh, Nandini Dendukuri, Steven Erdelyi.

Originally started in 2016 as Power Gym, before switching to a Cooperative in 2018, the facility offers a wide selection of cardio machines, power lifting machines, punching bags and a matted area for martial arts training and group lessons in a clean open-concept space.

Côte Saint-Luc District 4 Councillor Steven Erdelyi believes that Coop Sportive Santé is an excellent example for all merchants. “The Board of the Coop headed by the President Nandini Dendukuri has been striving to create a space where residents can come to become physically and mentally fit and offer courses and programs to share with their fellow members,”  he said.

“The goal of the Coop Sportive Santé is to be a gym where the members share ownership and we can inculcate a sense of community,” said Ms. Dendukuri, on behalf of board members Ngala Tanyu Johnson, Haleh Hashemzadeh, Neil Bernstein and Patrick Pierre.  

There are a variety of group fitness activities going on at the Coop Sportive Santé including boxing, self-defense, Qigong and soccer. Space may be reserved for community events or fitness activities. Gym clients can access qualified personal trainers, physio and massage therapists or a nutritionist.

There are different membership options for those looking to join and a growing number of classes, including activities for seniors and women. Discounts are available for students, seniors, families and fitness professionals. As the pandemic slowly comes to an end, the Coop is happy to welcome returning and new members alike.

Info: https://cotesaintluc.org/services/businesses/spotlight-on-local-merchants.

Marchands locaux en vedette pour le mois de mars : Coop Sportive Santé

Le Comité de commerce local de Côte Saint-Luc est heureux de reconnaître le gymnase Coop Sportive Santé.
 
En tant que récipiendaire du prix Marchand local pour le mois de mars 2022, le gymnase Coop Sportive Santé, situé à l’angle des avenues Côte Saint-Luc et Westminster, offre à des centaines de membres, de tous âges et de tous niveaux de forme physique, un endroit pour faire de l’exercice, participer à diverses activités physiques, créant ainsi un sens d’appartenance à la communauté.
 
Initialement lancé en 2016 sous le nom de Power Gym, avant de passer à une coopérative en 2018, l’établissement offre une large sélection d’appareils cardio, d’appareils de musculation, de sacs de frappe et une zone matelassée pour les entraînements d’arts martiaux et les cours de groupe dans un espace ouvert et propre.
 
Le conseiller du district 4 de Côte Saint-Luc, Steven Erdelyi, estime que la Coop Sportive Santé est un excellent exemple pour tous les commerçants. “Le conseil d’administration de la Coop dirigé par la présidente Nandini Dendukuri s’est efforcé de créer un espace où les résidents peuvent venir pour se mettre en forme physiquement et mentalement et offre des cours et des programmes de groupe pour les membres”, a-t-il déclaré.
 
“L’objectif de la Coop Sportive Santé est d’être un gymnase où les membres sont tous propriétaires et où nous pouvons instaurer un sens de la communauté”, a déclaré Mme Dendukuri, au nom des membres du conseil d’administration Ngala Tanyu Johnson, Haleh Hashemzadeh, Neil Bernstein et Patrick Pierre.  
 
La Coop Sportive Santé propose une variété de cours en groupe de conditionnement physique, dont la boxe, la défense personnelle, le Qigong et le football. Des espaces peuvent être réservés pour des événements communautaires ou des activités de conditionnement physique. Les clients du gymnase peuvent avoir accès à des entraîneurs privés qualifiés, à des physiothérapeutes et des massothérapeutes et/ou à un.e nutritionniste.
 
Il existe différentes options d’adhésion pour ceux qui souhaitent s’inscrire et un nombre sans cesse croissant de cours, notamment des activités pour les aînés et les femmes. Des réductions sont proposées aux étudiants, aux aînés, aux familles et aux professionnels du sport. Alors que la pandémie touche lentement à sa fin, la Coop est heureuse d’accueillir les anciens et les nouveaux membres.

Info: https://cotesaintluc.org/fr/services/entreprises/marchands-locaux-en-vedette/

 

 

 


As Quebec hastily ditches COVID restrictions I will push for Côte Saint-Luc to maintain mask mandates in our buildings

It is quite a shame that the CAQ Quebec government and the supposedly independent Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau are rushing to make us believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

According to Premier François Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Boileau, the vaccine passport is no longer necessary. Entertainment venues and restaurants can return to full capacity. Daily COVID case counts basically no longer exist. You think you have COVID? Take a rapid test. Masks are also set to go by mid-April, to me the biggest mistake of them all.

Mask1
I feel more comfortable seeing others wearing masks in stores.

COVID-19 and the Omicron variant have not disappeared. COVID remains a pandemic, not endemic. What was the rush to remove masks of students on March 7, just days after many returned from holidays outside of the country? I know more people with COVID now than I have in the last two years.

Well, there is a Quebec election in October and Legault is worried. Sure, polls show that he should win a majority. But the fledgling Conservatives are making a dent in his base in Quebec City and do not count the Liberals out just yet. The Freedom Convoys made a lot of noise and provincial politicians gave in to their demands.

I feel sad and worried to see the mask mandate come to an end. For the past two years wearing a mask at a mall, grocery store or at work gave me true sense of comfort. There is a reason why nobody got the flu. Family members of mine, prone to bronchitis, bad colds and the like, have never been healthier. If someone coughs in the fruits and vegetable aisle, odds are when and if they sneeze on the zucchini, we are well protected.

Would I feel safer at the Bell Centre next to non-vaccinated maskless individuals? Absolutely not!  Only time will tell to see whether this roll of the dice by the government is a giant mistake.

In Côte Saint-Luc we were early leaders on mask mandates. Well, we will not be able to order people to wear masks at the Quartier Cavendish, synagogues, stores or in apartment buildings when Quebec lifts the mandate. But we sure can do so in our own buildings. I hope our council will decide to maintain mask mandates inside our City Hall, Library and Aquatic and Community Centre.

As for council meetings returning to a live in person format, there is no rush to do so. Since we pivoted to an online format, there are more eyes on our meetings, and I must say during my door to door last fall nobody complained. Sure, we want to return to the City Hall Council Chamber, but only when the time is right. Hopefully that will be soon. It would be prudent to wait and see how the Quebec COVID experiment works first. What happens if the case count doubles in the next month?  On public council meeting evenings, we convene several hours earlier in caucus. The space we use at City Hall is tight under normal circumstances, especially since we have working dinners. This presents a problem we must find a solution to.

And when we do return to public, I believe we should require members of the public to show a vaccine passport or alternatively ask their questions virtually if they have decided not to get the jab.

Folks I had COVID in January 2021. It was a miserable month in my life. I have friends who are Long Haulers. One still has not regained his sense of taste or smell in a year and half.

Now we wait and watch!

See this report on CityNews for which I was one of the people interviewed.

See this Gazette story

 


Meet Sadegh and Saloomeh: From Iran to Côte Saint-Luc they will feel at home

Ometz is a charitable organization that supports and strengthens individuals and families through a range of employment, immigration, school and social services. The Hebrew word for courage, Ometz has been active in Montreal's Jewish community for 156 years.

Via one of my District 2 constituents, Ruth Najman, who works at Ometz 7, I am pleased to be able to introduce to some of our newer residents who came to Canada from different countries and settled in our community.

Photo_2022-02-07_22-07-44

Sadegh Hadizadeh and Saloomeh Kargar Shiraz (pictured above)  arrived here in March 2017. Their son was born soon after,

“In the beginning, we temporarily rented an apartment in NDG for a few months, and I was looking for a calm and safe place for families with good access to all our basic needs; I found Côte Saint-Luc was the best neighbourhood for us,” said Sadegh.

Sadegh is an IT administrator at Groupe Jesta. His wife was a nurse in Iran for almost nine years. Last year she got her RN (Registered Nurse) permit and now works at  the OriginElle Fertility Clinic & Women's Health Centre on Decarie Boulevard. 

The couple are proud members of our CSL Public Library, where we have do have a selection of Persian books. They are trilingual – Persian, French and English.


New Quartier Cavendish movie theatres should be opening soon

With movie theatres now open for business, the curtains will  soon rise at the new Ciné Starz  Deluxe Cinemas at Quartier Cavendish.

Hampstead's Bruce Gurberg owns the chain, which has locations at Plaza Côte des Neiges, in St. Leonard,  Ottawa and Toronto. He tells me that he hopes to be ready to show movies by the end of March or the beginning of April.

MallTheatres
City Council has approved this outdoor sign proposal for the new theatre.

 

Cineplex Odeon Theatres at Quartier Cavendish shut operations at Quartier Cavendish in November 2020. The company emptied the place out, right down to the seats, screens and concession stand. I believed that Gurberg would be the one to fill the void and he indeed stepped up.

"We will have the same eight screens," Gurberg told me. "There will be brand new seating and let's just say I have some real surprises planned."

 

 


Will Legault call a snap election?

If Quebec Premier François Legault does not call a by-election in South Shore Marie Victorin soon, this will lead me to only one conclusion: a snap general election.

Legaultnurse

Marie Victorin was left vacant when Catherine Fournier was elected mayor of Longueuil in November. That was nearly four months ago. All the parties now have candidates. Legault originally said he was waiting for the Omicron variant to cool down. But no doubt running scared from the Freedom Convoy, he is already removing most COVID restrictions (much too fast if you ask me). I just hope he does not bow to pressure and remove masks.

The next Quebec election is in October and there appears to be little doubt that Legault’s CAQ will win a convincing majority. Legault wants a landslide victory and that is now slightly in doubt because of the fact he did the right thing where pandemic health protocols were necessary. That meant shutting down bars, gyms, restaurants, stores, malls, entertainment venues and going as far as instituting a curfew. His Health Minister Christian Dubé brought in the vaccine passport and enacted a very successful vaccination campaign.

Sadly, a small minority of the population in Canada has decided to go rogue as protests across the country show us.

Opposing COVID measures in illegal fashion has gotten the attention of politicians. We have irresponsible people like Conservative leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre and the most repulsive opportunist of them all, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, egging the protesters on. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who clearly has no idea what he is doing, is no better.

In Quebec, the fledgling Conservative Party headed by Eric Duhaime are doing well in the polls. In fact, they could take some seats in Quebec City.

Legault does not want to see a party other than his win in Marie Victorin. In the event of a likely sixth wave, Legault does not want to take that yoyo out of his pocket and reimpose new COVID measures before October. If he calls a general election for the spring and wins, he will have four more years of security and probably then less worried to lower the boom once again if hospitalization numbers increase.

So, let’s watch Marie Victorin. If the Premier delays much longer, then remember you read it here first.


A fascinating story about brothers and sisters connecting for the first time

Bram Eisenthal and I have been friends for many years.

A longtime Côte Saint-Luc resident, Bram has recently fallen upon hard times health wise.   Adopted at a young age, Bram spoke often about wanting to find his birth parents and to learn if he any siblings. Before he got sick and had to be placed in assisted living, he was able to unite with his siblings in a story that one could only see in the movies. I feel so badly for Bram in many ways. He dreamed of this opportunity all of his life. Now he cannot even experience it.

The Washington Post  filed an extensive feature and you can read it below.

‘DNA Doesn’t Lie. People Lie.’

After discovering six adopted brothers and sisters, these siblings
believe their story is more than a sprawling family secret
 
By Jaclyn Peiser
Feb. 9, 2022

 

The following are Anne and Mike’s children.

Image without caption

Barbara Louis

BORN AUG. 5, 1949
Barbara appears to be Anne and Mike’s first child. She was raised by Anne.
Image without caption

Sharon Coppola

BORN AUG. 16, 1950
Sharon was adopted by Eleanor and Alex Joseph, a Jewish couple in Brooklyn.
Image without caption

Rene Holm

BORN OCT. 5, 1951
Rene was adopted by June Cohen, an American living in Montreal, and Sam Cohen, a Jewish man.
Image without caption

Naomi Baum

BORN OCT. 9, 1952
Naomi was adopted by Max and Anne Padber, a Jewish couple in Montreal.
Image without caption

?

1953
Bob swears that Anne had a child every year from 1949 to 1957, but this year is unaccounted for.
Image without caption

Reissa Spier

BORN MARCH 15, 1954
Reissa was adopted by Saul Gordon and Rose Levine, a Jewish couple in Montreal.
Image without caption

Jon Sherman

BORN APRIL 15, 1955
Jon was adopted by Aaron Sherman and Hilda Bacher Sherman, a Jewish couple living in Detroit.
Image without caption

Michael Bryntwick

BORN APRIL 17, 1956
Michael was raised by Anne until her death in 1967.
Image without caption

Bram Eisenthal

BORN APRIL 26, 1957
Bram was adopted by Mike and Mina Eisenthal, a Jewish couple living in Montreal.

We’re moving” was a phrase Bob Bryntwick heard once or twice a year during his childhood in the 1950s. There were many times when he’d come home from school to find the contents of his family’s Montreal home scattered across the front lawn. His single mother, Anne, didn’t make rent again. He’d shrug, gather his things and mentally prepare to start over in a different neighborhood, going to a new school and making new friends.

With each move, Anne took pride in their dwellings. Almost immediately, she’d freshen up the walls with a new color or paint the floral crown molding with vibrant hues. Her feet pattered on the wood floors as she danced to “Tennessee Waltz,” no matter where they lived. There were also the familiar smells of frying dough, borscht and potato pockets that filled the home. So, too, did the sounds she made giving birth — each home christened when she had a child.

Bob, now 73 and living in Mississauga, a Toronto suburb, remembers rotating the volume dial on a small black-and-white TV in hopes of drowning out his mother’s recognizable shrieks of pain emanating from the bedroom. “My mother was like clockwork,” Bob tells me, emphasizing the routineness by snapping his fingers. “Every year, year and a half, she was having a baby.”

But even as his mother gave birth annually for almost a decade, he remained the middle child of the five being raised by Anne. Bob says the newborn children were always gone after only a few days or weeks. No one explained what happened to them.

The last infant came and went when Bob was 9, and soon his memories of the transient babies faded. It wasn’t until decades later, when he sent a tube of spit to Ancestry, that he would be confronted with undeniable truths about his upbringing and his family.

More than 300 miles from Bob’s childhood in Canada, Eleanor and Alex Joseph’s hopes of becoming parents were chipped away by each miscarriage. The middle-class Jewish couple living in Brooklyn had also tried adopting, but the endeavor proved futile in 1940s New York because of a segregated system in which Jewish families could only adopt babies of the same religion. By 1950, after the couple exhausted all options, they turned to their family physician for advice. He told them he knew of a doctor in Montreal facilitating adoptions. At a price. After their meeting, the doctor got word that an infant was available. The Josephs traveled to Quebec and picked up their daughter. They named her Sharon.

Now 71 and living in Tampa, Sharon Coppola is grateful for a life in which she wanted for nothing. Her parents offered a perfect balance of temperaments: Her mother, a school aide, was smart and strong-willed; her father, a plumber, was caring and sweet. She insists she never longed to know her biological family. It wasn’t until 1989, after her mother died, that Sharon’s father unwrapped a secret he’d kept tightly bound for decades. “He came to me right after the funeral and said, ‘I have something to tell you,’ ” Sharon recalls. “He said, ‘You have a twin sister.’ ”

Alex then showed 39-year-old Sharon a letter he had received shortly after her adoption from a nurse who cared for her as a newborn (“I was glad to hear that your daughter is so much improved. She really does well, God bless her.”). The note referred to another baby and included a last name and address for the family who adopted the other child. Sharon’s father told her that he and her mother vowed not to tell Sharon about the letter or her sister. Alex, who was a twin himself, claimed that if they had known she had a twin, they would have adopted both. Sharon doubted his explanation because her cousin had told her that the Josephs borrowed a large sum of money from her grandparents to afford the adoption. There’s no way they could have paid for a second child, Sharon speculated.

She soon started on an earnest mission to find her sister. But the last name and address of the family surfaced nothing. Widespread use of the Internet was still more than a decade away — and without further context of the circumstances surrounding her adoption, which her father could not provide, she quickly hit a wall.

By 2013, however, new technology had emerged, and finding a relative was as easy as sending a DNA sample through the mail. Hoping to finally locate her twin sister, Sharon joined the Ancestry database. Like Bob, her discoveries would lead her in a direction she never anticipated.

Reissa Spier knew she was adopted but never cared to know the details. She understood that her father, Saul Gordon, a sales representative in the plumbing and hardware industry and a proud Jewish veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and her mother, Rose Levine, a part-time bookkeeper, struggled with infertility following World War II. They adopted Reissa’s older brother in 1951 and Reissa three years later. She adored her parents, whose active participation in their Montreal synagogue instilled her with a strong Jewish identity. The family was a tightknit unit, and for much of Reissa’s childhood they lived in a duplex with her aunt, uncle and cousins residing upstairs.

Only at 51, when Reissa was diagnosed with breast cancer, did she start down a path that would lead to her origin story. She was anxious to know if her daughter was at risk for the disease, so she asked her doctor to test her for mutations in the BRCA genes, genetic changes that signify increased risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Ashkenazi Jewish women are at higher risk of carrying the mutation. But Reissa’s adoption made it difficult. “I had to prove that I had a first-degree relative who also had breast cancer, and I didn’t know any first-degree relatives,” Reissa, now 67 and in remission, explains. “They said, ‘You don’t qualify because you’re adopted.’ Well, that’s backwards. I should qualify because I’m adopted.”

Ten years later and living in Surrey, south of Vancouver, Reissa had all but given up on her efforts when she started seeing ads for 23andMe. Among the various genetic tests, the service offered results for the BRCA mutations. Her husband gave her the kit for her 62nd birthday.

When the results came in, Reissa was relieved to learn she didn’t carry the mutation. What she found was far more startling. First, she learned she wasn’t fully Jewish — she was half, through her biological father. Second, she had a full sister named Rene Holm.t

Rene (pronounced like “rain”) always dreamed of having siblings. She remembers as a little girl pleading with her adoptive mother for a baby sister. “It’s never going to happen,” was always the response. Rene doesn’t know why her parents — June Cohen, a Massachusetts-born showgirl living in Montreal, and Sam Cohen — didn’t have a biological child. Whatever the reasons, June, who converted to Judaism to marry Sam, made clear to Rene, now 70, that she had come at a price: “I paid good money for you,” she told her daughter.

A woman with radiant beauty yet a harsh personality, June was never warm and nurturing toward Rene. June left her husband when Rene was a toddler and took her to Worcester, Mass., eventually leaving Rene in her parents’ care. When June resurfaced a decade later, Rene didn’t welcome her return. On Rene’s 13th birthday, June brought her to a strip club for the first time and put her to work. “As soon as the show was over, my job was to go onto the stage, pick up all her clothes and take them back to the dressing room,” Rene recalls. Given her adoptive mother’s instability, Rene grew curious about her biological parents. June always said Rene’s biological mother was a young, poor unwed woman who had no other children — a tale Rene found dubious.

In 2015, Rene’s children gave her a 23andMe DNA kit as a Mother’s Day gift. But she left the box untouched for nearly a year, dreading what it could reveal. When she finally took the test, the buildup was almost all for naught. No meaningful results surfaced — until 13 months later when she received a message from Reissa, her biological sister. “It was just so surreal,” Rene tells me in her sun-drenched den in Rutland, Mass. The two formed a quick and close bond. “I just freaking love that woman,” she says as she wipes away her black eyeliner-stained tears.

But the fact that Rene and Reissa had the same parents puzzled the two women. “This couple was together, had a baby girl, and gave her up for adoption. And two a half years later they’re still together” — and then “they gave me up?” Reissa says. “We both thought this was really sketchy. Why would they have done this?” To widen their DNA net, Reissa signed up for Ancestry in the spring of 2018. When she received her results, she connected with Bob Bryntwick.

On opposite ends of Canada, the estranged siblings were piecing together their shared family tree. Reissa and Rene matched in 2016, and Bob and Sharon exchanged messages on Ancestry the following year. Then Reissa and Bob found each other, all four sharing the same biological mother: Anne Chop Bryntwick.

Anne was born in 1914 to a Ukrainian Catholic family in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She grew up on a farm with 13 siblings and never received a formal education. Bob described her as a loving and sometimes jovial woman who didn’t work and occupied her time cooking, baking, cleaning and sewing her children’s clothes. But there were many times when she collapsed into fits of grief and sadness.

Bob was one of five siblings in the house. There was the oldest, Ed, born in 1939, the result of Anne’s first and only husband, Alex Bryntwick. She left him not long after Ed was born, but they never legally divorced. Next came Ann in 1946, the product of one of their mother’s flings, according to Bob. Bob, the middle child, was born in 1948. Then there were his younger siblings, Barbara, born in 1949, and Michael in 1956.

Bob, Barbara and Michael were all told their father was Max “Mike” Mitchell, a tall, gregarious man whose presence could take over a room. Mike, who was born and raised in Montreal in a Jewish family, never stuck around for long, Bob says. He would float in and out of their lives, often for a weekend here and there each year. “Every time that big black car was sitting in front of our house in Montreal, we knew it was him — my dad,” Barbara Louis, 72, tells me over the phone from her home in Vernon, British Columbia. The kids would rush in, and Mike would hand them candy, gifts or sometimes money to use at the corner store. On a few occasions he took them on day trips.


Over the course of Mike and Anne’s almost decade-long relationship, according to the siblings, they bore more children. “I was young, and I didn’t understand why she would keep on having babies,” Bob says. When he was a teenager Ed told him that their other brothers and sisters were sold to families. “Mike was getting $10,000 per child,” Bob remembers Ed telling him. Understanding that the various pregnancies amounted to selling the babies made sense to Bob and Barbara, who described their family as poor. Barbara remembers eating better when Mike was around. “There was money when he came through,” she says.

What the Bryntwick children suspect was happening in their home was not illegal in Quebec in the 1950s. Neither Canada nor the United States had federal laws barring the sale of babies. In 1955 there was only one Canadian province that banned the act, and in 1956, The Washington Post reported, 32 states had “no criminal statute barring baby sales.” This lack of oversight bred an exploitative environment.

There were several factors that made Quebec the ideal place for what is now referred to as the black-market baby trade. In part, it was because of a complex social welfare system, which at the time included both government-run and private institutions segregated by religion, according to Magda Fahrni, a history professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal. But with most of the population being Catholic, the church had a powerful cultural hold over the province and many people turned to religious resources for social services. Because of the church’s influence, the majority of Quebec followed the religion’s moralistic rules: Premarital sex was a sin, abortion was illegal and unwed child rearing was discouraged. But if a single, poor pregnant woman wanted to avoid going to the church for help, the most feasible option was a disreputable, underground and often unsanitary maternity home, where she would give birth and then the sale was facilitated through a network of brokers, doctors, lawyers and clergy.

After World War II, there was significant societal pressure to have children in Canada and the United States. For couples who could not have children of their own, adoption was popular and one of the only ways to attain a nuclear family. With not enough Catholic families looking to adopt, the church-run orphanages were overcrowded. On the other end of the spectrum, there were not enough Jewish children up for adoption and too many Jewish couples across North America looking for one. But it was illegal to adopt a child of a different religion in Quebec, so the imbalance created a classic supply and demand problem.

“Of course, we don’t want children to be commodities, but the reality of looking at any of this stuff is that they are treated as commodities [at the time],” says Karen Balcom, a history professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and the author of “The Traffic in Babies: Cross-Border Adoption and Baby-Selling Between the United States and Canada.” There was “a premium, or desire, for a child who is, or can, be made to appear as Jewish,” she adds.

There were a few ways of achieving this, Balcom explains. Because the clergy oversaw birth registrations, some black-market brokers would employ a “phony mother.” This scheme meant the Catholic mother, who gave birth at a maternity home run by the brokers, would hand off her newborn to a Jewish woman, who would pretend to be the mother and bring the child to a rabbi to register the child’s birth; a Canadian or American Jewish family could then legally adopt the child in Quebec. Other schemes involved a clandestine handover of the child to the adoptive family inside a hospital immediately following the birth.

It is unclear why there were so few Jewish babies up for adoption. Pierre Anctil, a history professor at the University of Ottawa who has studied the Jewish community in Quebec, says it could be because of cultural differences. “I’m thinking that the Jewish community of the time was much more liberal-minded than the Catholics,” Anctil tells me, adding that many young Jewish women in the post-World War II era were more empowered and independent, getting university-level degrees, pursuing careers in education and the medical field. They also may have had better access to contraceptives and safe abortion, Anctil says, and in more progressive communities, it would have also been less taboo for a single, Jewish woman to raise a baby on her own as opposed to the pressure and shame Catholic women felt to give a baby up for adoption.

Black-market operations were very profitable, with the going rate for a baby ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, according to news reports in the mid-1950s, equivalent to more than 10 times that today. There’s no way of knowing how many babies were sold to couples in Canada and the United States, but in 1956 the Baltimore Sun reported that the baby trade across North America was valued at $25 million annually, which is about $250 million today. The mothers rarely got much of that money. “Nothing that I have read or seen are the women who give birth benefiting financially,” Balcom says. “They get kicked out on the street with like 50 bucks.”

In most cases, historians say, a mother selling a child was a one-off. But what the Bryntwick children believe happened in their household was almost methodical, though it is unclear how much money was being made or how it was distributed. Recent DNA testing indicates at least eight children were born to Anne and Mike between August 1949 and April 1957, six of whom were adopted. In other words, it’s an extreme case from a former era in which babies were all too often treated as mere goods. But it’s also an unusual version of a familiar story from our era, where DNA has brought to light numerous family secrets — albeit few secrets as byzantine and sprawling as the baby-selling operation that, as they were discovering decades later, linked the Bryntwick children to one another.

Bob and Barbara remember the last child their mother had in 1957, a year after Michael was born. They named the new baby Richard and Barbara took to him. “I’d help change his bum and carry him and play with him like he was my little doll,” she says. But her time with Richard ended abruptly. “I remember Dad coming home,” says Barbara, who was 7 at the time, “and he took him right out of my arms.”

The incident was Anne’s last straw, Bob says. He clearly remembers the day his mother and Mike ended their relationship, soon after baby Richard. Watching through an upstairs window, Bob saw his mother walk to Mike’s car and sit in the passenger’s seat as they talked. Twenty minutes later, she got out. “She finally closed the door, walked upstairs and that was the end of Mike Mitchell,” he recalls.

For the kids who remained in Anne’s care, their home life was unstable and, for Barbara, dangerous. The eldest sibling, Ed, had a short temper, and she says he was physically and sexually abusive — frequently sneaking over to Barbara’s bed and touching her inappropriately. “Quietly in the middle of the night,” she says, noting that she shared a bedroom with him and Bob. “I remember that so vividly. So vividly.” Ed wasn’t the only one who violated her. Some of the men Anne brought home also abused her. “Those kids that got sold out to the families are the luckiest kids alive,” Barbara says. “We were left behind, and we went hungry, and we were cold and beaten.”

Nine years after Mike exited the Bryntwicks’ lives, Anne died of colon cancer and the five siblings went their separate ways. Ed took off on his own and died of colon cancer in 1990. Ann and Barbara hitchhiked to British Columbia. Both got married young and divorced not long after. Ann died of cirrhosis of the liver in 2016. Bob stayed in Montreal, went to McGill University, got married and worked in sales.

Michael, who was 10 when their mother died, was sent to the Weredale House, a now defunct boy’s home run by the Quebec government, where he says he was abused. He described it as worse than jail, a place he landed a few times after running away from the home. In his late teens in the early 1970s, he became a nomad — roaming North America and Europe, using drugs, panhandling, camping with hippies and working in a labor pool. In 1981, after years of self-destruction, he moved to Ontario. Now 65, Michael lives in Stoney Creek, about 70 miles south of Toronto, and has been sober for more than 20 years.

“It’s her love that actually saved me,” Michael tells me, referring to his mother, Anne. “It was what I carried with me all my life. So, I was able to weather the bad things that happened because I had a sense of love.”

When Bob explained his childhood to Reissa Spier, she realized she had some delicate news to share. Despite what Bob was told growing up, Mike was not his biological father. Reissa, who had become fascinated by genetic genealogy, recognized that their genetic match on Ancestry was half that of her connection with Rene Holm. Instead of her match with Bob being labeled as “sibling,” it said “close family.” Reissa understood that Bob was in fact her half brother, sharing only the same mother. “I was the one who had to tell Bob that he had a different father,” Reissa says. “It was a difficult conversation to have.”

LaKisha David, a genetic genealogist whose research is focused on descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the United States, says Reissa’s analysis is correct. Ancestry uses labels like “close family” because the percentage match for half siblings, grandparent and grandchild relation, aunt or uncle and niece or nephew relation are similar. It’s then a matter of process of elimination, she explains. “So, if you know the age, you know these other bits of information, you can eliminate these other relationships,” she says.

Reissa took the lead in continuing to piece together their burgeoning family tree, and the growing popularity of 23andMe and Ancestry worked in her favor. Over 12 million people have used 23andMe, and more than 20 million have used Ancestry’s DNA product, according to spokeswomen for both companies. Recent spoils of these websites have gone so far as to help solve murders and track down unethical fertility doctors.

LaKisha David believes these websites are a “great thing” because they allow people to better understand their histories. “It will expose the stuff that folks want to keep a secret. A lot of our older generations don’t like to talk about this stuff,” she says. “For a lot of people, DNA is the only way they can piece together their story.”

Reissa received another “close family” connection on Ancestry in the summer of 2018. His name is David J. Mitchell; his father was Mike Mitchell, as was hers. Upon further review of his genetic map, Reissa understood that he, like Bob, is her half brother. Not wanting to scare him off, Reissa sent David a note without mentioning what she suspected. But she was confident in her understanding of their genetic connection. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to people: DNA doesn’t lie. People lie,” Reissa says.

It was only when they spoke on the phone a few weeks later that Reissa told him they have the same father. “It was a surprise,” David, now 67, told me in May 2019. “I’m still absorbing it.” Reissa learned that David was one of eight children Mike had with his wife, who was Roman Catholic. A strange revelation was that David and Reissa were both born in Montreal on March 15, 1954.

David never suspected his father had this other life. From what David could remember, his parents “were close,” he said. “We grew up like middle-class royalty in Canada in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s.” David said his father, who died in 1991, was self-employed, but he declined to give specifics on how Mike made money, saying he didn’t want to divulge too much information because he was writing a book about his family.

When we spoke, David said he wasn’t sure whether his mother, who died in 2000, was aware of Mike’s relationship with Anne. He defended his father’s involvement in the adoptions, placing doubt that Mike benefited financially from the alleged arrangement. “He helped her through some difficult times,” David said, referring to Anne. “I think the impulse that I’ve been able to determine and document was that he was, in his own way — may have been misguided as a young man. But in his own way, he was endeavoring to help her.” David declined to offer evidence to support his assertions. He also questioned the extent of his father’s relationship with Anne, which consisted of occasional weekend visits for almost a decade, according to Bob and Barbara: “That’s an interpretation that comes from Bob, who was a very young boy at the time.”

Bob disagrees. “[Mike Mitchell] was having a strong relationship with my mother for 10 years, and these kids were coming out on a regular basis,” he says. “It was going to feed his family, wasn’t going to feed ours.”

Over the years, I have attempted to make additional contact with David, but my requests were rebuffed or went unanswered. I also attempted to contact the other living Mitchell siblings but did not hear back.

Reissa asked David to pass along her contact information to his siblings, saying she’d like to talk to them. No one has reached out.

In a noisy, dimly lit corner of Bâton Rouge Steakhouse & Bar in Montreal in March 2019, five siblings sat around a dinner table for the first time as a group. “This all feels way too comfortable,” Rene said, looking around the table at Bob, Michael, Reissa and Bram Eisenthal, a new addition. He was born in 1957 and is most likely Anne’s last child, known as baby Richard. Like Reissa and Rene, Bram was adopted by a Jewish couple in Montreal.

When I glanced at the siblings all next to each other, I could see the resemblance. Rene and Bob share warm and kind eyes, while he and Reissa are similar in spirit and smarts. Michael and Bram — the two youngest — look strikingly similar. Their expressions mimic each other — similar modest smiles and dark eyes. “I said, ‘He looks familiar,’ but now I realize I’m looking in a mirror,” Michael said, though Bram’s hair has thinned while Michael sports thick salt-and-pepper locks, which he covered with a camouflage ball cap.

As the courses came and went, the siblings compared notes on their lives and personalities. “I think I have ADD,” one said. “Me too!” echoed another. “Do you have trouble sleeping? I do.” Bob and Reissa discussed their cancer diagnoses, a common thread among some of the siblings. Sharon Coppola, who couldn’t make the reunion, had breast cancer, too, and is in remission. They recounted how they found one another and pieced together their story. “You were the key to everything,” Reissa said to Bob.

Bram, who like all the adopted siblings besides Reissa was an only child, told me over breakfast that morning that he had a lonely childhood and longed for the companionship of brothers and sisters. He was largely quiet at the restaurant that night. Someone from the group pointed out his silence and asked if he was okay. “I’m still soaking it all in,” he responded. He then glanced around the table at the strangers he now knew as his family and added, “It’s wonderful being here with you all.”

Along with Sharon, another sibling was missing from the Montreal dinner. Barbara, traumatized by her childhood of instability and abuse, expressed no interest in getting to know her newfound siblings. “I’m an old woman now with bad memories,” she said when we first spoke in 2019. But Reissa’s consistent, heartfelt emails hoping for a connection finally got through to Barbara. She now has a relationship with all her siblings, including Michael, whom she hadn’t spoken to for more than 40 years. “It didn’t really hurt me by meeting them. If anything, it enhanced me,” she says.

Naomi Baum and Jon Sherman. (Courtesy of Naomi Baum)
Naomi Baum and Jon Sherman. (Courtesy of Naomi Baum)
Since the gathering, two more siblings have surfaced — Naomi Baum, born in 1952, and Jon Sherman, born in 1955, both also adopted by Jewish families — further completing the Bryntwick family tree. All eight children born from 1949 on are full matches, meaning they have the same biological parents. But questions linger for the expanded Bryntwick family. For one, Bob swears that Anne had a child every year from 1949 to 1957, so one year is unaccounted for: 1953. And there are conflicting theories among the group regarding Sharon’s supposed twin. Barbara believes that she could be the twin, but there’s no way to identify fraternal twins through DNA. Even though, according to their birth certificates, she was born in 1949 and Sharon was born in 1950, Barbara questions those records because her mother didn’t register her birth until she was 7 years old.

Complicating the matter, the six adopted children all likely have falsified birth records. When the Quebec government opened up its adoption records in 2018, Reissa applied to find any documentation of her birth. After several follow-up conversations with a social worker, Reissa received a formal response notifying her that the records include only her “adoptive name and the names, occupation, address of your adoptive parents.”

“I do not exist,” she explains to me, “except as the daughter of my adoptive parents. There is no birth record, there’s no original birth certificate, there’s no record of live birth. … I have no way of proving that I was born in Canada, on a specific day.” She adds, “It’s as though [my siblings and I] just magically materialized for our adoptive parents and we didn’t exist until then.”

The bonds between the siblings have solidified over the years — they have a running email chain and Facebook Messenger chat. Since the 2019 gathering, many have met up one-on-one. This summer, Reissa, Bob, Rene and Naomi all got together in Toronto.

There is a consensus among most of the siblings — now in their 60s and 70s — that finding one another later in life was meant to be. “The fact that we all met again is something I knew would happen,” Michael says. “I always had a sense that they would come.”à

Bram
Bram Eisenthal

 

Several of the siblings — Reissa, Bram, Bob, Rene and Michael  — in 2019. (Jaclyn Peiser/The Washington Post)

About this story

Jaclyn Peiser is a reporter on The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team.

Photo editing by Dudley M. Brooks. Design by Clare Ramirez. Family graphic photos provided by Bob Bryntwick, Reissa Spier, Naomi Baum.

 

 


Garbage collection problem resolved for 6700 The Avenue

Thanks to our Public Works Department, a problem with garbage collection at 6700 The Avenue has been resolved.

Buildings constructed in recent years only receive garbage collection once a week. The idea is for composting to take place  as well once a week. But since that is still not a reality I was able to arrange with Public Works to add a second day each week the pickup schedule in the interim.

6700 The Avenue has 90 units. Once a week pickup is not sufficient at the present time for a building this size. For starters they do not have enough bins for this to be done properly, emitting a foul smell outdoors and in the garage where the garbage had to be returned.

Thanks to Director Beatrice Newman and Environmental Technician Carly Steban for their assistance on this dossier as well as Emile Badea from 6700 The Avenue, which will have a  new commercial tenant by the spring on the ground floor.

The city is arranging this exceptionally until an official letter is sent to all new buldings with the three-way-shoots, detailing the next steps for compost implementation.

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Garbage bins at 6700 The Avenue.

 


The mascots brighten our day in place of winter carnival

For the  second year in a row,  due to the pandemic, the city had to cancel winter carnival activities. Let's hope that will not be necessary next year at this time.  I have great memories of this event from the time I was a young child growing up on Wentworth Avenue.  At that time all of the action took place at Kirwan Park, which was in my backyard. There was Bon'homme Carnival, taffy on the snow, fun and games and much more.

Mascots

Years later, when my daughter was little, I loved bringing her to Trudeau Park for the festivities.

As  a city councillor I helped preside over the annual figure skating competition awards and the always popular McDonald's Pancake Breakfast. We usually got good weather and that translated into a lot of families at the park, enjoying horse rides, food and fun.

 

Luc

This year our Parks and Recreation Department organized a Mascot Day.  Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Andee Shuster and I met them at Trudeau Park. The kids on hand got a real kick out of their presence. Afterwards our official mascot, Luc the Turtle, joined me at Rembrandt Park in District 2 where we waved to cars passing by.

 

 


February Spotlight on Côte Saint-Luc Merchants: Kyong Ho Lee, Talon minute Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre

As the chair of the Côte Saint-Luc  Local Commerce Committee, I am pleased to announce the Spotlight on Local Merchants recipient, for February 2022. For 30 years Kyong Ho Lee from Talon Minute Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre has been providing clients with reliable shoe repairs, copies of keys as well as fixing zippers and handbags. He is retiring and now has a closing sale for the rest of the month of February. We thank him for his incredible service. Over the years he has  changed so many of my zippers, repaired shoes and handbags and all with a smile. His prices, by the way, were always quite low.

Côte Saint-Luc Deputy Mayor and District 3 Councillor Dida Berku believes that he serves as a wonderful example for all merchants. “Mr. Lee has provided an important service for three decades and has so many devoted clients,” she said. “In difficult times like these, it is important to recognize his contribution and to support small shops like his. We are lucky to still have him in our local shopping center. We only wish we could have other business owners equal his longevity.

In his native South Korea, Mr. Lee was a computer engineer and worked as logistics manager for companies like Samsung and HP. He came to Canada from Seoul South Korea with this wife and their then young daughter in 1991. Two years later he opened his business. He greeted customers with a smile and his prices were always beyond reasonable, not to mention his turnaround time.

Kyong Ho Lee in the presence of Deputy Mayor and District 3 Councillor Dida Berku.
Mr. Lee is the owner of Talon Minute located in the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre for 30 years and a recipient of the Spotlight on Local Merchants program for the month of February 2022.

Please  go to our Local Merchants page

Marchands locaux en vedette : Kyong Ho Lee, Talon Minute, Centre commercial Côte Saint-Luc

Le Comité de commerce local de Côte Saint-Luc est fier d’annoncer récipiendaire du programme Marchands locaux en vedette, pour février 2022. Depuis 30 ans, Kyong Ho Lee de Talon Minute du Centre commercial de Côte Saint-Luc offre à ses clients des réparations de chaussures fiables, des copies de clés ainsi que la réparation de fermetures éclair et de sacs à main.

Dida Berku, mairesse adjointe et conseillère du district 3, estime M. Lee est un de merveilleux exemple pour tous les commerçants. « M. Lee fournit un service important depuis 30 ans et a tant de clients fidèles, a-t-elle déclaré. En période difficile comme celle-ci, il est important de reconnaître sa contribution et de soutenir les petits commerces comme le sien. Nous sommes chanceux qu’il soit situé dans notre centre commercial local. Nous souhaiterions seulement que d’autres propriétaires d’entreprise aient la même longévité que lui. »

Dans son pays natal, la Corée du Sud, M. Lee était ingénieur en informatique et a travaillé comme directeur de la logistique pour des entreprises comme Samsung et HP. Il a quitté Séoul, en Corée du Sud, pour s’installer au Canada avec sa femme et leur fille, alors en bas âge, en 1991. Deux ans plus tard, il ouvre son commerce ou il accueille ses clients avec le sourire, offre d’excellents prix et une rapidité de service imbattable.

 




Mourning the passing of community leader Joe Presser

I knew Joe Presser for most of my life, so when I learned that he had passed away suddenly on January 30 I took the news quite badly.

I first met Joe when I was a young child. His daughter Shari was in my class at school and his nephews the Marons were close friends. My late father Larry revered Joe, always promoting the fact he was the man behind Cooper Clothing. He pegged Joe as the “Suit Man” and it was a nickname that stuck.

Presser
Joe and I at a Men's Club Gala Dinner.

In the summer of 2018.  we honoured Joe at the Côte Saint-Luc Golf Classic. Extreme heat postponed our day at the links, but the luncheon banquet to pay tribute to him carried on. Despite the fact I was dealing with an intolerably painful case of kidney stones, I made sure to be there for Joe’s sake. I am so glad the city did something to recognize his remarkable community work.

 I considered Joe a good friend and a true supporter of mine in District 2 from day one of my time on council. Since the start of the pandemic we spoke but regrettably saw each other less than usual and I feel badly for that.

Joe had been active at programming in Côte Saint-Luc for most of his life, notably at Beth Zion Congregation, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Cummings Centre Sports Celebrity Breakfast and the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club. But he was often the man behind the scenes, not getting his deserving day in the sun.

As told by Joe’s close friend Irving Leiner, at our luncheon, the late Rabbi Sydney Shoham was a close as well to Joe and would often and affectionately refer to him as “Pressure.”

 At the age of eight and living on City Hall Avenue, Joe and his six siblings sadly lost their father and survival skills at a very young age were untimely thrust upon him. As a young boy and as a means of recreation, Joe spent all his free time at Neighbourhood House where the cost was free unlike the nearby Y that charged a yearly unaffordable fee of $50. He quickly honed his leadership and athletic skills there and became a dear friend to many. However, there was a time for play and more importantly a time to help support the family. So, at the tender age of 16, he left school and did what most Jewish boys at that time did for a living. He went to work in the schmattah business for a men’s clothing firm called Cooper Clothing.

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Recognizing Joe at the Golf Classic Luncheon.

 

As Leiner shared, Joe started off as a shipper and then was given a sample bag and a territory and told by his boss to go out and sell and return home only with a bag full of orders. Back in those days, not only were you selling the line but you were given the task of collecting past due receivables, so when Joe went calling on his customers and asked to be paid for last season’s merchandise the retailer sensing the innocence and vulnerability of this young salesman doubled down on their placing orders. So, Joe quickly sensing victory forgot about the past due receivables and triumphantly began to write the orders. “Wow!” Leiner mused, “was the boss ever going to be impressed. Needless to say, the homecoming displayed by his boss could have been a little more receptive. And Joe quickly learned that writing orders was easy but getting paid is a whole different ball game. After a few seasons of abuse and schlepping samples on the road, Joe and a colleague soon took over ownership of the firm and quickly grew it to a prominent and leading mens and boys clothing firm.

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Joe and his family.

Joe had a wonderful marriage with Isabel, his wife of 61 years. He was a loving father to his three children and an equally amazing grandfather and great grandfather.

To say Joe was a fabulous individual is an understatement.  In 1988 I was hired as the national director of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress. I called Joe and went to see him as I needed some nice suits to wear for work. He took care of me like I was his own son. When I first ran for office in 2005, he took me door to door to every resident in his building. He did so for every subsequent election, and had it not been for COVID, he was ready to do so again last fall.

Years ago, when he was the president of Beth Zion, Joe called and asked me to help him organize a Sports Celebrity Breakfast. We did so successfully for several years. In 2004 the late Harold Greenspon called and asked me to do the same thing for the Cummings Centre. The first call I made was to Joe to ask him to join the committee. He agreed immediately and played a crucial role for an event that has since raised well over $2 million for seniors in crisis. We called Joe our “general manager.” Not only did he personally recruit some of our honourees, but the day of the event he’d help us police the VIP Room – no easy task.

Joe was so proud of Beth Zion, notably the annual Cantorial Concert. I remember seeing him at the funeral for Rabbi Shoham. He was pacing back and forth, repeatedly saying “I can’t believe he is gone!”

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Joe with PK Subban at the Sports Breakfast.

 

That is the way I feel right now.  Eighty-six years on this earth was not enough. I miss you already Joe. To your family and legion of friends, my deepest sympathies.

A private funeral will take place by invitation only. Donations in his memory may be made to the “Joe Presser Memorial Fund” c/o Beth Zion Congregation, (514) 489-8411


International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Library presentation of Pinchas Blitt and his new book a large success

Having lived in Côte Saint-Luc for most of my life, I have always been very proud of our Public Library.

I  was very pleased when Mayor Mitchell Brownstein gave me the portfolio of Library and Culture. Working with Director Library Services

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Pinchas Blitt

Janine West and her staff, one of my first objectives was to introduce  a local authors series. On January 26, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day (commemorated on January 27), we started off in a big way with the fascinating Pinchas Eliayahu Blitt. At 90 years young this proud Côte Saint-Luc resident became an author for the first time.

A Promise of Sweet Tea depicts a Jewish community coming alive in this vividly told story of a childhood interrupted by the Holocaust, Pinchas Blitt conjures Kortelisy — a humble, vibrant village in the backwoods of western Ukraine where he lived in fear of Cossacks and wolves and the local antisemitic children. Remarkably, he and his family spent two and a half years living in the woods. How he survived beyond his 10th birthday is nothing short than a miracle. It was published by the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs: Published Titles.

A Jewish community comes alive in this vividly told story of a childhood interrupted by the Holocaust.   When the Soviets invade, Pinchas’s life is infused with new meaning as he innocently devotes himself to the teachings of Comrade Stalin. Then the Nazis arrive, and Pinchas witnesses his beloved village being brutally attacked. As his family seeks safety in the marshes and forests, their precarious existence brings Pinchas face to face with his own mortality and faith, and with a sense of dislocation that will accompany him throughout his life.

For those who were not able to watch the live conversation between myself and Pinchas, you can view it  here. He is a remarkable man.

If you wish to listen to just the audio version, the link is here.

The book is now available for loan at the library, at bookstores and on Amazon.