In week where Montreal lost Rabbi Sidney Shoham, we mourn another special individual.
Three years ago, as I rushed to the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital, a familiar face met me at the entrance. It was Barry Silverman, a constituent of mine in District 2 Côte Saint-Luc, a stalwart community volunteer and one of the nicest human being you could ever meet.My dad had been brought to the hospital. Sadly, he would die three days later. Barry and I chatted for a few minutes. I asked him what he was doing there. "Just getting checked out," he said. "Go be with your dad."
Little did I know that Barry was suffering from cancer. He told me so when we spoke sometime later when he gave his condolences as he and my late father Larry went back many years. I expressed my best wishes and he immediately changed the subject. "I've been fighting it and life goes on," he said. "Live each day as best as one can."
And then he moved on to some concerns about matters related to his condominium. He took a moment to rave about his fabulous wife Hildy, who is popular for her aqua fitness at the Aquatic and Community Centre.
I always referred to Barry as "Trapper" for he looked like an identical twin to actor Pernell Roberts, who portrayed "Trapper John MD" on a television drama. This would go on for years. I even included the "Trapper" moniker in articles I wrote about him. When Hildy and I spoke, she referred to him as "Trapper."
Barry, a chartered accountant by profession at Perreault, Wolman, Grzywacz & Associés s.e.n.c.,was passionate about his work in the community. This was especially the case at the YM-YWHA where he worked out, served as president and participated in programming. He was also active with Jewish Immigrant Aid Services and its successor body Ometz.
"My connection with Ometz is through my leadership at JIAS," Barry wrote in May 2014. "One of the key projects we had was the Hundred Family Program, where we were bringing 100 families at a time to Montreal from the Soviet Union. We sent social workers to Moscow and these families were interviewed before they became eligible to become part of that program. One of the prime concerns was, were they really Jewish? It was difficult to determine but eventually we managed to bring in a couple families at a time. They were assigned a worker at JIAS, who would then refer them to Jewish Family Services and/or Jewish Vocational Services, and they were taught how to do things here – simple things like going to the supermarket to shop and learning to speak English. We were closely working with Rabbi Sirota and Mark Groysberg. One interesting anecdote I remember was one timed Rabbi Sirota a brought in a surgeon who was also a rabbi and he had a mass circumcision of a number of the new immigrants.
"In around 2000, I went to Kiev with the executive director of JIAS on the way to one of the Federation annual meetings, and Mark Groysberg gave us the phone number of a person who was a journalist who would tell us a bit about anti-Semitism in the FSU. We called this person, a woman, and we had a cup of coffee with her. During the course of our conversation she informed us that she was a reformed rabbi having studied in Jerusalem and London. While talking I told her about the Hundred Family Program and she said 'I know about that program… I’m one of your families.' I immediately had a certain feeling towards her. She said her husband was having a difficult time getting a Canadian visa, and I went to the Canadian embassy and mentioned it to the person I met and she said she would do what she can. Eventually they both came over. I informed the rabbi (Leigh Lerner) at the Temple Emmanuel about her, in hopes that I could find a job for her. She met Rabbi Lerner and she worked with him for a number of years. I still see her to this day. I see Ometz being the central focal point for immigration. Having only one agency is fantastic. Immigrants can get all the services they need by going through one door."
Barry lived for family -his children, grandchildren and yes the dog he would walk around the block regardless of the temperature outside or how he felt. When the TV show Canadian Idol was on CTV, I got an excited call one day from Barry. "My granddaughter Nancy Silverman is a contestant," he said. "Can you do an interview with her?"
I called CTV, arranged a phone chat with Nancy and when my family and I travelled to Toronto a few weeks later to see the show live (as we did each summer) Nancy - regrettably eliminated at that time - was in the audience. I introduced myself, putting a face to a name and I could see immediately she had the same dynamic personality as her grandparents.
As a city councillor, Barry always supported me and even offered to go door to door in his building during elections.
Barry will be dearly missed!