CSL synagogues battle for the Kiddush Cup; TBDJ defeats BIBA

In an unprecedented Jewish sports spectacle which now promises to become an annual affair, the first Kiddush Cup took place February 12 at the Bell Centre – home to the  Montreal Canadiens – and featured teams representing the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation  (BIBA) and Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation TBDJ ended up winning a hard fought 6-5  decision, but it was the thousands of dollars raised for youth programming and community events for  the two City of Côte Saint-Luc synagogues which was the most important result.

I would like to thank Martin Banoon Photography for some of the excellent shots here of the BIBA and TBDJ teams and of the opening ceremony.

The idea of the Kiddush Cup was conceived by Lawrence Witt, president of BIBA and a lawyer with the firm Heenan Blaikie and TBDJ vice-president Judah Aspler. Each player paid an unidentified fee to play. Funds also came in via ticket sales, silent auction bids, event sponsors and a family skate on the Bell Centre ice. Michel Lacroix, the true Canadiens public address announcer, introduced the starting lineup. They even had the familiar organ music in the background. Rabbis Reuben J. Poupko and Chaim Steinmetz of BIBA and TBDJ respectively served as coaches. The event co-chairs were Ted Quint and Warren Greenstone of  TBDJ and David Diner and Alex Feld from BIBA.

Hockey BIBAteam

Witt joked that even though BIBA was on the short end of the 6-5 loss, he plans on making a few minor off-season acquisitions to ensure that his club sips from the coveted Kiddush Cup after the 2013 rematch. “Next year, we may even produce a Jewish version of "24/6 - The Road to the Kiddush Cup," he said in reference to the popular HBO  documentary which follows  NHL teams participating in the outdoor Winter Classic.

Talk has already begun about a possible baseball game between the synagogue’s two teams. “This one will for the Seder Plate,” Witt notes.

“TBDJ came into this inaugural game as the underdogs, but keeping with Jewish  tradition, faith and perseverance turned the story around and into a celebration that will last eight days,” added Aspler, who works for Microsoft. “We have no doubt that BIBA will be gunning for us next year, but we've got a team roadmap that will secure our hold on the coveted Kiddush Cup for generations.”

The  RSM Richter Chamberland opening ceremony included Canadian and Israel national anthems interpreted by Cantors Yossi Fleischman (TBDJ) and  Moishe Shur. The ceremonial puck drop was performed by local Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette and Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Dida Berku.   Some 500 spectators were in attendance.  

HockeyOpening ceremony

Scoring opened at the five minute mark of the first period with a Witt tip-in of a Russell Samuels shot from the point. TBDJ blew the game open in the second frame with a pair of goals by Evan Ellbogen and singles by Greenstone, Avi Miller, Lorne Svarc and Michael Ziegler. BIBA responded with goals by Jeremy Wallace, Howard Wallace and a pair by Oren Nahoum. BIBA pulled Goalie Jake Singal-Kohn in the last minute for the extra attacker, but Team BIBA was stymied by the stingy TBDJ netminder Shaya "Leather Larceny" Csillag, who drove in from New Jersey to play in the game (and drove back immediately after).
One of the goals went to a video replay but was declared a "good " upon review by referee Mark Gross.

Both teams had a practice last Saturday night Feb. 4th.

"This is was great community event," said Greenstone. "Playing hockey at the Bell Centre was a thrill for everyone involved. The kids who also had the opportunity to play had an amazing time as did all those who participated in the family skate. It was great way to spend a Sunday afternoon."


The adult game was broken up by a 15 minute kids (ages six to 10) contest and a 15 minute youth (ages 10 to 15) match.

Team BIBA's honourary captain was Israeli Consul General. Joel Lion. He wore   the Israel National Hockey Team uniform and "played" for BIBA. “It was an amazing experience,” said Rabbi Steinmetz. “Everyone had fun at an enjoyable and competitive game.   Of course I am proud of my coaching - in particular because I know so little about hockey. Now that I am unbeaten I’m working on my coaching memoir entitled: ‘The Rabbi's Way: How Studying the Talmud Can Make You into a Better Hockey Player, or at Least, Into a Better Person.’
We left the Bell Centre with our prayers for the Canadiens’ success.”
Hockey TBDJKiddushCup- 001

Svarc of TBDJ noted that the funniest moment of the day came when Consul General walked into the locker room and exclaimed ‘On the ice I have diplomatic immunity." He added how every kid who plays hockey dreams of playing in a professional arena. “They really brought out all the stops for the full experience,” he says. 

Here are some video clips courtesy of Dida Berku:






Bestselling NY Times Author Has Kind Words For Yours Truly

NY Times bestselling author/filmmaker Ian Halperin specializes in undercover investigations. He is the author of seven bestselling books and has directed three films, including the highly acclaimed documentary The Cobain Case. Halperin has appeared on hundreds of TV/radio shows including Dateline, Anderson Cooper, Howard Stern, Geraldo Rivera and The CBS Early Morning Show. He is a native of St. Laurent and attended Dawson College and Concordia with me.

I read his very popular blog on a regular basis and I would like to thank him for the kind words he gave to me which you can read here.

Star Hollywood producer/director Shawn Levy visits hometown

I had the opportunity to meet one of Hollywood’s most successful producer/directors this week in Shawn Levy (shown with me below), a native Montrealer who was in town to attend the 25th anniversary of his St.  George’s School of Montreal class of 1985 high school reunion.  Upon the request of Head of School James Officer, Levy agreed to chat with present-day students from his alma mater – many of whom reside in Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Westmount. Despite the fact there were only a few days notice and it was on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, the St. George’s theatre on The  Boulevard was packed to capacity.MikeShawnLevy

Levy spent his time recounting some anecdotes and answering questions about some of his most notable films. These include the two Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen and Night of The Museum movies with Ben Stiller, as well as Date Night. He is presently working out of New York City with none other than Steven Spielberg on the drama Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman. The Hardy Men, starring Tom Cruise and Stiller is in pre-production.  For a complete list of his movies click here.

I asked Levy about the controversy that surrounded the second Night of the Museum movie to switch locations from Montreal to Vancouver upon the request of Stiller. “There have been a lot of venomous stories about Ben’s request to switch locations,” he says. “The truth is he had two young kids and he did not want to be filming on the other side of the continent. Being in Vancouver, he, like I, could commute back and forth to California easily. He is one actor who had the clout to make such a request

Levy is one of the most commercially successful film directors of the past decade. To date, his films have grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide. From St. George’s, he went directly to Yale University where he later graduated at the age of 20 from their Drama Department.  He later studied film in the Masters Film Production Program at USC, where he produced and directed the short film Broken Record.  This won the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival, in addition to being selected to screen at the Director’s Guild of America.

“I was really driven from a young age,”  said the 42 year old Levy. “When I was 10, I was taking theatre class and asked the teacher what the best place to go study acting was. She said Yale and in my last year of high school that was the only place I applied to. That was kind of psychotic. I did not even apply to CEGEP.”

In his talk at St. George’s, Levy did not forget about his roots. “This school fostered my creativity,” he said. “It was a great place to start.”

Levy also told a story about his Grade 11 class trip to Quebec City where he decided to do something wild and threw a bed out of his hotel room. “I was with my brother and some friends and said, ‘Let’s do something wild,’ and we were kicked off the trip.”

Levy conceded that there will not likely be a third Pink Panther starring Steve Martin as Clouseau. But for fans of the Night at the Museum franchise, there is hope of another sequel.

I absolutely loved Martin in the lead role and I asked him about the scene in the first Pink Panther where Clouseau was trying to pronounce the word “hamburger.”  First he laughed and then responded how “there is no other scene I have ever done that I am asked about more. Steve Martin and I were having lunch one day and he suggested that Clouseau get an accent coach. Martin conceded that he did not know what he would say. “Get two chairs and lots of film in the camera,” he told me. “It was done in one take.”

In addition to his directing slate, Levy is developing several films to produce through his production company, 21 Laps Entertainment, which is housed at Fox. These projects include The Ten Best Days of My Life (with Amy Adams), Neighbourhood Watch, The Devil You Know and How to Talk to Girls for Fox; and Arden for New Regency, Men of Magic for Universal; The Berenstain Bears for Walden; and The Spectacular Now and Table 19 for Fox Searchlight.

What does Levy miss most about Montreal? “The Snowdon Deli,” he responded. “As soon as I am picked up at the airport that is the first place I want to go for a karnatzel.”

Perhaps owner Ian Morantz should offer his place as a location for a future Levy movie, to be shot in Montreal.

Actor Jamie Elman's Breakout Role in Crazy/Sexy/Awkward

Jamie Elman lived on Greenwood Avenue in Côte Saint-Luc for 20 years and attended Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools (JPPS) and Bialik High School in the same municipality.

Elman_Jamie_2Now aged 33, but looking much younger, Jamie pursued a career as an actor immediately after graduating from high school. It is a big gamble, with so few individuals actually making it in the business. His first brush with stardom in the business in 1997 when he landed the lead role of  Cody Miller in the YTV/Fox sitcom  Student Bodies. It aired for three seasons, gained a cult following and set the wheels in motion for his move to Hollywood permanently in 2000. He has been one of the lucky ones, landing a number of television and movie roles. Besides appearing in such well known programs as Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, CSI New York, Crossing Jordan, and Mad Men, he won the role of Luke Foley in the NBC drama American Dreams for three seasons (2002-2005). He played the love interest of Brittany Snow, who subsequently went on to star in Hairspray.

In terms of his own favorite TV shows, Elman says he was always partial to Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  It was therefore the thrill of a lifetime in 2007 when he got called to be a guest star in an episode of Curb. His entire scene was with the show’s star and creator Larry David, also the genius behind Seinfeld. He played a bartender at a party hosted by Ted Danson. David strikes up a conversation and asks him why he is wearing a bow tie.  When Jamie indicates it was Danson’s idea, David tells him he will raise the matter with the host. The back and forth between Elman and David

Here is that scene and a few of his other appearances:


 “Curb is completely improvised,” Elman notes. “I auditioned for the role with Larry David himself. They tell you the situation and you come up with the lines. Guest starring in that show was a dream come true.”

It was also an inspiration for Elman’s new project, Crazy/Sexy/Awkward of which he is the star, co-writer and producer. For now, this is a series available exclusively on the internet at  www.crazysexyawkward.com. Set in the singles scene of present-day Los Angeles, each episode is about six minutes long and follows gun-shy romantic Ben (Elman)  as he tries to re-enter the dating game after a year of mourning his last relationship with his first love, Rachel. Joining Ben in his efforts, for better or worse, are Sebastien and Ashley, his hyperactive best friend and alluring neighbour, respectively played by Jewish actors Jason Kaufman and Maité Schwartz Each episode finds Sebastien and Ashley dragging Ben, kicking and screaming, into another opportunity to end his self-imposed celibacy, and follows the humiliating results as Ben pursues women with a single-mindedness that proves time and again to be his downfall.

The show is being   produced and financed by  Atomic Wedgie, the digital comedy production arm of Hollywood giant FremantleMedia, which is behind such top programs as American Idol and The Price is Right. 

Elman and his co-writer Jerome Sable, who like him grew up in Côte Saint-Luc, pitched  the idea to Freemantle and they liked it.  Anyone who watches the webisodes will see the similarity of Elman’s character to David on Curb Your Enthusiasm and George Costanza on Seinfeld.

“The biggest compliment I have received so far is from people who ask if the script is improvised like Curb,” says Elman.  “It is not, at least 90 percent of what we do is scripted.”

Elman says that his friend Sable was pursuing a graduate degree in film from the University of Southern California. When Elman found out Sable’s teacher was Michael Watkins, who directed him in American Dreams, he decided to collaborate on a short film which turned out to be the pilot of Sexy/Crazy/Awkward.

“We pitched  it to Freemantle and they loved it,” Elman said. “We  auditioned for the cast. I never met Jason or Maité before, yet we come across on film as real life best friends. As a crew, we had some of the brightest young minds from USC.”

The episodes were shot a year ago.  Post production took place during the summer while the sound was completed in the fall by Montreal’s Wave  Generation, an outfit which includes Jamie’s brother Michael.

Internet buzz about the show is excellent. It has been screened in Los Angeles and while in Montreal just prior to Passover Elman premiered all six episodes for close friends and family at the Segal Centre of the Arts CineSpace.  Efforts are now been made to have it carried on American and Canadian television and for  to   develop 30 minute episodes.

Elman is keeping busy with other projects. He just filmed a two episode guest spot on the CBS daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless, which will air April 23 and 26. He’ll appear in the big screen soon in The Chicago 8, based on actual court transcripts of eight anti-war protesters on trial for conspiring to cause riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. One of his co-stars is David Julian Hirsch, another Montreal born Jewish actor who has done well in Hollywood. Elman will also appear in the sci-fi drama The Scientist.

Bravo Jamie!

Meeting Canada's Governor General

I met Canada’s Governor General, Her Excellency The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,  for the very first time. It was on the occasion  of her visit to   Share the Warmth in Point St. Charles, the wonderful organization which assists people living below the poverty line. Among the volunteers on hand that day were a group of students from John Grant High School in Côte Saint-Luc. GovGenMike

A well-known journalist and broadcaster in Quebec,   Jean immigrated from Haiti with her family at an early age. Fluent in five languages - French, English, Italian, Spanish and Haitian Creole - she is the first black Governor General of Canada. A social activist for women and children at risk, she has always said that her  plans called for  to using the office of Governor General to help disadvantaged young people.

Jean has been in this prestigious post for nearly five years. She travels around the world representing our country. Ironically her visits in  Montreal are few and far between. It is no surprise then that given her background as a social acfivisit she chose Share the Warmth, which began in the winter of 1989 after three women were moved to collect warm clothing and food for the homeless. They put out a plea to the public via an article in The Gazette.  The response was overwhelming.  People called to volunteer, to donate clothes, to sort clothes, to donate food and to help with deliveries.
The group incorporated in February 1990 and moved into Point St. Charles in 1991. They continued to collect and distribute food and clothing and deliver to the homeless on the street, to drop in centres and to shelters. It was in 1992 social workers and individuals from the community were requesting that food be given out to individuals and families living below the poverty line. That was the start of the food bank. The first month 39 baskets were prepared. In the next year the first request from a school for food came. James Lyng High School had a teacher who recognized that students were coming to school hungry. He began to give them snacks from his classroom. He asked for   help and that was the start of the School Food Program. From that base Share the Warmth expanded its programs to answer many more needs of the community. Each step of the way has helped thousands of people.
The Governor General spent almost two hours at Share the Warmth, shaking hands and talking to the many clients, playing with children and talking to students about their future. She is a classy lady and I can see why former Prime Minister Paul  Martin decided to recommend  her appointment to the Queen. Michaëlle Jean is a distinguished head of state and we  are lucky to have her.