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February 2013

January 2013

Happy birthday Samuel Rappaport

A very happy 85th birthday to one of my favorite constituents Samuel Rappaport, who its the magic number on February 1.

From the moment I first began to campaign to become the city councillor for District 2 some eight years ago, Sam was in my corner. He went door to door with me at his condo and provided a great deal of insight into different traffic issues. 

Sam worked as a buyer for the former Cumberland Drugs chain for more than two decades. Even in retirement, he sells cemetery monuments, goes to synagogue each morning, bowls and volunteers at the CLSC René-Cassin, Maimonides Geriatric Centre and Combined Jewish Appeal. He exercises at least twice a week. 

Sam and his dynamic wife Doreen have been married for 29 years. They have four children and nine grandchildren, including Kim (pictured with Sam below).




CSL to honour Jackie Robinson on Human Rights Walkway

On the eve of Black History Month I was pleased to announce that the City of Côte Saint-Luc will induct Jackie Robinson to our Human Rights Walkway on July 1, 2013 during the Canada Day celebrations at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park. Councillor Allan J. Levine will co-chair this program with me.


“Although the understanding of racial equality has advanced a great deal since Jackie Robinson broke the major league colour barrier, his achievements in advancing tolerance and understanding through the world of sport deserves to be honoured,” Mayor Anthony Housefather said.

Although there had been African American baseball players as late as the 1880s in the professional leagues, the teams that made up professional baseball eventually agreed unofficially to stop using black players. In November 1945, the Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey broke with convention and signed Robinson to a contract. Robinson played for Dodger’s triple-A team, the Montreal Royals in 1946. He debuted with the Dodgers in 1947 and was selected as the Rookie of the Year. Robinson was the National League’s Most Valuable player in 1949, and helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Having been involved in the sports world all of my life I cannot remember a time when black athletes did not make up a high percentage of major leaguers, But you only need to go back 60 years to know a time when there were no black players in Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson changed history in a tangible way.

Councillor Levine said he hopes that local schools will find a way to bring Robinson’s inspiring life story part of the classroom curriculum, beginning in February, which is Black History Month in Canada. The Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library will present a formal display of books about Jackie Robinson during the month of February.

Hollywood will also pay homage to Robinson this year with the release in April of the motion picture “42”, starring Harrison Ford as Dodgers owner Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.


Former Montreal Expo Warren Cromartie, and president of the Montreal Baseball Project, will partner with us to honour Robinson. He is scheduled to attend the ceremony on July 1, 2013. More details on the event will be released as the event approaches.

Inaugurated in September 2000, the Côte Saint-Luc Human Rights Walkway is dedicated to those men and women who, by their steadfast commitment to mankind, have held high the torch of human rights and let it light the world. Previous inductees include René Cassin, John P. Humphrey, Raoul Wallenberg, Jules Deschênes, Maxwell Cohen, Mary Two-Axe Early, Helen Suzman, Antonio Lamer, Miep Gies, Human Rights Activists for Oppressed Jews in Foreign Lands, and Aung San Suu Kyi.


Lawrence Bergman provides assistance to our Cats Committee

D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman (far right) presents a $500 cheque to Shelley Schecter and Councillor Mike Cohen for the Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee. Mr. Bergman attended last summer's benefit concert of the committee. At the time he expressed his interest to support the cause of Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt of homeless (community) cats. We wish to thank Mr. Bergman for his generosity. He serves as model for other MNAs to follow and we are pleased that he will take our important messages to Quebec City.

Remembering Rabbi Martin Penn

Eighteen years ago Côte Saint-Luc resident Rabbi Martin Penn was at the top of the world.  At the age of 45, he was already considered a legendary Canadian human rights activist, having played a critical role in the movement to free Jews from the former Soviet Union. He was thriving as the spiritual leader of Congregation Shomrim Laboker in Côte des Neiges, a profession he had chosen late in life for most people who have followed this route. But perhaps his proudest moment was fatherhood and following years of efforts he and his wife adopted a baby boy from Eastern Europe. Life couldn’t be better.

One day Marty began complaining about headaches. Soon after he had difficulty even buttoning his  shirt. These signs, sadly, were the precursors of a debilitating stroke which would rob this brilliant orator of his ability to speak and to even walk properly.  In Judaism, 18 is the number that represents luck. In the case of Rabbi Penn’s last 18 years on this earth, luck was certainly not on his side. Several other illnesses followed.

Last week he could fight no longer and he passed away. Marty was diagnosed with multiple myeloma  in June 2010. For 52 weeks every Monday he underwent chemotherapy. The fighter always,  he battled his cancer week after week with the tremendous courage and strength he had shown his entire life. He lost his battle to bone marrow cancer on his 63rd birthday. It was not surprising to see a standing room only crowd at the Paperman and Sons Funeral home. Rabbi Mordechai Zeitz of Beth Tikvah Congregation in Dollard des Ormeaux, a long-time friend of Marty’s, recited the eulogy. “While I might have been a few years his senior, he taught me so much,” said the rabbi, alluding to activism, perseverance and how to meet a challenge.

Marty Penn pic2

I first got to know Marty when I joined the Canadian Jewish Congress as national director of communications in 1987.  Marty had served as the director of the Canadian Committee for Soviet Jewry for many years, but had shifted to a volunteer role while he studied to become a rabbi.

There was a time when the large Jewish community in the former Soviet Union simply could not leave the country. They were called refuseniks (Soviet Jews denied permission to emigrate) Marty worked tirelessly for this cause and there was a happy ending. Jews were granted permission to leave if they so wished and did so in droves. Marty achieved his dream of becoming a rabbi  and he took to the pulpit like a natural. 

Marty’s ex-wife Eileen Ornstein reflected on their life together. “When I met Marty in 1984, I was impressed with his strength of character, sense of humour, devotion to causes that mattered to him, and love of Judaism,” Eileen stated. “When he became ill in 1994, he became a different kind of inspiration to many. He dealt with health challenges with fierce determination. That strength carried him through the next 18 years. In those difficult years, he learned to accept many things about himself as well as others. The irony of his lack of speech was not lost on anyone who had ever heard Marty’s eloquent sermons, Soviet Jewry harangues, or just personal anecdotes. Now it was Marty’s turn to listen. And even without very many words, he always managed to convey his feelings and opinions.”

Over the years Marty’s family and friends stood by him, especially his sister Roslyn, a resident of Côte Saint-Luc District 2,  who devoted hours not only to his care and personal well being,  but researched innovative techniques to find anything that might help in his recovery.

Among his friends, there was Shelly Hershon, a saint of a human being. “I visited Marty once a week for the entire 18 years and I really looked forward to our get togethers,” Hershon told me.

Wendy Litwack Eisen, one of the leaders of the Group of 35s Women’s Campaign for  Soviet Jewry, had this to say: “I remember fondly, a couple of years ago, when Marty was honoured and I came to Montreal for that important occasion. I sat beside him during dinner and reminisced about our years of planning Soviet Jewry demonstrations and some of the memorable moments we had shared. The stories brought a smile to his face and sometimes, tears to his eyes. Although Marty didn't qualify by gender, in his soul he was a ‘35er.’  As mentor to the "Group of 35s'  Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry," Marty helped to create slogans, paint signs and banners, initiate and even participate in many of our zany demonstrations that were all geared to draw public attention to the plight of our fellow Jews languishing behind the Iron Curtain. If not with the 35s in the front lines, Marty was behind the scenes, planning and helping to execute one demonstration after another — outside the Soviet Consulate in Montreal or the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa. He travelled with us to International meetings in Washington, New York, Brussels, Israel. Marty's ideas and wise counsel played a significant role in both our success and on the international Soviet Jewry advocacy stage. It was Marty's intelligence, his warmth, his humour and his modesty that set him apart from his peers. Whether speaking at a large Soviet Jewry rally, or from the pulpit as a Rabbi, Martin Penn was a brilliant orator, who spoke from his heart, without notes. It is tragic that this bright light was dimmed during his last challenging years. The love and devotion of Marty's dear family and dedicated friends were what sustained him — and how difficult it was for all of you. I will remember the young, handsome, vibrant, witty Martin Penn. He was the man whose contribution to the survival of our people will remain in the memory of all who were privileged to know, to work with, and to love him." 

Anna Fishman Gonshor, a professor of Yiddish language and culture at McGill, noted “it is difficult to imagine a world without Marty. He was one of those people who left his mark on everyone who met him, worked with him, played with him, heard him speak. He was bright, could be hysterically funny and seriously sober and sobering. He did so much for us, personally and collectively. He was a teacher, a leader and an incredible friend. His oratory inspired this community time and time again to fight for freedom, to fight for what is right. We have lost a unique human being.”

Jack Silverstone was the executive director of Canadian Jewish Congress during Penn’s watch. “I knew Marty for many years and then worked with him at CJC,” he said. “He was a leader in an historical movement, the struggle to free the Jews of the Soviet Union. He was tirelessly committed to the cause, even when things looked very bleak and he inspired others with his eloquence and passion. Rest in peace Marty, you earned it.”

Marty’s fight to free Soviet Jews even took him behind closed doors at the Kremlin. As Rabbi Zeitz explained, “he was even assaulted in Russia; beaten up on the streets. He came back bloody and injured.”

It was interesting that Marty was able to push out a few words. “Why, why, why?” he would often state. That would be combined with the statement, “What can you do?”

Rabbi Zeitz interpreted the “Why, why why?” as “Why have I been prevented from fulfilling my mission?”  The rabbi added: “Without a voice and without mobility he showed us.”
Marty’s son Jeremy told Rabbi Zeitz how he never really got to see his dynamic father in action. But in the same breath he remarked “he was my role model.”

I took the time to visit with Marty a number of times as he battled his illness.  Two years ago, in my capacity as a Côte Saint-Luc city councillor, I spearheaded an initiative for us to honour the champions of oppressed Jewry in our Human Rights Walkway. Marty was front and centre on that list and while he was not well enough to attend the ceremony, there were many people in the audience who showed up to celebrate his greatness in particular.

I am certain that very soon we will learn of somebody creating a Rabbi Martin Penn Award.  Rest in peace Marty.

Les Cours Marc Chagall co-owners get settled

Les Cours Marc Chagall, a new town house complex of 21 units, has been in operation since last fall. I have been in touch of many of the co-owners already. Of course, the developers and real estate agent extraordinaire Anita Benabou Rozenblat  were in communications with me from the get go.

This marked the second attempt to build the complex. The original land owner was never able to get his financing in order. I had the opportunity to drop into one of the early meetings of the Condo Association to say hello and answer some questions. Some of the residents have expressed concern about excessive noise from the trucks transporting snow to the dump across the street. We are taking these concerns very seriously and our Public Works Department is trying to rectify the situation.

I am pleased to welcome the 21 new property owners to District 2. I look forward soon to meeting with some of the new homeowners in the Cartier Cavendish development, which also falls within the district.

PhotoCoursMarcChagallIn the accompanying photo I have a chat with Les Cours Marc Chagall co-owners Dana Kean, Valerie Molina and David Brown at their meeting.










CSL takes leadership role opposing Bill 14 language law

With Côte Saint-Luc certainly taking the lead, municipalities with bilingual status  are adopting resolutions  affirming their desire to retain their bilingual status and opposing Bill 14, which would give the Quebec government the power to unilaterally remove this status against the will of the municipality or borough concerned.

“If the bill becomes law, more than half of the 84 municipalities and boroughs that have bilingual status might lose it,” said Mayor Anthony Housefather of Côte Saint-Luc. “It is unconscionable that the Parti Québécois government amended the legislation in 2000 to define who is an English-speaker in the narrowest possible way and now wants to use those misleading numbers to unilaterally remove bilingual status.”

Since 1977, it have been illegal for municipalities to, among other things, send a bilingual tax bill, erect bilingual signage, or send a bilingual memo to city workers. However, an exception was made under Section 29.1 of the Charter of the French Language, commonly referred to as bilingual status, for municipalities where a majority of residents spoke a language other than French. In 2000, another Parti Québécois government adopted Bill 171, which drastically changed the criteria to obtain bilingual status from a majority of residents of a municipality or borough who spoke a language other than French to a majority of residents whose mother tongue was English.

This revised criteria was imposed without consulting municipalities and boroughs, and adopted the narrowest and most inaccurate definition of the English-speaking communities.

 Bill 14, tabled by the new Parti Québécois minority government, would allow for the potential removal of bilingual status from municipalities or boroughs by decree--and against the will of the municipality or borough concerned, its duly elected council and its residents—if less than 50 percent of residents are mother tongue English speaking.

Of the 1,476 cities and towns and boroughs in Quebec, only 84—or 6 percent—have bilingual status.

I am urging readers to please go to and from there write a letter to your Member of the National Assembly, requesting that they vote against this law.

Here is an interview Mayor Housefather did on Bill 14 on  CBC Radio One. Just right click on the file and then cliick open for it it to play:


Here is a report on Global TV:


 Here is the report from CTV News:








Winter Carnival Dance set to go

Tickets are now on sale for the 2013 Côte Saint-Luc Winter Carnival Dance, which takes place on Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 pm at the Côte Saint-Luc Gymnasium (7500 Mackle Rd.).

Tickets are available for $25 each at the Parks and Recreation Department Building, 7500 Mackle Rd., weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $28.

There will be hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, a sweet table, door prizes, and dance contests. Guests can bring their own wine. The theme of the dance is “Love is in the air,” as the dance takes place just after Valentine’s Day.

The chairpersons of the Winter Carnival committee are Councillors Mitchell Brownstein and Allan J. Levine. The dance committee volunteers include Ron Yarin, Louise Ferland, Frances Miller-Rosen, Irving and Mindy Schok and Irene Tsiabardas.

The music will provided by the George Thomas Entertainment Group. The event is partly subsidized by community sponsors.

Residents can learn more about the 2013 Côte Saint-Luc Winter Carnival Dance by calling  514-485-6806.

Cinq premières municipalités adoptent des résolutions manifestant leur opposition aux dispositions du projet de loi 14 sur le statut bilingue

Les cinq premières municipalités ont adopté, hier, une résolution affirmant leur désir de conserver leur statut bilingue et de s’opposer au projet de loi 14, qui autoriserait le gouvernement du Québec à révoquer unilatéralement ce statut contre la volonté de la municipalité ou de l’arrondissement en question.

Les municipalités qui ont adopté la résolution hier sont la Ville de Côte Saint-Luc, la Ville de Hampstead, la Ville de Montréal-Ouest, la Ville de Mont-Royal et le Village de Senneville. On s’attend à ce que d’autres villes, cités et arrondissements de la province ayant un statut bilingue adoptent aussi une résolution semblable avant la tenue des débats sur le projet de loi 14.

« Si le projet de loi devient loi, plus de la moitié des 84 municipalités et arrondissements qui possèdent un statut bilingue risquent de le perdre, a précisé le maire de Côte Saint-Luc, Anthony Housefather. Il est inadmissible que le gouvernement du Parti québécois ait modifié la loi en 2000 pour imposer la définition la plus étroite possible d’une personne d’expression anglaise, et qu’il veuille maintenant utiliser ces chiffres trompeurs pour retirer unilatéralement les statuts bilingues. »

Depuis 1977, il est illégal pour une municipalité, entre autres choses, d’envoyer un avis d'imposition bilingue, d’ériger une signalisation bilingue, ou d’envoyer un message bilingue aux employés municipaux. Une exception a toutefois été établie en vertu de l’article 29.1 de la Charte de la langue française, communément appelée le statut bilingue, pour les municipalités dont la majorité des résidants parlent une langue autre que le français. En 2000, un autre gouvernement du Parti québécois a adopté le projet de loi 171, qui a modifié considérablement le critère d’obtention du statut bilingue : d’une majorité de résidants d’une municipalité ou d’un arrondissement parlant une langue autre que le français, à une majorité de résidants dont la langue maternelle est l’anglais.

Le critère révisé a été imposé sans consultation auprès des municipalités et des arrondissements, et l’on a adopté la définition de la communauté de langue anglaise la plus étroite et la plus inexacte.

« Le critère servant à déterminer qui est de langue anglaise est extrêmement restrictif, a soutenu le maire de la Ville de Hampstead, William Steinberg. Peu importe si vous vivez en anglais, si vous parlez à vos enfants en anglais, et si vous vous considérez comme anglophone, si votre mère vous a parlé en italien, ou encore en yiddish ou en grec il y a 50 ans quand vous n’étiez qu’un enfant, le gouvernement affirme que vous n’êtes pas anglophone dès qu’il est question de la reconnaissance du statut bilingue à une municipalité ou un arrondissement. »

Le projet de loi 14, déposé par le nouveau gouvernement minoritaire du Parti québécois, permettrait le retrait potentiel du statut bilingue aux municipalités ou aux arrondissements, par décret et contre la volonté de la municipalité ou de l’arrondissement, de son conseil dûment élu et de ses résidants – si moins de 50 pour cent de ses résidants sont de langue maternelle anglaise.

« Nous croyons que la loi proposée est une attaque aux droits fondamentaux et au caractère intrinsèque des municipalités et des arrondissements qui possèdent présentement un statut bilingue », a affirmé pour sa part le maire de la Ville de Mont-Royal, Philippe Roy.

Pour près des 1 500 cités et villes et arrondissements au Québec, seulement 84 – ou 6 pour cent – possèdent un statut bilingue.

Les villes qui ont adopté des résolutions ont affirmé qu’elles considéraient le statut bilingue comme essentiel au caractère de la municipalité et comme un témoignage de la présence historique des communautés anglophones et francophones dans leur municipalité.

Le texte de la résolution est accessible à