Library

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.

 

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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


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.

 

 

 

 


Library Update: No Contact Pickup in place; sign up for Zoom lecture next week

As a result of the increase in Omicron cases, in-library visits were paused as of December  20 and the No Contact Pickup service was resumed  from 10 am to 6 pm every day of the week at the CSL Public Librar.

The pickup station was moved from the membership desk to the entrance of the library to allow for temporary setup. Patrons have access to the inside return chute, staff also have access to the main desk where the majority of items pass through.

Many people have called me as the portfolio holder and chair of the Library and Culture Committee as to when we will reopen. We will review this situation on a week by week basis. Omicron remains extremely rampant in the community. Books are available via pickup or online. We also have a wide variety of programming available by Zoom.

 

Blitt

Here is a case in point. In Commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, please join the Azrieli Foundation and the library on Wed. January 26 to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day featuring Holocaust survivor Pinchas Blitt, author of A Promise of Sweet Tea. The Zoom link is csllibrary.org/liveonzoom. I will moderate. To reach the TBS line: dial 438-809-7799,then press 500 514 054 ##


District 2 resident Myra Shuster spearheads Monarch Butterfly program

The Monarch Butterfly is a pollinator and vital contributor to our ecosystem’s health and survival. However, the  population has plummeted in recent years by more than 80 percent and  they depend  upon milkweed in order to lay their eggs and feed the larvae.

With their breeding habitat on the decline, the David Suzuki Foundation is spearheading an initiative to help restore the Monarch Butterfly’s habitat by educating the public to its importance and by encouraging the planting of milkweed. They are doing this by encouraging mayors of North American cities to adopt the Mayor’s pledge and to become a “Butterfly-Friendly City.”.  To date over 340 mayors across North America have done so.

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Myra Shuster

Last September, the City of Côte Saint-Luc became the 75th city in Quebec to be certified as a Butterfly-Friendly City. The request to be part of the David Suzuki Foundation initiative to save the Monarch Butterfly and its habitat came from District  2 resident Myra Shuster,  who had brought the matter   to my attention. I submited the application,  committing to the city to follow through with at least 15 action items out of 24 possiblities earning us a silver designation.

A huge thanks to Director of Library Services Janine West, who called me the moment she heard about this initiative. She and Myra had previously worked together, so it was a perfect match. Janine and Myra have already formed a committee and set up shop in Ashkelon Gardens behind the library. Janine has also added a pedagogical component to the program, with events like Monarch Butterfly Storytime for kids three and up.

Bravo to Janine, Myra and their team for all the hard work. As a city councillor it is so nice to have constituents like Myra who want to go that extra mile!


This Sunday: The former head of Israel’s Mossad featured in CSL Library live video presentation

The Côte Saint-Luc Public Library presented a very special talk by video  on January 17   via www.csllibrary.org/liveonzoom featuring Shabtai Shavit, the former director of Israel’s principal secret intelligence service known as the Mossad

It was also be accessible by phone. 

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You can watch the entire lecture right here,

Mr. Shavit is the author of an extraordinary book now available at our library called Head of the Mossad: In Pursuit of a Safe and Secure Israel . It is being touted as a brilliant and much-needed book on intelligence, Israeli history, and global security.  Mr. Shavit headed the Mossad from  1989 to 1996. The book was originally published in Hebrew in 2018. The University of Notre Dame Press released the first English translation of the book recently.

I  co-chaired the event with Councillor  David Tordjman.  Israel Consul General David Levy   provided opening remarks and CJAD’s Aaron Rand conducted a live interview. Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Director of Library Services Janine West  concluded the program.

Candid and powerfully argued, Mr. Shavit tells his life story in the book, including his role in alerting American intelligence agents to the presence of al-Qaeda operatives in the US before 9/11, the secret negotiations that led to Israel signing a peace treaty with Jordan, and frequent long-running battles with Iran.  Mr. Shavit also provides fresh insights on present tensions and possible solutions to terrorism and security issues around the world, including in Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria.

Mr. Shavit, who has been a private citizen for more than two decades, was recently interviewed by the Jewish Insider about the book and discussed the historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Shavit says: “During my tenure as director and even before, I was personally involved in all kinds of relationships between the State of Israel and most of the Emirates.  Since those relationships were secret or clandestine, the Israeli party which was responsible was the Mossad.”

Head of the Mossad has received strong interest. Kirkus Reviews says, the book is “a well-documented . . . logistical delineation of decades of sensitive Israeli security and intelligence concerns. Among other significant historical events, Shavit’s tenure coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the First Intifada, the Oslo Accords, and the election and assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.” Interviews, features, and excerpts from the book have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, Ami Magazine, Counter Terrorism Today podcast, SpyTalk, and Jewish Insider.

Mr. Shavit has over 50 years of experience in international security and counterterrorism and is an internationally recognized authority in the field. He served in the Mossad, Israel's prestigious intelligence agency, for thirty-two years, eventually rising to the position of director. Previously, he served in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, retiring after a distinguished service in "Sayeret Matkal," Israel's elite special forces and SWAT unit.

You can see Mr. Shavit’s interview with me on The Suburban Newspaper’s video platform: https://www.thesuburban.com/on_air/cohen_in_the_city/cohen-in-the-city---episode-34-an-interview-with-the-former-head-of/article_26a3df1a-2818-11eb-a4f9-ab9be8fa8034.html.

To get in touch with our library related to the book, you can call 514-485-6900 ext. 3 or email  reference@cotesaintluc.org.

And from the US publisher of the book,  those attending the talk were offered a 30 percent discount to purchase "Head of the Mossad." The discount code is: 14FF30 and it expires on March 28, 2021. The book link is: 

https://undpress.nd.edu/9780268108335/head-of-the-mossad/

 

 

 


Local resident publishes unique book: "I Love You In Every Language"

I was pleased to welcome to our city council meeting on Monday, January 13, resident Assaf Havilio and his wife Merav.

Assaf, a graphic designer who moved here from Israel 12 years ago, spent a decade turning his wonderful book “I Love You in Every Language” into reality. He was gracious enough to donate a copy to our CSL Public Library and I am sure it will be very much in demand. I accepted it along with Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Councillor David Tordjman, who holds the library portfolio.

The book is self-published and available for purchase on Amazon. It explains and teaches readers how to say “I love you”  in different languages. On each page, Assaf chose the symbol of each country. In addition there is an explanation of how to pronounce “I love you” and also how to write” I love you”  in each language. At the beginning of the book, there is a background story with the two main characters who travel around the world and explore different cultures.

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Assaf Havilio and his wife Merav present a copy of the book to CouncillorDavid Tordjman, Mayor Brownstein and myself.

“The story comes with an important message: love is universal and it exists in each and every one of us, no matter where you come from,” said Assaf.  “Besides this, the book is talking about love and about different cultures, languages, and countries. My goal is  through this book, people from different countries will understand each other and will learn about different cultures in a way to understand each other better.  In Canada  a subject like this is very important because it's multicultural.”

Assaf says that feedback about the book from  children and adults has been wonderful. “I have met parents who told me that their children cannot put it down and they enjoy it so much,” he said.

You can purchase the book at Amazon at the following link.

Assaf hopes to have it available at some stores soon. He is available for public appearances. email me at mcohen@cotesaintluc.org and I will share your request.

 


Photographer David Chandler's exhibit at the CSL Public Library is stunning

If you have been to the CSL Public Library recently then you could not have missed the sensational photography exhibit of Sir Walter Scott (District 2) resident David Chandler. I am honoured to have such a talented constituent.

 

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David Chandler at his exhibit.

 

The remarkable thing about David’s work is that the photos look like paintings. David met me at the library earlier this week to provide a personal backdrop to his work. He had showcased his work inside the library a few months ago and this turned out to be a competition. The winner got to do an exhibit and David triumphed. It was interesting to get his backstory on how he proceeded to take each photo.

 

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Chandler admires one of his photos.

“All of the images shown here are based on photographs I have taken over the past 20 years,” David explained. “They have been modified with any of several programs, some only slightly, others to a much greater degree. They are all impressions of what was seen at the time: giving us contrasts of
light and colour.”

A retired high school teacher, David has been into photography for more than 60 years. But not professionally. “I have taught photography at different levels over several years,” he says. “My specialty is travel and architectural photography. In recent years I have turned to more abstract or impressionistic images,  always trying to isolate the essence of the object.”


For those interested David will be presenting three non-technical talks during the exhibition that will examine art, photography and digital art. The first is scheduled for Friday, November 29. The subject of the first is: Pixels: Older Than You Think. Other dates will be determined.

“My equipment in these digital days has always been Olympus, but it matters not since if the photographer doesn’t see the image no equipment can save it,” David notes.

All of the images are for sale. They can be mixed or matched in different ways by size or paper or support method. While the images
can obviously be printed multiple times no two are ever quite the same, as with multiple fine art prints made from the same plate.


The larger images sell for $195 while the smaller ones go for $125. The aluminum images are available for $450 each.

CSL Invitation 2019

David has published two books in recent years and they are on display at the library. There is also an agenda he created on Vietnam. A book of black and white images dates from a media course at Loyola in 1972. The exhibit continues until January 16. For more information David can be reached at dhchandler43@gmail.com.

 


Pay as you go art classes with Noa in CSL

There is a new concept in registering for art classes, when the artist pays only on the afternoons they paint.

You can meet art teacher Noa Ne’eman on Wednesday, September 18 from 5 pm to 7 pm at  the CSL Public Library at 5751 Cavendish Boulevard. Refreshments will be served. Her students are exhibiting their artworks in the Community Art Space from September 12 to October 20.

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Noa
Noa has Tuesday weekly “drop-in” classes from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Art Room at the CSL Aquatic and Community Centre  (5794 Parkhaven).  So bring your brushes, paints and canvases. No oil paint is permitted.

Fees

Senior CSL Residents: $22
Senior non CSL Residents $28
Residents $28
Non-Residents $35.

 


CSL Public Library to screen YidLife Crisis documentary Chewdaism September 10

After nearly 20 screenings in a matter of months at Jewish film festivals all around North America, as well as Bucharest, the YidLife Crisis duo of Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman finally launched their feature-length documentary called Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal for a hometown audience last spring at The Rialto. Now it will make its way to Côte Saint-Luc via our Public Library and a presentation on Tuesday, Sept 10 (2 pm to 4 pm). Admission is $5 in the Harold Greenspon Auditorium.

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Elman and Batalion toast to Wilenskys.

The film is a tribute to Jewish Montreal and tells the story of the city through a day’s worth of eating throughout the town. “It’s both fattening and educational,” says Batalion, who tells me that he and Elman are working with Tourisme Montreal and may be releasing the film with the CBC soon.

Chewdaism follows Batalion and Elman as they discover the roots of the city’s Jewish community through a series of classical Jewish eateries telling the story of their community in the last 100 years, with various guests along the way sharing tales and meals. YidLife Crisis is dubbed as the world’s first 18 and over (or Chai Plus) Yiddish web series and Jewish cultural comedy brand. It has spawned numerous live presentations and screenings across the globe, as well as the travelog web series, Global Shtetl, the precursor to Chewdaism.

I was fortunate to receive a screener of the film and I liked it so much that I have already watched it three times. The breakout star of this film just may be Zev Moses, the bright young executive director of The Museum of Jewish Montreal. He is a walking encyclopedia of this city’s Jewish history and while I have yet to personally visit the Museum his performance has given me a reason to do so now. And boy will this film make you hungry as Batalion and Elman nosh at the likes of Fairmont Bagel Factory, Schwartz’s Deli, WilenskysCheskies, a Sephardic Jewish home in Côte Saint-Luc and Fletchers at the Museum.

Besides Moses, Concordia lecturer Steven Lapidus, Outremont Councillor Mindy Pollak and historian Pierre Anctil share their expertise on screen. “After years of touring around the world capturing the culture and the food in different corners of the world, we decided to turn the cameras on our own culturally unique backyard of Montreal to show the world all the great things the Jewish community has contributed to it, well beyond the bagel,” says Elman.

You can find out more about the film by going to www.yidlifecrisis.com.

Meanwhile, Batalion tells me that an upcoming episode of YidLife Crisis was shot entirely in Côte Saint-Luc and deals with the topic of antisemitism. "It’s all part of a bunch of advocacy work we’ll be doing in the month of September , and ultimately hoping to take this stuff to the schools as the hip way of talking to the youngsters about these issues," he says.

Elman and Batalion attended Bialik High School in CSL.

 


Excellent photography exhibit at the library

The Côte Saint Luc Men’s Club is a happening place where men, retired or mostly retired, come together to meet old friends, make new friends and have fun together.

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Members of the Photography Class.

 One of the classes is photography Class and it has proven to be a wonderful place for social interaction where members can find their creativity and develop new outlets for self-expression in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual encouragement. This class is led by Charles Eklove, who is an accomplished photographer with formal education in photography from Concordia University, and who provides a professional level of instruction. The mix of students ranges from new photographers to award winning and retired photographers. There is a wonderful chemistry in the class with a continued exchange of ideas and a great synergy in the group. We learn from each other in class and on the class photography trips that we take.

These talented men now have put together an exhibition of their work which runs to September 8 in the Community Art Space of the CSL Public Library. Many of these works are exceptional and all are a pleasure to look at. The members of the photography class invite you to see this exhibit and, if you like, leave your impressions in the accompanying book. I took a walk through the other night and it was most impressive!