““I was diagnosed with the BRCA mutation, which is a hereditary risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. I had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer in my life and a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer. A lot of the women on my father’s side of the family had lost their battles. The only real way to decrease your chance at getting these cancers is by removing healthy body parts. Within six weeks of finding out about this mutation, I chose to have a prophylactic, which is a risk-reducing hysterectomy. Then two months after that, I chose to have my healthy breasts removed and reconstructed with implants at a later date.

After I had a mastectomy with reconstruction, I decided to tattoo my scars on my left side to define my reconstructed breasts the way I wanted to. After I had the tattoo done, I posted it on Facebook to show women—and men, for that matter—that you can define beauty on your own terms. When I woke up the next morning, it had been shared all over the place. Strangers had shared it on their Facebook pages; I got a phone call from the New York Daily News, Global Television, Buzzfeed, CTV, all the radio stations asking me to talk about why I chose to do that. Now I joke that my boob broke the Internet!

Because my story was met with a lot of positivity and I realized that sharing it was doing a service to so many women, my confidence developed. Especially as women—skinny, fat, short, tall—we all have our insecurities. It doesn’t matter that I had no breasts and now have implants. You have to own yourself. We are who we are. So I can either spend time hating it, or spend time owning it. When you feel good about yourself, you carry yourself differently and feel more empowered, and that brings an outer beauty that you didn’t always have. After a mastectomy, regardless of whether they reconstruct or not, women often feel very scarred and ugly and damaged. So if you can look down and see something beautiful, it changes the way you see your body. I chose to tattoo one side because I like seeing scars on one side and beauty on the other—it’s sort of like the beginning and the end of my story.””

““I was inspired to go into education by one of my high school teachers who motivated me. I hadn’t been working hard and it was difficult for me to get inspired. I had a grade ten physics teacher who called me out on the effort I was putting forth and really followed up on everything I was doing. He gave me praise when I needed it and really opened me up to the world of education. He allowed me to see what a teacher can do and inspired me to go into the field myself.

I went to University to study elementary education and I plan (hopefully soon) to apply for my Masters in specialized education. I’m currently working at Hebrew Academy in differentiated learning, where we have a different education plan for each of our students. We get to know them, and the best way they learn, to try and educate them accordingly. It’s an amazing new challenge every day, and I love it!””

“We’ve created an on-demand delivery service with text message integration. It’s very simple, no app to download, no website, you just text a number and describe your order. Then we dispatch it, quote you the price, find a driver, and deliver it to you. We’re getting incorporated very soon. We only started development in February and within three months we were more or less operational. The feedback so far has been really great.”

“What’s it like being young entrepreneurs?”

“Two of us studied math and computer science. The “thing to do” was very much to go to grad school; almost everyone was planning to get a PhD. To just stop that and do something risky, like work on a startup, has a lot of uncertainty, but it’s exciting. I didn’t feel like going down the same path as everyone else just because I was in a certain program.”

“We both did research during our summers at McGill. It’s slow, feels political, and doesn’t feel like you’re doing what people want or need; you’re just doing what your professor likes or what a journal wants you to publish. I didn’t like that culture. With the start-up, you’re actually doing something that’s market-driven and following the demand.”

“There’s a large appeal for creating your own thing—something new—but risk is also a big factor. It tends to be slow. It involves a lot of hard work and long hours. But the goal of building something great, something that’s really different and game changing, makes it worth it. It’s important not to be afraid to take the riskier path. Playing it safe doesn’t always work out—I know tons of people who have degrees and they can’t get jobs either!”

“If you keep doing things that you’re comfortable with, then you’re not pushing yourself or growing.”

“I’ve had an extremely varied life. I did a Masters in computer science, and since then, I’ve done everything from being a programmer to being in sales to opening my own grilled cheese restaurant. When people came into my restaurant, I didn’t just serve them grilled cheese; I found out their entire story.

A few years ago, I taught math at a school in the Lubavitch community in Outremont. I thought the way they worked together as a community was very impressive. It was very interesting and challenging because I was teaching math to sixteen-year-old girls who were all going to be married within year of graduating. I just find people really fascinating.

I have a wide group of friends from all walks of life. I always knew, even when I was doing my Masters, that I wasn’t just going to become a programmer. I knew my life would take all kinds of interesting routes.”

““We’re part of a program called Gesher Chai that connects Jews from Israel with cities all around the world. We’re from Beer Sheva and Montreal is our sister city.”

“Describes your impressions of Montreal so far?”

“Cold [קר]”
“Beautiful and very different from Israel [יפה אבל שונה מאוד מישראל]”
“Weird [מוזר]”
“Cold but beautiful [קר אבל יפה]”
“Amazing [מדהים]”
“Different, beautiful, cold [שונה, יפה, קר]”
“Beautiful society and Jewish community [חברה טובה וקהילה יהודית מקסימה]” ”

““How would you describe being a mom?”

“My daughter’s been up since three in the morning. Today’s not a good day to ask me!”

“It’s definitely an adventure, but it’s a fun one.” ”

“My very first job was at a daycare in Côte Saint Luc. They had been constantly replacing teachers in the particular class I had been hired to work in. During my first week, this little boy in the class, William, came up to me and said “you’re not a real teacher”. Thinking he had said that because of all the previous substitutes he had, I sat him down and explained that I am a real teacher and that I was staying.

“No no no,” he continued, “you’re too small to be a real teacher! You need to eat more and then you’ll grow.” He was small, so I guess that’s what everyone told him too. It was so cute!”

“When I was growing up, Shabbat dinner was a must. Every Friday night, you didn’t leave the house. That’s what we do in our house now, and hopefully my kids will continue to do the same thing. My attitude is that it starts from home.”

“We did an Orthodox conversion; it took two years. We’re kosher and our kids are in Jewish school. We took the process very seriously.”

“During the conversion process, what was one Jewish value that really resonated with you?”

“Family. It’s an important concept in the Jewish religion. I love the bond that we have with our kids and the rest of the extended family.”

“I feel very comfortable within the Montreal Jewish community. I grew up in the West Island and feel very attached to it, and my husband grew up in Côte Saint Luc and he’s attached to his community as well. Even though we’ve had different experiences, we both have that same sense of community.

I always laugh because even though we don’t live in either the West Island or Côte Saint Luc anymore, we always seem to end up there. We still do our dry cleaning in Côte Saint Luc. Why? I have no idea! I still do my nails in Dollard. Does that make sense? No. But you just go back to your roots – to your community. That’s where we are comfortable and that’s what home is to us.”

“I was diagnosed with MS when I was 39 years old. At first I was angry, then I was in denial, and now I’m beginning to accept my lot in life.

Last summer, I lost my brother and sister. They were the last members of my family, so now I am really on my own. I have a caretaker who helps me and I receive support from Ometz, but I needed to do more to help myself live. So this past spring, I started a GoFundMe page to help me with my outings and to get to the gym every day. One thing I love doing is coming to the gym; it really keeps me going. It can be hard sometimes and I get tired, but everyone here is very supportive.”

““I have two little girls, an amazing husband, and a little boy in my belly. I love everything about them. They smile at me all the time, they make me happy, they give me love, and they think I’m beautiful no matter what; it’s awesome!

I love being a mom, but it’s very hard sometimes. It’s scary. You don’t know who they will become as they grow up, if they’re going to be healthy, or if they’ll listen. They make you so happy, but you’re not only nervous about how you’re going to raise them and what’s going to happen, but if they’re going to be good people. It’s not just about doing good for them, but making sure they’ll be doing good for others.” ”

“I hosted an Israeli teen last year for a week, and I liked the experience so much that when she left, I asked my parents if there’s a way we could do this experience again. It was very cool to connect with someone from another country, but hosting someone from Israel is a bit different because we have a rooted connection. This time, I had the opportunity to host Avital for five months, so we became very close.”

“I’ve been in Montreal twice before because of the partnership between Montreal and Beer Sheva. In Israel, you go into the army when you’re 18, but there’s an option that you can defer your army service for one year to volunteer. This year, there’s a hundred “shinshinim”, as we’re called, all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South Africa. You volunteer in the local Jewish community, schools, and synagogues to strengthen the bonds between the Jewish community and Israel. It’s a partnership between the Jewish Agency, Federation CJA, and the Jewish Community Foundation.

It’s important for Israelis to have bonds with Jews in the diaspora because Israel is their country just like it’s my country. It doesn’t matter where you live—you have a connection because you’re Jewish. I feel really at home here even though I was only speaking English and I was far from home, my friends, and family; the Jewish community in Montreal became my family.”

“I grew up in a Jewish home. It was always a Kosher home. Before my Bar Mitzvah, I would go to synagogue with my dad every Saturday. Shabbat dinner was also very important for my dad—you had to have a good reason to miss Shabbat dinner!

Then I went on the March of the Living and when I came back, I felt a strong connection to Judaism and became more religious. I started eating only Kosher meat out of the house, and not long after, I decided to become shomer Shabbat and started wearing a kippah every day. In the last three or four years everything came together for me. It’s usually the opposite—oftentimes people are brought up in a religious family and then around my age—I’m 23 now—they stop being religious. My parents are observant but not shomer Shabbat. My friends aren’t religious. It was my own decision. I’m happy that I found my way like that.”

“« J’ai un baccalauréat en adaptation scolaire et sociale. J’ai enseigné pendant environ 10 ans à l’École Peter Hall et depuis deux ans, je suis à la fois directrice des ressources humaines et l’adjointe du directeur général.

Il y a plusieurs moments dans ma carrière d’enseignante que je chéris. Je me souviens d’un élève en particulier que j’ai eu pendant deux ans. Il a un trouble du spectre de l’autisme et il arrivait souvent qu’il pouvait être agressif, ceci faisait partie de notre quotidien mais je ne m’en faisais pas avec cela. Il a eu un parcours difficile au point que sa mère, dépourvue de moyens a dû prendre la décision de le placer en foyer d’accueil. Récemment, je l’ai revu et il m’a reconnu ce qui n’est pas toujours le cas avec nos élèves. À 21 ans, il a quitté notre école et le jour de sa graduation, il m’a demandé de l’accompagner pour recevoir son certificat. Quand j’en parle, j’en ai encore les larmes aux yeux.

Ma famille est ce qu’il y a de plus important pour moi. Mon mari et moi voulons que nos enfants comprennent qu’ils doivent veiller les uns sur les autres. La communauté est également une valeur à laquelle nous tenons beaucoup. Nous poussons nos enfants à s’engager dans la communauté. Par exemple, notre fils fait du bénévolat au « Friendship Circle ». De notre côté, nous faisons un don annuel à CJA et nous participons aux différents événements tels le lancement de la campagne, « Challah Bake » ou « Choices ». L’identité juive est une autre valeur que nous cherchons à préserver chez nos enfants. Notre plus jeune qui fréquente une école publique participe au « Hebrew Community School » une fois par semaine et sa soeur a participé, pendant deux ans, au « Bat Mitsvah Club » avec Chabad Ville St-Laurent. Essentiellement, elle apprenait l’identité et le rôle de la femme dans le judaisme. On est très fier de faire partie de la communité juive de Montréal! »”

Happy birthday Israel! Bonne fête Israël! Chag Sameach!

“My parents are from the Ukraine and I grew up in Israel until I was nine and a half, which was when we moved here. It was in the month of May and it was cold and I remember we were walking outside wearing all of the winter coats we brought with us. We were freezing, and there was a guy running, wearing a tank top and shorts! That moment when we arrived in Canada was very significant for us.

I never felt like I was Jewish until I came to Montreal, because in Israel you’re not “Jewish”; you’re Israeli. When we came to Canada, all of a sudden you’re an Israeli in Canada. Then you try to find a new definition for yourself, and you become Jewish, because that’s what binds you to other Jewish people in Canada. It’s just like being Canadian—when you’re here and everyone is Canadian it’s not so special. But when you go abroad and meet another Canadian, it’s a big deal. I feel more connected to being Jewish here than in Israel because in Israel we were Russians in Israel, and here we’re Jews in Canada.”

“What’s your favourite thing about your daughter?”

“She’s funny and smart. We love doing sports together and we also love doing craft things together. She’s always trying to make us laugh, making up songs and dances, and putting on shows for us.”

“What’s your favourite thing about your mom?”

“That she cooks stuff I really like!”

“And you help me! She’s my special helper. She’s always beside me on her step, cooking with me. I come from an Italian background and so does my husband, who is Jewish-Italian, so family and food is everything to us. I converted when my husband and I decided to get married. It was such an easy transition because the morals, the values, and the warmth is the same between both Jewish and Italian cultures.”

“My children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren are very important. I like to be with them all the time. It’s naches!”

“We’re four sisters, nine grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren! When we get together the immediate family alone is 35 to 40 people. We’re very close.”

“What advice do you try to pass on between generations?”

“Stick together. Be there for each other. The four girls have always stuck together. We even try to get the younger cousins to help each other and be there for each other.”

““The Gesher Chai program allows teenagers from Beer Sheva and Montreal to meet and mash cultures, if you will. It allows us to get to know each other and see how things are in other countries.”

“The mentality is so different here. It’s fun to see the differences between us and them. But in the end, we’re all Jewish!””

“Judaism is like this tether that connects all the Jews around the world.” “

“I spent 2 1/2 years doing an undergrad in Human Relations and realized I really didn’t like it. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, so I applied to a variety of part-time jobs. Lo and behold, who calls back? The CPE of École Maïmonide! I said alright; I’ve worked with kids before; I can do this!

My time there over the past 9 years has brought me closer to Judaism. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true! I came from a Jewish family, but we were not kosher or religious. We were traditional, and the focus was on bringing family together. But working at Maïmonide has made me look at Judaism differently. Through arts & crafts, activities and songs, whatever the kids are learning, I am learning at the same time! It’s been cool – Judaism has not only become part of my work life, but my home life as well!”

“Throughout my childhood, I moved around quite a bit, and although I always had a place to live, I never really felt like I had a home. At 8 years old, thanks to the generosity of the community, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime: a summer at a Jewish sleep away camp in the Laurentians. I boarded the bus with excitement about making new friends and participating in fun activities. Little did I know, I would eventually call this place my home.

At camp I developed new skills, created lifelong friendships and discovered my Jewish identity. Because of camp, I have been inspired to give back by working as an informal Jewish educator for over 15 years. Today, I am so proud to watch my own kids board the same bus, and benefit from a wonderful summer camp experience of their own.”

Last year, Federation CJA helped send 1,237 kids to Jewish summer camp thanks to your support.

““I’m going to do a Torah reading in six months.”

“I’m leading the Shabbat service on Friday and have a speech the Saturday when he’s going up to the Torah. I’m so excited for the experience. Learning about our Bar and Bat Mitzvah teaches us about our past, and how things rolled out to be what they are today. It’s really cool to see how things happened and then connect them to current experiences.”

“And the best part is we get to do it together!”

“Have you done a lot of things together?”

“We shared a womb!”

“We’ve spent every day of our lives together. I feel like sometimes there’s a lot of competition, because we’re the same age, but we get along really well. We think alike sometimes.”

“She guesses the numbers in my head!”

“But I never realize he’s my twin brother; I just know he’s there. I only realize he’s my twin when people come up to me and say, ‘what’s it like having a twin?’ I really don’t know what to say because it’s just so normal for me. There’s never been a time he wasn’t there. Except for two minutes.”

“She came into the world a whole two minutes before me!”

“Best two minutes of my life.” ”

“I went to Auschwitz a few years back. At one point, I looked down and saw a bunch of chipped rocks all over the place and one nice, little round rock, which I thought was really interesting. I picked it up and brought it home with me, because being there was a very moving experience and it made me think of my grandfather who was in a camp in the Holocaust. He beat the odds and made it out, which reminded me of the rock, in that it was very different from the others and managed to make its way back to Canada with me.

I always keep it in my knapsack. When I had my medical school interview, I kept it in my jacket pocket. It’s grounding. It makes me realize, when I’m stressed out, that whatever I’m going through is nothing in comparison to the magnitude of the Holocaust and what my grandfather went through.”

“I’m a major people person. I think that’s part of why I like travelling so much. I really enjoy being with other people, meeting other people, sharing things with other people. Every time I go away and come back I’ve noticed a disconnect between here and anywhere else. There’s this North American mindset that if you haven’t had a job within the last 12 months you’re a failure. We live a culture where even if you have one degree, that’s not enough— you have to get a second degree; you have to have this level of pay; you have to wear this suit to work. There’s this checklist of things that your family can brag about you. People still find value in someone who goes travelling for two or three months, but if you tell someone you’re going travelling for nine months or a year, it’s different. My sister went on a nine-month trip to South America and our grandparents went from being supportive to saying, ‘what are you ruining your life for?’

In other parts of the world, people are choosing to have different kinds of life experiences. You meet people who have been travelling for ten years, and that is their life. It’s what they’ve chosen for themselves. That has really resonated with me. It’s made me reassess my definition of success. It involves changing the questions we ask and the things we say. Trying to change ‘where’s that going to get you in life?’ to ‘what makes you happy?’ and ‘what do you enjoy doing?’

It’s tough, though. There are so many people now who are having these identity crises where they’ve gotten the degree or the job but they hate it. Deciding to be happy and to enjoy what you’re doing guides me the most, as well as a massive fear of regret. Doing what I love is the only way to make sure that doesn’t happen. So whether it looks good, sounds good, pays a lot, whatever—it doesn’t matter, as long as I’m not sitting down the line, thinking, ‘I wish I had followed this other path.’”

“We are from Israel.”

“When did you move to Canada?”

“In three days, it’ll be one year.”

“Why did you decide to move to Montreal?”

“We knew that the Jewish community is very big here. It’s important for us to uphold traditions, to be part of the Jewish community, and to know our roots.”

“People say that Montreal has the best food and great restaurants, but what they don’t know is that the best restaurants in Montreal are places like this; the hidden gems. This place is legendary! Montreal makes better hot dogs than any other city. No one makes hot dogs like Montreal – and I love hot dogs!

But on a more serious note – more than great food, Montreal has a community with an infrastructure that is there for those who need it, when they need it. As a Jewish person in Montreal, I believe that every person needs to give a little something of themselves, either of their money or their time or whatever it is, to ‘pay their dues’. Everybody owes something, because we’ve all withdrawn something from the community at some point. It’s a group effort and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”

“We’ve been married for 49 years.”

“We’ve been together for 51 years! We got married young. I was 21; she was 20. You’ve got to pick the right person to start with, and then you’ll have a long and happy marriage. Pick somebody with the same values and you’ll be happy for life.”

« Ma femme et moi nous sommes rencontrés au Y, alors que nous faisions jadis partie des scouts. Il y a longtemps déjà, nous avons commencé à travailler sur ce projet de parc récréatif dans un centre commercial. Nous avions adoré le concept en Israël : là-bas, il y a un Gymboree dans chaque centre commercial. Nous avons voulu récréer la même chose au Quartier Cavendish, car la famille et les enfants comptent beaucoup pour nous. Nous avons quatre enfants… auxquels soixante autres s’ajoutent chaque fin de semaine! Les enfants sont amusants et ils ont énormément de choses à raconter. Ils sont dynamiques, intelligents, mignons et pleins d’énergie. »

“My kids are my life. It’s so rewarding when your kids tell you how much they love you and when you see their personal growth. My family is the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

“I love the arts—visual arts, music, theatre. I went to an arts high school and it was incredible. It helped me discover who I am as a person. Finally, I was with my people! It made me realize that you can focus on certain things that you excel at and you don’t need to fit into a mould in order to be successful. Society has certain expectations; if you don’t look a certain way or act a certain way then maybe you’re not “normal.” But when you can find a place where you can be yourself, you find yourself.”

“Over the past 20 years, I have become attached to educating eleven and twelve-year-old children, because I can share my own experience as a young child Holocaust survivor. I meet children from many different schools all over Quebec and North America, and I can understand their perspectives and the questions they ask; they’re ones that I would have liked to ask as a child.

It’s very uplifting to know that I’m changing lives with this knowledge. Many of the children reflect and realize that such things happened to ordinary families like their own. It’s important to educate them as young as possible, so they learn the lessons of history, carry our stories with them, and consider the role they play in making the world a more tolerant place.”

Each year more than 16,000 people, 70% of whom are students, are sensitized to the dangers of intolerance through Holocaust education, thanks to your support.

“I’m part of the Friendship Circle. We bring friendship and inclusion to kids with special needs. The best compliment I hear when someone comes to a program is: ‘I can’t tell who’s special and who’s not,’ because that’s the point! It’s the friendship circle; we’re all friends.

In a world that is all about how we’re different, it’s important to find the things that connect us. I started volunteering in high school and I got a tiny bit obsessed!

We moved from Brooklyn to work with the Friendship Circle here in Montreal. They offered us a position because they wanted to expand to supporting the family and the community too, as opposed to just the child, because when an individual has special needs it really affects the whole family. We’ve been doing programs for the parents to make them feel that they are a part of a community that supports them.”

“I’m part of the Partnership2Gether delegation from Israel. The program connects Jewish students from Israel with those in Montreal. Isabelle is my host here and I really love her! She’s amazing.”

“I am so thankful for this opportunity because I’ve made so many new friends from Israel and I really hope that I get to go to Israel one day! We feel a connection. I love getting to know her. She speaks seven languages! It’s the coolest thing ever.”

“Limmud Centre was born from a bold and ambitious idea: to create a structured homeschooling program for Lubavitch boys that would complement their Yeshiva studies. To walk into the fully functional, thriving center that is filled to capacity, you wouldn’t know that the doors opened but ten months ago. Elementary aged boys from the Lubavitch community come in daily to receive expert guidance and support in all aspects of the core Quebec educational curriculum. The 54 boys enrolled don’t just show up, they embrace the goal with enthusiasm and commitment.

The results have surpassed our expectations! The boys are making significant and rapid progress. In addition to weekly homework packages in core subjects, they have completed over 60,000 online math questions and have spent over 1,000 hours dedicated to English reading and comprehension. Most importantly, the parents are committed to working closely with their children and are actively guiding them through the curriculum.”

“I can’t believe that my time at Bialik has come to an end. I always knew that a Jewish education was important to my parents and grandparents, but it only really hit me a few weeks ago, after returning from the March of the Living.

I am fortunate to have been on several trips to Israel, but this one in particular was extremely educational and life changing. It showed me the importance of a Jewish education and the importance of embracing your Jewish Identity. The experience was unforgettable, and made me realize that I have an important responsibility: to educate and share my experiences with future generations, so that something so awful never happens again to any human.

I am incredibly grateful to be part of our local Jewish community, as well as the wider Jewish community that extends throughout the globe!”

“I wanted to do a mitzvah before my Bat Mitzvah, and so I raised $500 for Federation CJA by selling gift baskets around my neighbourhood. I wanted to donate money to the Yom Ha’atzmaut party because I come here every year and I have a lot of memories here. I don’t know how I would celebrate Israel’s birthday without the party. You’re not in Israel to celebrate, so it means a lot.”

“I love Israelis and everything about Israel, and I thought the best way to express my love for Israelis is to host them. Whenever I can, I host as many people as I can! I connect very well with them because they’re my age. It’s a lot of fun.”

“It’s a great experience for us to come to Montreal.”

“It’s interesting to see different Jewish people from all over the world.”

“It’s important. You want to show the Jewish people here something they haven’t seen before. You’re coming here to represent Israel.”

“I want to show my children that we live in a beautiful community with so many Jewish people—young and old. It’s amazing to not only learn Judaism in school, but to see that it’s a community thing as well.”

“There’s a vibe in Montreal that people just love to have a good time. They stay out late and it’s not all about making money. People say that in Toronto, people live to work, but in Montreal, people work to live. I love the practicality of living in Montreal, especially the neighborhoods we’ve lived in. Living in the Plateau, you can bike around everywhere and bump into your friends. There’s really great food, bistros, cafés, clothing and art. There isn’t a week that goes by where I’m not like “wow, this is a freaking great city to live in!” I grew up in Winnipeg and love it in a more nostalgic sense. It’s a great city, but it doesn’t have that sexiness that Montreal has. It’s a sexy town.”

“I love Montreal because of its convenience. I’m comparing it to London, where I’m from, where it takes 45 minutes to get anywhere, even if you just want to meet a friend for coffee. I love that in Montreal, I step outside my door and see the mountain. It’s such a pretty city and I like the ease and spontaneity of it.”

“We arrived in Canada on March 24th, 1992. At that time, the very first investment my father made was a pair of cross-country skis for every member of our family.

Back in the Soviet Union, cross-country skiing was a central part of the Russian culture; a sport continuously transmitted to the next generation. It was more than a simple training activity; it was part of the gym class program of high-school students. It was the reason Muscovites escaped to their cottages in winter time, and mainly, it was a perceptual remedy for the survival of a harsh Russian winter.

I find it difficult to find a comparable sensation than the one of gliding through a forest to the sound of crisp snow and the smell of pine trees. There is something quite unique in feeling invigorated by the freshness of cold air.

My father is an avid cross-country skier who was able to share his love for an essential sport with the rest of our family. Nowadays, no matter the cold in the wintertime, every single weekend, at least one of us is striding on the Mount Royal trails.”

« En 1986, j’ai été engagé par une agence de sécurité, qui m’a demandé de travailler pour la Fédération CJA. Je n’y suis resté que deux mois puis j’ai été muté à la Place Ville-Marie. J’étais alors célibataire.

Tous les soirs, je mangeais dans un restaurant de la foire alimentaire. Un jour, j’ai vu passer une jolie demoiselle qui m’a fait tout un effet. J’ai eu le coup de foudre. Je ne m’étais jamais épris d’une femme comme ça. Elle était gentille et belle. Elle me plaisait. C’était réciproque.

Puis j’ai commencé à prendre mon repas dans mon bureau. Un jour, elle m’a demandé : “Monsieur Lapointe, pourquoi ne venez-vous pas manger avec nous, au restaurant? Vous êtes seul dans votre bureau.” Alors, tous les soirs, j’allais manger au restaurant. C’était à cause de la serveuse. Petit à petit, nous avons tissé des liens.

Cette année-là, le Salon du livre de Montréal avait lieu le 26 novembre. Le matin du 26, je lui ai téléphoné pour savoir si elle désirait y aller. Elle a dit oui. “Aimerais-tu avoir de la compagnie?” “Y aller avec vous?” m’a-t-elle demandé. “Oui. Laisse-moi une demi-heure et je suis chez toi.” Nous sommes allés au Salon du livre, mais surprise!, pas de Salon du livre. Je l’ai alors invitée au cinéma et au restaurant. C’est à ce moment-là que nous nous sommes déclaré notre amour.

Depuis ce jour, le 26 novembre est la date la plus importante de ma vie. Nous sommes mariés depuis 26 ans et avons un fils merveilleux. Je respecte cette femme, je l’adore, je l’aime. Quand elle n’est pas là, je m’ennuie, et vice-versa. Nous sommes très proches l’un de l’autre. »

“I was in a slump in my life; I was a confused about how I wanted to move forward in my future. Some of my friends who are part of the community kept pushing me to go on Birthright Israel. To be very honest, it was never something that I had thought about. I was not brought up in a Jewish household; I didn’t go to Hebrew school. But my friends kept telling me, ‘it’s not necessarily just a religious thing. You’re going to see where you come from and what your history is. You’re going to feel a part of something.’

I went, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. For the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. The most emotional part for me was when I went to the Western Wall. Seeing everybody together and chanting and hugging—the energy of it all—was incredible to me. It’s something I can’t even explain. Even so many years later, I get emotional thinking about the feeling that I had there. I’ll never forget it.

I wrote my little note and I put it in the wall, and I really feel that it came true. It had a lot to do with family and my grandfather, who was diagnosed with cancer. I wished that he didn’t go through a very hard time and enjoyed the rest of his time with his family. I don’t think he suffered. We were all there for him. I think he lived a very happy life. I think there’s a small part of it that had to do with my wish at the wall.”

“I started working at the YMHA in the late 80’s where I was hired as a Maccabee youth swim coach. I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of this place and I applied for a job teaching fitness classes. In 2002, I started here working full-time. I’ve been a part of the furniture ever since!

In the past, when I worked in other facilities, Christmas time would come around and people would often give you a card or a gift because it’s the holiday of giving. Working in a Jewish community centre, I figured people didn’t celebrate Christmas, but without fail, each year here at the Y, I receive the most generous, most thoughtful gifts from people who don’t celebrate Christmas. There’s this one lady who’s about 90 years old, on a fixed income, and she goes out of her way to buy me a Christmas card or a gift every year. I have been totally blown away by the level of generosity, giving and thoughtfulness.

That shows you the sense of inclusion I see here every day. I love working here, and I feel very at home. I’ve been invited to countless Shabbat dinners; I’ve been invited to weddings. You don’t find that everywhere you work. I feel very much that I’m a part of a family and I say that because they don’t care what I am. I’m a part of the clan!”

“When the Concordia Student Union adopted a BDS resolution against Israel, we students on campus took it upon ourselves to advocate for and support the State of Israel. A negative resolution only made us stronger. This past October, we held the first ever Israel Education Month on campus, hosting a number of speakers and a memorial event for Rabin. The month culminated in a huge party celebrating the beauty of Israel.

Without the constant support of our community, none of this would have been possible. Thank you so much for providing the students of Montreal safe spaces, advice and encouragement during tough times on campus.”

With the support of Federation CJA, over 1,000 Jewish students at 7 CEGEP and universities in Montreal participated in on-campus activities related to Israel last year.

“The happiest moment of my life was when I got married last year, just down the street from here! When we got married we decided to take the traditions from Judaism that were most important to us. Jimmy is actually not Jewish, but he loves all of the traditions. We were able to introduce them to his side of the family, who didn’t necessarily know about those things, and being able to share all of the fun was a very happy moment for us.

The hora was probably the happiest moment of the day! It was so wild and so much fun and everybody was really getting into it – even people who didn’t know about it before. My best friend, who I met at camp, was the one who married us. It was nice to be able to tie everything together, and make the traditions our own.”

“I’m a fitness trainer. I’ve been doing it for eight years now. What clicked was when I had my daughter—that’s when I decided I wanted to get healthier and be a good role model for her. Training, overcoming challenges, and being disciplined in the gym spills over to the rest of your life. I became a stronger individual.

I came from Russia with my parents in the early 2000’s. I’m happy my parents decided to move when I was younger and I’m glad that my daughter is growing up here. Her childhood is very different from mine growing up in Russia in the 1990’s!”

“Several years ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer and we had to travel all over the city for treatments, so we began using the community’s assisted transportation service. I resisted the help at first, but it turned out to be a godsend.

The drivers are polite and caring; they come to my door and help me in and out of the car. They accompany me to medical appointments and occasionally to the shopping centre, which allows me to get out of the house – important since my wife has passed and macular degeneration has left me legally blind.

When you or someone you love is sick, your mind isn’t focused on driving. I’m thankful to be living in a community where this service is available to seniors.”

Last year, thanks to your generosity, 4,543 seniors living in Montreal benefited from services provided by Federation CJA funding, including psychosocial support, transportation, homecare, recreation, hospital visits, meals on wheels, and day services.

“Herzliah is where I truly cultivated my Jewish identity and learned what it meant to be Jewish from all different perspectives, cultures, and customs. I had friends from Morocco, Russia, and Israel, and I was able to learn about their particular customs and traditions, which has made me appreciate the Jewish religion and culture even more.

There’s so many of us, all with different backgrounds, mindsets, and ideas of what it means to be Jewish, but at the end of day we all come together as one, regardless of these differences. The fact that I was able to learn this at such a young age has allowed me to appreciate diversity and the true strength of our community.”

“I came here from Paris with my family when I was eight years old. My father didn’t talk a lot about Judaism or what happened during the war, although he was left without one relative. I went to school, my parents returned to France, and I stayed here by myself. I guess in my head, I was thinking, ‘I’m going to make a better life here.’ I’ve had two different careers. I was in fashion and makeup—I had a boutique, I designed clothes, and I manufactured. Then I went into real estate, did that for 32 years. Now I’m retired and my head is all over the place because I like to do different things, foremost something that helps people.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago. When you get Parkinson’s, there aren’t that many choices and there are a lot of things that come up because of it. I sat on the board of the Parkinson’s Society for several years so I could help make a difference. Having a community of people in the same situation is vital, because no one should have to go through this alone. Now I’m at the Cummings at least four or five times a week. I love it. There are a lot of seniors, so you’re not defending yourself. It’s very comfortable. This place is a lifesaver. It lets me be me. It made me very proud to be Jewish; I’m more Jewish now than ever.”

“I’m a professional makeup artist and I also spend time telling people my story as a cancer survivor – it’s a big part of my life. I also share the story of how I became religious. I’m a “baal teshuva”: I wasn’t always religious, but have been now for nine years. When I was growing up, I was a party animal and a little bit crazy. When I got sick, I started to make the connection to my Judaism.”

“We met when we were both on this journey exploring Judaism at the same time, independent of each other. We got married in Israel and lived there for a few years until we came back to Montreal. I also did not grow up religious or feeling too connected to Judaism. It’s been a very long road for both of us, but we now live across the street from the synagogue where our son goes every day.”

“I like working with the community a lot! I’m very involved with Israel Cancer Research Fund, and started a foundation there when I was sick. It’s called Amanda’s Live Laugh and Learn Fund and I’m very involved. Every day, because I went through what I went through, people are always reaching out to me. I’m always hearing of people who are sick and the things that they overcame, and I’m inspired by every survivor and everyone who’s going through it.”

“I developed an understanding early on of the strong imperative for social justice in Judaism because my parents run a shul. So I started HugTrain around Christmas 2009, a year after the big financial crash. I knew people were really feeling the crash at that time because it is an expensive time of year, so I said: “let’s add hugs and see what happens!”

The program initially started around the issue of mental health, but has widened to focus on social isolation in general. More and more we’re seeing that social isolation has become an epidemic. We’ve stopped connecting with each other, and we’ve seen through studies that social isolation, whether real or perceived, is a mortality risk: it leads to higher blood pressure, lower immune function, depression, anxiety.

When I’m on the train, I try to walk through the aisles three times a day offering hugs – that starts conversations. We’ve seen that hugs are perfect antidotes, and I know that the hugs we provide really change people. You never know who you’re going to meet and how you’re going to help people. The hope with HugTrain is that people understand how easy it is to make a difference in the world.”

“We own a film production company here in Montreal. As a documentary filmmaker, I love having the chance to talk to people I would normally not have a chance to meet. I also love the chance we’ve had to go to many different parts of the world, as well as different worlds within your community that you didn’t know exist.

We usually tell stories about communities that are in our midst, but often we tell stories about people whose stories otherwise wouldn’t be told, illuminating them.

In an ideal world everyone would get their own story out, but sometimes there’s so much going on, it’s easy to get drowned out. Not everyone has the abilities, the tools, or the time. We try to work with people and get the story in a way that’s respectful to them.”

“I’ve been in the restaurant and customer service industry my whole life. I started off as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Hudson, and moved through the back of the house—the kitchen area. Once I saw that I was at my max in the kitchen, I decided to move to the front of the house. I did every position possible, basically, in the restaurant industry, to the point where I was like, ‘it’s time to create something new.’

I started working in the event industry and I noticed that there was a niche missing for a bar service. Yes, there were bar services out there; yes, there were caterers with bar services as well. But I wanted to be just a bar service and bring something new and fresh to the table. We did just that and it took off. I have to say the Jewish community is a very big part of that—they’re very supportive. It’s all word of mouth. In two years we’ve turned into the biggest service in the city.”

“I’m a very proud Jewish Montrealer. I call Montreal the Jewel of North America. I like that I have friends from a lot of different communities, that there’s a meshing between cultures. I’m never afraid to wear a kippah or any kind of Jewish symbol. We’re geographically well placed and so people come here from all over the world. It’s a mosaic, it’s a melting pot, it’s a little bit of everything.

I like to be a bon vivant, and I believe very much in random acts of kindness. Sometimes a smile is as simple as it needs to be—it could be the only smile that someone saw all day. I choose to see the bright side of things. I put out in the world what I want to come back. There’s no shame in seeking happiness; you should never feel guilty about that. No one can tell you how to be happy.”

« Il y a deux ans, nous avons entrepris des démarches pour lancer notre propre entreprise. Nous avons demandé l’appui de la communauté pour nous aider à démarrer et elle nous a soutenus de plusieurs façons – en nous entourant de mentors qui nous ont guidés tout au long du processus et en nous procurant une aide financière. Nous sommes privilégiés d’avoir pu bénéficier d’un tel soutien!

Montréal nous a tellement donné, et nous voulons redonner à notre ville bien-aimée; il était donc très important de démarrer notre entreprise ici. En prenant de l’expansion, nous avons engagé des employés directement des services d’emploi dans la communauté, et nous continuerons de le faire au fur et à mesure que notre entreprise grandit. »

Depuis 2000, la Fédération CJA a permis à des milliers de jeunes entrepreneurs juifs de bénéficier d’un mentorat professionnel et a aidé au démarrage de 55 entreprises ici, à Montréal, par l’entremise de ProMontreal Entrepreneurs.

“Growing up, I was one of three children. My father worked a lot so my mom was the mainstay in the family. And then when he turned 60, he had a revelation where he wanted to change his ways. Up until 60 he was all about earning a living, providing for his family, and having something to leave behind. And then on his 60th birthday, he decided that he’d rather not leave so much behind and enjoy everything now instead. So the whole family has been to Costa Rica together, on a cruise, and we go up north to our country house in Saint-Agathe all 20 of us. My father has set the example of enjoying life before it’s gone.

At his 70th, my sister, my brother, and I decided to do a bus tour of my father’s life. So the immediate family went on this bus and started at my father’s childhood home. He had a microphone during the whole tour, and the kids were listening to my dad talk about his childhood. That experience was altering for all of us, because when you’re busy raising a family and working—my husband and I work very hard and we have four kids—you kind of forget what’s important. History is important. How you become who you are is important. My father was a very successful man but never graduated high school. It’s important for the kids to see that and know that you can do anything—not just what someone tells you to do.”

“I’ve always strived for individuality, although I also like being part of a team. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and that’s what makes them an individual. If you’re able to come to terms with your strengths as well as your weaknesses and be open about them, then that is the strongest proof of individuality. I learned that during the March of the Living.

My madrichim pulled me aside one day and they said, ‘man, you get it. You get the whole thing. You’re going to be even stronger if you’re able to accept and understand your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. And you need to be the one to tell people of your strengths and your weaknesses. Once you’re able to do that, you’re going to be way more valuable to yourself and to your team.’

That was six or seven years ago, and for my entire 20s, it’s been something that stood out to me and shaped another part of my character. I have certain partnerships: I have a business partner, a girlfriend, family, a company I work with, a radio station I work with, and I also have myself. In all of these instances I find myself trying to improve and progress. It would have been a lot harder for me, had I not received that piece of advice early on. It allowed me to take a step back and be okay with the fact that I have weaknesses, I can work on them, and I can also be a part of a team where our strengths and weaknesses are complementary. That mindset has allowed me to maintain a really positive attitude, even when things go extraordinarily poorly.”

“I’m passionate about working with kids in any format. I was a camp counselor and now I’m an Assistant Director at CBB, after going to camp for the past 18 years. This is also my fourth year as the Athletic Director of Sacred Heart, so I’m responsible for all extra-curricular activities for sports and I coach a minimum of three teams. I’m heavily involved in the athletics program, but I also teach phys. ed., math, and leadership.

An important part of being a teacher is being a lifelong learner. In addition to everything that I’m doing, I’m also doing my Master’s Degree in Education. People ask me why I do it, and I don’t really have an answer; I just think that if I can, why not? I try to take any opportunity that will allow me to be a better teacher, a better leader, a better counselor.

I think that as a teacher, you’re always learning from your students. Kids are changing, school systems are changing, and the world is changing, so if you’re not ready to change with it, then you’re not going to better anybody. The second you start thinking that you know everything is really the moment that you should realize you don’t know anything.”

“I’m the Lice Fairy here in Montreal. Basically what I do is go to people’s homes, supply them with a fantastic non-toxic treatment, a lice kit, and advice. I also go to YCC every summer—I’m a camp mom. When I go to people’s homes and they’re so overwhelmed, I always tell them: ‘this is not a disaster; it’s a gift. This is a gift of friendship. This is a gift of reconnection. Forge about the lice—lice is nothing. You can find out so much information just by combing your child’s hair daily. Take that hour and enjoy it.’

And that’s what happened to me. My daughter—who is going to be 16 this month—got lice when she was seven years old. I was traumatized. I stopped working. I kept her home for that initial 24 hours. I did what every crazy mother online told me to do. I was nuts! The greatest thing I did was wake up my daughter an hour early before the rest of the house and I literally nit-picked her hair. It was mummy-daughter time every morning and every night for an hour and a half for two weeks. It was beautiful. It opened a communication that we have to this day, and I believe it was because of that.”

“Have you ever had lice?”

“No!”

“I’m a dietician. My true passion is educating people on how to eat well in a tasty, fun, and exciting way, which is not always what people associate with eating healthy. All foods can fit if you balance them out in a healthy lifestyle. It’s how you live your overall life that will really make the difference. I really love food, and when I was younger I really just loved junk food. I was definitely an overweight teen once I stopped growing. I was faced with a choice: do I change or not? But eating in the way that would make my body healthy seemed like a chore. Thanks to the support of my parents who brought me to a dietician, I am who I am today.”

“If you could give a piece of advice to your teenage self, what would you say?”

“I would give myself a message of self-acceptance. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I think that once you’re comfortable with yourself, everything falls into place; you’re able to appreciate yourself, enjoy yourself, enjoy your life, and transmit that to the people around you. Back then it was hard, so I think it would have been good to know that you are who you are, no matter what, and you should be changing because you care about yourself and not because you don’t like yourself. Accept the fact that you want to improve and be a better version of your current, self rather than a different person entirely. Be proud of who you are.”

“As a magician, my job is to amaze and mystify people, as well as make them laugh. I think a sense of wonder is very important in this very scientific, rational time. People really appreciate having a moment of impossibility and a sense of wonder—even if it’s just for a few seconds. Without wonder, life becomes… kind of drudgery.

I also find wonder from nature. Going into nature turns off the brain for a minute and takes you out of the day-to-day mindset. It takes you somewhere special. There have to be moments like that in life. It’s an important thing.”

“Hi, my name is Mitch, and I have too many running shoes.

I’ve been involved in fitness for over 20 years and I feel a sense of community here. I had a Bar Mitzvah and I went to the Y Country Camp, but I didn’t go to Jewish school. So coming here, meeting mostly Jewish members, they say things like “have an easy fast”, and “have a good Yom Tov”, while you’re walking through the hall. Everybody shakes hands and it’s very friendly. Then you find out that you know somebody or know their grandson, and a connection is made!

There’s always an influx of old Montrealers who come back to the Y during the holidays. Sometimes people leave because they get married, they have work, but four kids later they come back again and it’s like they haven’t changed. And I’m still here!”

“I teach various subjects at a school in the West Island, one of which is dance. It’s a way to combine my love of Israeli dance and teaching kids. Israeli dance brings people together. Although certain music and steps have changed over time, the essence is still there: the connection to the Jewish homeland.”

“How did you get into Israeli dance?”

“I started when I was a young kid, and I stopped until around the end of university when I went with my mom’s friends to the synagogue and found out about a young adult dance group and that was it! We started dancing every week. We didn’t only do Israeli dance, but salsa, tango, ballroom, other dance workshops, and camps as well. It was my social network that saved me. I was going through a rough time at that point and dancing, friends, and community picked me up and got me on my feet again.”

“I do stand-up comedy, and I also host a radio comedy show. A big misconception about being a stand-up comic is that we only work an hour a day! We’re constantly creating, we’re constantly looking for material, we’re constantly trying to evolve.

Comedy, in a sense, saved me. I’m very open about the fact that I suffer from anxiety. Part of the motivation, now, is getting up on stage to beat the anxiety. I always felt like I wasn’t vulnerable on stage, and all of a sudden, I was. It didn’t bode well for me. Now, there’s no problem. If I can go up on stage every night, I think that would be the best therapy for me, and hopefully entertaining for everybody else.

That’s what stand-up basically is: the cheapest form of therapy, because if there’s something that bothers you, you can just go up on stage and let it out. Some people do that via a diary, some people do yoga, some people do interpretive dance—I vocalize it.

My grandmother is my inspiration. She’s the funniest woman I know. She’s just so quick and witty, even at the ripe age of 88. She told me my first dirty joke when I was six. She’s a Holocaust survivor who’s now living in a residence and still manages to find the good in people and the bright side of life. One of my greatest thrills is making her laugh, since she’s given me so many laughs over my lifetime.”

“I went out for brunch the other day with a friend and we ran into someone from out of town. They were staying at the Ruby Foo’s hotel and when we bumped into them we told ourselves It was such a small world that we happened to run into them. The next day, I was out in the West Island and I ran into her again and she said “only in Montreal”! No matter where you go, there always seems to be a familiar face to see here. That’s what makes Montreal feel like home to me.

I recently changed jobs. For the past eight years, I was working with adults who have special needs. That was something that I really enjoyed. Now, I work at the Douglas hospital and I’m a manager there for two inpatient units with psychiatric disorders. It’s very rewarding to work with people who have severely challenging behaviours. One woman I worked with was hospitalized for almost a year and when she came out, she was very confused and had a hard time reintegrating into the community. It took about two years, but now she is able to go to activities on her own and she went back to school. She’s becoming more and more independent. She’ll never be completely independent, but she’s really come full circle! We take people who are in crisis and work as a team to stabilize them and help them improve their daily life so they can be part of our community. It’s really special.”

“I like being around people and meeting new people. Put me in a room with 20 people I don’t know—and a little bit of alcohol—and I’m good to go! I think everyone has a story. People sometimes judge a person by their social media footprint—what they’re like on Facebook, what they post, their photos, etc. That’s the worst thing to do because half of it is garbage, but more importantly there are so many incredible people out there and in order to really get to know them, you have to spend time with them. Ask them questions, be friendly to them, and maybe open up a little yourself.”

“What’s a question that you wish that people would ask you more when they met you?”

“What makes you tick? What do you get excited about when you wake up?”

“So, what makes you tick?”

“Every day when I wake up, I try to be positive and get excited about at least one thing that’s going to happen or I’ll make something happen. Everyone has one life to live and you owe it to yourself to try to succeed, try to make a difference, and try to be the best you can be. That’s what makes me tick every day.”

“In 2007, I participated as a chaperone on the March of the Living. This was my first experience travelling to Poland, where both of my parents are from. That trip had a profound impact on my life; I was surprised to discover old synagogues there which have since been abandoned.

The Bagg Street Shul really reminds me of the places we had the opportunity to visit and like all old shuls, are an important part of the heritage of our community. I started coming to the Bagg synagogue occasionally with friends on Shabbat for a beautiful service and to enjoy a l’chayim. Having recently lost both my parents, this building will forever have a special place in my heart reminding me of the people and places I have descended from.”

“I think that literacy is very important. Reading has opened up my mind to so many things. The more you read, the more you learn, the more you know, the more you can do with your life, the more you can help others, the more you can produce, the more you can create. Everything starts with that first book—that seed—that gets a kid to read. I’ve always been a heavy reader and a devoted patron of the Jewish Public Library as a kid, and then I started working there, and then I decided to go to Library School and do my Master’s in Library Studies. I’ve been working with kids for the last 15 years and I have seen firsthand the difference reading abilities make in a child.

As my life has gone on, my love for reading has also been combined with Israel advocacy, because I’m a bit of a news junky and I love reading about history. I work with two social media news sites on Facebook and Twitter that do pro-Israel advocacy. We try to change the image of Israel around the world. That’s sparked my realization that we need to step up, speak out, and say the truth about Israel. It’s a global issue for all Jews, because, ultimately, we’re all affected by it.

Israel is such a beautiful country that’s been built by people who came with nothing. When I speak to my friends and family in Israel they say, ‘We refuse to live in fear and nothing’s going to make us leave or put a stop to our lives.’ All of that strength and determination comes from hundreds of years of our shared history.”

“The world is so beautiful and we take it for granted all too often. Every time I travel, I’m constantly in awe of my surroundings. Then, I come home to Montreal and a friend will be in town, and when I show them around they’ll tell me how beautiful it is. Montreal is so beautiful. Sometimes it’s nice to force yourself outside—even when it’s minus 25 degrees—and appreciate that it snowed and that it’ll be plus 30 degrees in a few months. It’s crazy when you really think about how amazing the world is, and sometimes we get through the day without even noticing.”

“I love history—especially the history of our people. And baking is what I do, so I try to incorporate elements of history and culture into my baking. We use our grandma’s recipe for the hamentaschen, for example. I love recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. I love reading cookbooks—not just for the recipes, but for the stories behind them. It’s more than just food.”

“This past fall I went away to Poland and Israel with Federation CJA’s Young Adult mission and I’d been waiting to go on this trip for almost ten years. There was no March of the Living when I was in Grade 11 and for years afterwards, my timing never worked out.

The trip was 10 days in Poland and Israel. We went with Israelis, which was really nice because it added a whole other dimension to the trip. When we got to Poland, we saw how different our two groups were, but within a few days we were really unified. When we got to Israel, they really showed us their lives. We connected on a different level because of the Poland experience.

I didn’t know what to expect but I had the most incredible time. Everyone says that you go on a trip like this and it changes your life – and I really feel like it did! I got home and felt different. Even now, several months later, I’m still processing the effect it had on me.”

« Il y a un an, nous participions à la Méga Mission Montréal en Israël. Pendant ce voyage, nous avons eu la chance de nous marier dans la forteresse de Massada. Ce fut magique! Les six cents membres de la communauté qui nous entouraient ont rendu ce moment exceptionnel.

Avant la Mission, je ne savais pas qu’il y avait tant de possibilités de s’engager dans la communauté. Depuis mon retour, je m’implique réellement : je sers des repas aux démunis au Café, je fais des appels pour la campagne annuelle de l’Appel juif unifié et je suis inscrite au programme de formation au leadership Atid de la Philanthropie des femmes. La Mission a changé nos vies. Nous sommes fiers de faire partie d’une communauté qui a des répercussions sur un aussi grand nombre de vies. »

En 2014, dans le cadre de la Méga Mission Montréal de la Fédération CJA, près de 600 membres de la communauté d’horizons divers ont entrepris le voyage de leur vie en Israël. Alors que plus de 25 % d’entre elles en étaient à leur premier séjour, 13,5 % avaient moins de 35 ans.

“I have degrees in psychology and human relations, and am currently the director of a camp for children with special needs and their families. It’s the first of its kind in Canada. We started it because we wanted to offer these families an opportunity to be at camp and not be concerned about their challenges, but focus on being in nature and having full access to the Y Country Camp’s incredible facilities. They have a chance to swim, socialize and make friends. Two years ago, we started with 8 families, and this past summer we doubled to 16, which is a pretty big deal! This summer we hope to grow even more, without sacrificing the individual attention that each family receives.

I’m a strong believer in inclusion and integration. Firstly, children with special needs will model the behaviour that they see in their peers. But it’s also a great thing for other kids to develop awareness about what amazing things this community has to contribute. It teaches them that when they’re walking down the street, and they see someone who is different than they are, not to move away from them, but towards them. It makes all of us better people.”

“My kids go to Jewish school and Jewish camp and it’s important to me that they are a part of the Jewish community and the Jewish people. This is the 5th Chanukah party we’ve gone to!”

“Being from Israel, it’s really important to show my kids how a holiday like Chanukah brings a community together and how we all celebrate.”

“My son goes to Solomon Schechter and learns so much about the holidays, which helps keep our tradition alive. I just can’t wait to see the joy in his eyes during Chanukah.”

‘I want my son to learn about the Jewish culture. It’s not just for the children but the adults too, to bring the Jewish culture into our homes.”

“I had colon cancer twenty years ago. I turned my life around after that—anything that I was afraid of doing, I was no longer afraid of. I was afraid of getting on ice skates, so I got on skates and got to the point where I could ice dance. I figured I came close to dying – things couldn’t be any worse than that – might as well try all the things I had been afraid of! Now, I’m afraid of nothing.”

“I brought a whole group of people from the South Shore to a Chanukah party for our kids to meet other Jewish people and learn about their Jewish heritage in a fun way; a way a child can relate to and understand.”

“I originally come from Czechoslovakia. On March 15th, 1939, the Germans came in and life completely changed. We were made 5th class citizens. My mother, my sister, and I fled to Hungary on September 15th, 1939—my father had fled earlier, to Paris. We went to Budapest and from Budapest we joined my father in Paris. I was put in school there and I learned French, and we stayed in Paris from December 1st, 1939 until June 13th, 1940, because one day later, the Germans came into Paris. And then we spent the next two months on the roads of France, using anything that moved, including our legs and horse-rolled carriages, to go as far away as possible from the advancing German armies. We ended up in Bayonne, where we tried to cross the border into Spain. However, the Spanish civil guard sent us back to France. We stayed in Nice from July 1940 until January 1941, when the famous Portuguese Consul General in Bordeaux granted us a Portuguese transit visa, on the strength of which we received a Spanish transit visa and we were able to leave France legally via Spain to Portugal, where we spent ten months waiting for a visa to go someplace away from Europe. I went to French school in Portugal, and then we took a very famous refugee ship called the Serpa Pinto.

We had no money, so the Combined Jewish Appeal of that day—known as the American Joint Distribution Committee—paid for our trip to New York. The Canadian government granted us a visa on the condition that we left after the war was over. It took us six weeks to cross the Atlantic. It was to our great surprise when we arrived that the Americans invalidated our transit visas to the United States, because they were issued before Pearl Harbour. They locked us up for ten days in Ellis Island, together with members of the American Nazi Bund whom the FBI had arrested. So here were refugees from the Nazis together with the Nazis!

We were let go in about ten days, and took the train from New York to Montreal, where we arrived on December 31st, 1941. And on January 10th, I started Montreal High School. When we arrived here, I was 12. We didn’t have money, we didn’t speak English, and we didn’t know anybody. We came to Montreal instead of Toronto, because we thought that since we knew French, we could somehow acclimatize ourselves here more easily. However, little did I know, that the Jews had to go through the Protestant school system, which was only in English. So I told Mr. Bourassa, whom I met later on in life: ‘you made an Anglophone out of me.’

I subsequently became the Chairman of Combined Jewish Appeal in Montreal, the President of the United Israel Appeal in Canada, and Canada’s representative on the Board of the Jewish Agency for Israel. After all that I went through as a child, giving back has been an important part of my life’s work.”

“We came to this Chanukah party for our children – to learn about Chanukah and to meet other children and people in the community.”

“He only wants to be in the picture if he can be upside down.”

“I’ve been working at the Cummings Centre for about a year and a half, but I started as the choir leader for the Glee Club last month month ago. The club came out of a drama therapy program that the members of the mental health support services were doing. They were so involved and enjoyed participating so much, that the social workers decided to go ahead and form the choir, and they just contacted me because I was doing music therapy here to begin with.

My experience has been very very positive. I was told a lot of the members had never sung in choirs before, and I’ve been met with so much enthusiasm. They want to improve and help each other – I’m very inspired by them each week.”

“I enjoy singing, so when I heard there was going to be a new Glee Club, I said “hey, might as well go for it”. Our first performance was for a Chanukah party and it went great! I’ve been singing for 3 or 4 years and used to sing almost 7 days a week. This was the first time I sang in a group; I already knew a couple of people, but I’ve made some new friends. “

“We like to celebrate with everyone together. The kids are learning about Chanukah in school and they are very excited to learn about making oil from olives with the olive press today.”

“Celebrating Chanukah in our family is important to keep traditions alive from generation to generation.”

“My father was a very old-fashioned man who didn’t believe that women needed a higher education—after high school we had to go out and get a job. When I graduated high school (Commercial High School), I wanted to go to university. My father was interested only in any education that would provide me with workplace skills. “You can only go to Macdonald College so you could get a job as a teacher.” But I didn’t want to be a teacher; not then. So I got a job as a bookkeeper in a lingerie factory, enrolled at Sir George Williams College and worked for a couple of summers to pay for my university tuition.

I was always a very independent, self-sustaining person so working to support something that I wanted was no hardship for me. That’s been my mantra—to be able to sustain myself. I was married very young, so I left school and I had my kids. Once my youngest child was in school I went back to university to finish my Bachelor’s degree and then I went onto a Master’s degree. I had to do it all very, very slowly because I was raising three kids, two homes and a husband who was away on business most of the time. I finished a Master’s degree in Educational Technology, which gave me a path into my final profession: a professor at Concordia University, specifically directing and teaching the degree programs in Adult Education.

All my life, I have purposefully learned how to do, what I have to do, in order to get on in life, to solve problems, to move ahead. Whether it’s a question of fixing the plumbing or the electrical work or managing a budget, I expect myself to figure it out. And most of the time, I do. You can accomplish much more of what you want to accomplish when you have faith in yourself.”

“My father planned our escape from the ghetto, which was not easy to do because the walls were 10 feet high with rolls of electrified barbed wire atop. People didn’t survive climbing the walls; they were shot off. He decided that he couldn’t live in the ghetto with me because we would be caught and resettled. We survived several nights hiding from that before we escaped through the sewers. My father always carried two cyanide pills with him—one for himself and one for me, because he told me, many, many years later that he would never have allowed himself or me to be taken alive. So we escaped from the ghetto and through a series of circumstances, I landed up with nuns who looked after blind children. After the war, my father remarried, and we came to Canada in 1948—I was eight years old—and I really wasn’t very interested in Poland or looking at the Holocaust.

It wasn’t until 2005, and largely at the urgings of my daughter, that I went to Poland. Before I left for the trip, a friend of mind gave me the telephone number of an American genealogist in Warsaw, who would be able to piece these things together. I wasn’t so keen on it, because I had already researched convents in the south of Poland and had made an appointment at one. Out of good manners, I called the genealogist who insisted that I meet with him, and so I did. When I started to tell him my story, he jumped out of his seat, ran to his bookshelf, and pulled out one book out of hundreds. The book was a series of short paragraphs documenting where Jewish children had been saved in convents during the war. He came to a paragraph that said, ‘in the south of Poland, an order of nuns, the Franciscan Sisters, sisters of the cross, there was a nun there, Sister Klara Jaroszynska, who saved the life of a little Jewish girl.’ We knew that it was me.

He gave me the number to call and I connected with the convent. I spoke with a nun there and told her who I was and why I was calling. She got very excited and we agreed that I would visit. Just before I hung up, I gathered up the courage and I asked, ‘is it possible that someone who was there with me at that time is still there today?’ She said, ‘yes, Sister Klara is alive.’ I couldn’t believe it—she was 94 and blind for the last five years.

When sister Klara and I met, there was a connection. I just felt her love. I don’t know how to describe it, but there must have been an emotional memory, because even though I didn’t consciously remember her, somewhere in my mind, there was a memory of her love for me.”

“My instrument has had an illustrious history in the musical life of Canada. It was made in England around 1888, and then came through the Hill Family shop in London, the greatest violin shop in England. They sold it to a visiting musician from the Big Band scene in Toronto, who brought it back with him in the 1920’s and played it for many years in the Big Bands and the CBC. It was later bought by someone in the Toronto Symphony, and then I got it from him. So, it’s been in Canada since at least the 20’s and has travelled all across the country on many trains, circuses, Vaudeville shows, and CBC shows.

For me, the turning point for becoming a professional musician was realizing that it was actually a thing I could do. In high school in Toronto, I went on a tour with the orchestra and chorus to Denmark. It was so exciting and inspiring that it became clear that if this was a career path, it was the one I wanted.”

“Part of my family ended up in Auschwitz because they were from the outskirts of Budapest, and my grandmother and grandfather ended up meeting on a boat and getting married in Palestine. My father was born there, and then they moved to Hungary just a few months before the state of Israel was declared. We never knew why they went back.

I grew up in socialist Hungary, not really knowing much about Judaism and my Jewishness, because nobody did. Then there came a change of regime. I took a course in university where they talked about Jews and how Jews helped Hungarian society to develop and become more urbanized, and that piqued my interest, together with my family history. So I started learning about Judaism and I decided that when I do have kids, that’s how I want to raise them.”

“It seems like you had to figure out your Judaism for yourself.”

“And not only that, but even once you figure it out, if you live in a society where it’s not natural to be publicly Jewish, you control who you give that piece of information to. In Hungary it does matter, and it even matters now more than it did before I left. It takes time to realize that I live in a place that’s not like that. Here, it’s completely normal and it doesn’t even occur to my kids that it could be a problem. I’m so happy for them that they can be confident in acknowledging they are Jewish.”

“Montreal is big and very different from Israel. The mentality of the people is different. We are here alone, whereas in Israel, my parents lived next to me and my husband’s parents lived in the same town. I came here pregnant and with two kids. It was hard, but I’m the kind of person who usually tries to leave my comfort zone and challenge myself. I tried to make the adjustment easier by coming prepared, but it was a big shock. The winter was… interesting. As much as it was difficult adjusting to the city, I like it. Montreal is like a cultural center. I like that we can see singers and artists from all around the world. My husband and I went to U2 in June and it was like a dream. So much energy! I’m telling you, for three hours, I was 16 again.”

מונטריאול כל כך גדולה ושונה מישראל. המנטליות שונה, האנשים שונים. אנחנו כאן לבד, בעוד שבישראל גרנו בשכנות עם ההורים שלי ושל בעלי. הגענו לכאן כשאני בהריון ועם שני  ילדים קטנים. זה היה קשה, אבל אני אוהבת לאתגר את עצמי ואני נוטה לעזוב את אזור הנוחות שלי לעתים קרובות. השתדלתי להגיע לכאן מוכנה עד כמה שניתן, ועדיין זה היה הלם גדול בשביל כולנו. החורף היה… איך לומר, מעניין. אבל למרות כל הקושי בהתאקלמות אני אוהבת את החוויה. מונטריאול היא מרכז תרבותי, וזה כיף שאפשר לראות מופעים של אמנים ולהקות מכל עולם. בחודש יוני האחרון הלכנו, אני ובעלי, לראות את 2U בהופעה וזה היה חלומי. איזו אנרגיה! אני אומרת לך, הייתי שוב בת 16 למשך שלוש שעות.

“I coach freestyle wrestling. I used to be a wrestler as well. I was on the national team and represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics.

It was very surreal and I don’t know if people realize what it’s all about. Amateur sport is fuelled by an undying passion that pushes people to overcome larger than life obstacles. I did it because it was something I was truly passionate about – something that was in my heart and that I truly believed in.

I learned so much about myself throughout my career as a freestyle wrestler. The whole process tested my values, beliefs and most importantly my character. It was priceless.”

“I love trying new things. I love having different experiences. There are lots of things on my bucket list. I’m slowly checking them off! One thing I recently achieved is going skydiving a couple of years back. That was what started the bucket list.”

“I’m a widower without much family in Montreal, and it can be lonely, even though I’ve lived in this neighbourhood most of my life. I’ve been coming to Le Café since it opened in 2009, and I look forward to it each week.

Le Café is a place where I can meet new friends and old, share a meal, and be a part of the community. For some people, this hot meal makes all the difference, and no one is turned away. It’s a terrific resource in the community and I really feel welcome here.”

Since 2009, Federation CJA has served over 163,440 free, hot, kosher meals at Le Café to those in need.

“I’ve been the director of Auberge Shalom for 20 years now. The centre services all women victims of conjugal violence and their children while providing a kosher facility for the community, a space of security for Jewish and Orthodox women. We observe holidays, prepare the festive meals and we respect all cultural values so that our clients can have the comfort being in a Jewish environment.

As important, Auberge Shalom brings a voice to this issue in our community. Many traditional and non-traditional communities remain closed about conjugal violence. Even though it has been 40 years since the shelter movement began and since this form of violence became a social issue, very often, it is still a shameful, hidden secret in families and communities. Having a Jewish organization brings conjugal violence to the forefront. It’s helping us get closer to social change and to the prevention of abuse.”

“My father was a religious Jew before the war and when the Communist Regime came in, all the yeshivas closed. So they would just get together in the house and learn Torah, but the whole group was arrested and sent to a labour camp without trial. My father’s wife was pregnant, but he never saw the baby because he was in jail and his wife and his child were killed in the Holocaust, as well as every single person in his family except one sister who managed to escape to Montreal.

After my father came out from the labour camp, he married my mother and my brother was born. He was arrested again and was exiled to Siberia, where I was born. Stalin died and they were pardoned. We went to another city, where I grew up, and my aunt found us and wanted to bring us to Montreal. We tried twice, but were denied. We were living as refugees; it was a very difficult time. My aunt applied for us to be sponsored immigrants in Canada, but Russia, again, denied the exit visa.

At that time, in 1972, the Russian Prime Minister, Kosygin, came to Canada for a personal visit with Prime Minister Trudeau. My aunt managed to get to Trudeau and he knew about us. So when Kosygin came back, the person who refused our visa called my father and said, ‘in 50 years of my career, nobody ever overruled my decision. But now it came from Moscow, from the Prime Minister, that you can go.’”

“I witnessed how my parents sacrificed to keep Jewish life in Russia, for themselves and by helping other Jews to keep their traditions. They kept their shul—illegal. They baked the matzo for Passover—illegal. Everything they did to remain Jewish was underground. They risked their lives. I asked myself, ‘why should I be any different?’ I have to follow their way of life. One of the reasons why I am religious is out of respect for my parents.”

“I just turned 25, but I’ve been working in music since I was 14. Being able to help the creative process and to help keep the arts alive is very important to me.

It’s part of our culture, especially in Montreal. Because there’s a pretty good standard of living here, people are able to be creative and take on their creative projects, and it’s part of who we are as Montrealers. We have to keep that alive; it’s part of our identity. There’s nothing like the feeling of a great live show or album and seeing everyone enjoy it. Every concert really is a little community. And it’s fun! Why not keep something alive that’s fun? We’re not saving lives, but we’re making them a little more fun.”

« Je suis née à Paris. J’ai grandi à Paris. Et j’ai quitté Paris.

Paris ma ville, mon monde, ma culture, ma famille, mes amis. Je l’ai quitté parce que je suis non seulement parisienne, mais aussi juive. Et parce qu’il ne m’était plus possible de vivre en étrangère chez moi. Parce que je voyais que mon pays jetait en pâture aux forces obscures mon autre pays, celui auquel je suis connectée à un autre niveau, Israël. Parce qu’au-delà de la défense de ce petit pays et de sa signification pour tout juif, c’est une idée de la liberté qui est en jeu. Parce que ce petit pays, Israël, se bat pour exister, et que ceux qui veulent sa disparition veulent la disparition du droit à la différence. Et que la France, mon pays, faisait le pari du plus fort. Alors je suis partie construire ailleurs, au Canada, au Québec, à Montréal. »

“I was born in Russia. When I was ten, I moved to Israel and I lived there until I moved to Montreal with my family in 1996 at age 16. When I moved here from Israel, I was deeply miserable and brokenhearted on the grounds that I was a teenager in solitude, I didn’t communicate in French or English, and every one of my friends lived across the ocean. It was hard, yet my family supported me in every possible way. Thinking back, I’m extremely thankful that my parents decided to move here, but back then, my rebellious mind couldn’t understand it. I now know I would have done the same for my children to be able to live in a relatively peaceful, safe and orderly country.

Now, I try to live by this motto: ‘If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you don’t take a step forward, you will always be in the same place.’”

“After the Residential Schools shut down, everybody thought there was still an “Indian problem.” The province had the right to go into the communities and look over what was going on in terms of childcare and whether or not they deemed it fit. They called it the 60’s scoop—you turn around and your child’s gone and you never see them again. I’m Cree from Manitoba. My parents thought they were doing a good thing by adopting me because they were helping a poor little child. They were going to send me to Hebrew school and give me a new name… but they didn’t have the sensitivity to bring me up in a way that embraced my culture. Growing up, it was difficult for me, because I wanted to be what my parents wanted me to be, but I never really fit into that world. I grew up going to Hebrew school and going to synagogue Saturday mornings and having Jewish friends. I really love the culture; I think it’s beautiful, but I never fit in. I tried and tried and tried, but it didn’t work.

It got to a point where I was like, ‘I’m not going to try anymore.’ I ended up leaving home when I was 18. My Bubby, who was the biggest influence in my life and gave me unconditional love, was very worried about me and she actually paid for my plane ticket to go back to my community to meet my real family. I choose to be in the Native community, but I tell everyone that I’m a Jewish Indian, because that’s who I am. I feel like I created myself. I went in my own direction. The name that I use means “the sun” in Micmac. The cultural elder on a film that I worked on was Micmac, and he decided to give it to me as my spirit name. It’s supposed to be my strength and my being, so it means I am strong and bright like the sun. My Bubby always told me that I would do great things, and I never believed her. All the work that I do now is because of what happened to me. The Montreal Council of Women voted me Woman of the Year this year, and I thank my Bubby, because she was the one who always believed in me, even though I never saw it in myself. Even though my upbringing was really hard, it made me who I am today. All the work that I do now is because of what happened to me.”

“I went to Akiva School and Herzliah, as well as Camp Massad for 23 years. Camp taught me how to live Jewishly; school taught me how to be Jewish.”

“What do you mean by living Jewishly?”

“Aside from ritual, it involves community, Israel, being open to different people, and still feeling that however I choose to live is just as “kosher” as anyone else. I feel that when people come together to sing one song, especially for Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday night. When you walk into my summer camp, there’s this feeling of unity and excitement. Everyone in the room is not the same religiously, but when we do Kabbalat Shabbat together, it’s as if we are.”

“I came here through CJA with a program called Family to Family in 1993 and we were hooked up with this really amazing, accommodating family who helped us integrate into the community. We almost ended up in Israel. I think they had filled out the paperwork to live on a kibbutz but the paperwork for Montreal came through first. I went to a Catholic, all-girls private school and I was the “Jewish kid,” but I didn’t know what that meant. Now I think being Jewish meant something to me in the same way that being Russian always meant something to me; it’s part of who I am.

I don’t have to be Israeli or speak Hebrew or speak Yiddish to be Jewish. My grandparents spoke Yiddish, but maybe that part of their identity meant more to them than, say, my father, who grew up Soviet. It is very interesting to think how this will change with future generations. It seems what’s important to the community right now is community and culture, and less so a specific set of standards or criteria that you’re supposed to accomplish to be Jewish.”

“I went to Herzliah. It was a very close-knit community. Then I got to CEGEP and looked around and there were people of different ethnicities and different backgrounds and people who were 30 years older than me. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before.

I met people and they asked me ‘what’s kosher? What’s Jewish?’ And I thought, ‘I have to explain this now?’ It was a lot of change and it was very difficult at first, but I found a way to embrace it and I really loved it. I ended up making tons of friends from different backgrounds. They come to my Shabbat dinners sometimes!”

“Hockey is a huge passion of mine. It surrounds me. It’s like a cult here. And I love it. I go to the Bell Centre and I feel like I’m at synagogue. When it’s the winter, I have the Canadiens, so it’s not so bad. Hockey unites the whole city.”

“I really believe that the biggest disability is bad attitude. I have a son with global development delays who is now 23 years old and when he was a baby, I was taken aback at the lack of understanding about disabilities and the lack of inclusion.

I found that my son was successful because we were able to give the children in his classroom information about his challenges and how they can be more helpful to him. If the children and teachers have a good attitude, it makes the process much easier. Children with disabilities can be included, can be part of the group, and can be accepted.”

« Après avoir obtenu une Maîtrise de Finance en France, j’ai décidé de tenter l’expérience du travail à l’étranger. Arrivé à Montréal, je ne connaissais personne. J’ai tout de suite pensé à la colocation pour créer un réseau rapidement. En arrivant, j’avais juste assez d’argent pour payer mon loyer et ma nourriture pendant deux mois, c’était mon challenge. Après quelques mois et plusieurs emplois dans différents domaines, j’ai finalement saisi une opportunité en fusions et acquisitions. Un mois après avoir commencé à travailler, j’ai fait la connaissance de ma femme. Un an plus tard, nous étions mariés, et un an après j’étais papa! Depuis j’ai intégré une banque et ma carrière se poursuit. En l’espace de quatre ans, je suis parti de France, j’ai crée un réseau professionnel, un entourage et une famille à Montréal, et je garde un contact régulier avec mes proches en France, que j’aime et qui me sont chers.

Je suis heureux d’avoir tenté ma chance il y a quatre ans et je suis chanceux. À 19 ans, alors en France, je m’étais fixé plusieurs objectifs sur le plan professionnel et personnel. Aujourd’hui, à Montréal, j’ai atteint tous ces objectifs, mais pas du tout comme je l’avais alors imaginé! »

“My late husband was born in 1923 in Chemnitz, Germany. They were four brothers. The thing was, they had visas to go to the United States, and then the doors closed. They couldn’t get out. My husband’s parents and three children were transported from Chemnitz to Poland. Simon was saved by the Kindertransport (the “transport of children” that enabled 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to go to Great-Britain in 1938-1939). He always said, ‘I don’t understand why I was the only one who was able to go to England.’

It so happened that his brother David, who was a year and a half older than him, was with him on the bus when someone said, “Oh, there are two Markels. We cannot take two; we can only take one” and David was taken off. He was later killed during the Holocaust… it’s unbelievable. That’s your luck. Everything is luck— I believe in that.”

Miriam donated photographs and letters during a “Collection Day” organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre If you are interested in donating original artefacts, documents or photographs pertaining to the Holocaust, please contact info@mhmc.ca.

“What’s not to love about being a mother! Having a heart and a home filled with love at all times, and energy and excitement, you can’t compare that with anything else.

I watch my son be super loving and affectionate with her, and I think that after she gets past the fact that he’s a little rough with her, he will teach her good qualities of being loving, caring, and affectionate.”

“We love that we’re part of a close community and strongly connected. We’re first time parents, and it’s amazing and a huge blessing. We know that raising our son in Montreal means he will be exposed to all different types of people, and walks of life.

That’s the beautiful thing about Montreal… no matter where you come from, your Jewish identity will always connect and bring you together with others.”

“We were all at sleep away camp this summer. It’s really different than school! You feel more… free! Especially free from homework! It was the best. We always got to play sports at camp, and we love sports!”

“I want to build my life and career here in Montreal so I recently got involved with Federation CJA’s Young Adult Division and started going to different events and meeting new people. It’s been a great connector.

As I’ve become more involved, so have my friends. My circle is widening and I love to invite other young people to the events I participate in, especially those who don’t have much family in Montreal. I had never realized how many different opportunities there are for people like me to get involved, be it through volunteering, networking, or coming together over food. There’s a place for everyone.”

Last year 7,259 young Montrealers participated in Federation CJA programs that provide opportunities for social, networking and leadership development, which help to foster a sense of belonging among vibrant and engaged Jewish youth.

“I started pursuing music when I was 10 until I was 15. I moved to LA, joined a girl group, did the whole LA thing, and had a really bad experience. I was like, ‘I’m never singing again.’ I finished high school, went into commerce, then went into management at McGill. I went on the “regular path”; what was expected of me. A year and a half ago I started singing for the Habs, which kind of reignited my passion for singing. I realized that singing was what I was missing in my life. In December I decided to focus on music.”

“What has changed from the first time around to now?”

“Now I know where my passion is coming from. The first time I was young, and, as much as I loved singing, I wanted the glory of it. I wanted what I saw on TV and in the magazines, but I don’t think I understood what went into it. Especially being in LA, every 14-year-old in the music world all wants the same thing. I was surrounding by bleach-blonde 14-year-olds with a full face of makeup and crazy outfits. It’s a weird world to be thrown into and I think that a lot of the time when you’re young you don’t really know what you want. You think you do, but it takes life experience; it takes getting to know yourself to know why you’re doing certain things. I don’t think that time I knew what I wanted, although my love for music was real.

The second time around it came purely from a place of love. When I would stand on the ice at the Habs game and sing the anthem, it was like this crazy, crazy amount of joy. I realized that that’s why I need to do it: it gives me joy. If I work hard enough at it, I can turn it into a career. I’m not striving for the same things that I was back then. Going into music the second time around, I know that I’m doing it for the right reasons. I have this crazy passion for music and I just want to give it all I have.”

“I became involved in theatre when I was nine years old with the Children’s Theatre and I’ve maintained that passion whether it was community theatre, or the McGill Players, or my synagogue theatre, and now with the Cote-St-Luc Dramatic Society, which I started.

At the Children’s Theatre, I learned that we may all be coming from different ethnic backgrounds, religions, and different abilities, but what we’re doing is learning to be one family and creating something beautiful for the community. It helped me to develop as a person, and was probably more important in my development in terms of becoming a lawyer or city councilor than anything I learned in school, because it gave me so many life skills.

I remember Dorothy Davis coming to me at the time and saying, ‘Mitchell, I have a great opportunity for you: you can be the back of the camel in Aladdin!’ And I was like, ‘wow! Yeah?’ And she was like, ‘yes! But that’s where you start: as the back of the camel, and you’ll move from there.’ To be at the back and learn how to do the steps and not have any lines was big! Being the ass of the camel was a big step! I learned to appreciate that we were doing something great for the community and that it was the first thing that I was going to do, and it was going to lead to something better and bigger. We all worked as a team to make a beautiful piece of art.”

“I played for the Y basketball team, which was recently inducted into the YM-YWHA Alex Dworkin Montreal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. The whole team was inducted! We had a record of 29 wins and 0 losses. We were the best team in Canada in 1955-1956.

I feel very strongly that playing a team sport helps one learn not to be selfish, but to be cooperative and to work with others. It helps to mold your personality. If there’s a fellow on your team that has a better shot than you, you pass the ball. You’re not worried about who’s going to get the two points. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in playing sports, especially team sports.”

“Occupational therapists are kind of jacks of all trades, because we can work with any population. I always knew I wanted to work with kids. It’s really neat to be in a position where I can teach them things that will help them in their day-to-day lives. I try to learn everything I can about the kids I work with. I also learn so much from them, and that’s why I think they’re so cool.”

“I’m a big fan of working as a team. I find it really helps to bring out different ideas.”

“With the help of our colleagues who each have different areas of expertise, we’re able to form a system that creates the best overall media campaign.”

“We’re constantly learning from each other and that, in turn, makes you learn things about yourself that you might not have known before.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same objective. It’s really nice to be able to use our expertise to support Federation CJA and by extension, help people in the Jewish community.”

“I think the most important skill to have in canvassing is listening and I think the people who are the greatest canvassers are those who are interested in other people. In life, whether you’re with your family, friends, or in a relationship, the most important thing you can do is listen. You want to, of course, contribute, but by listening and not thinking about what you’re going to say next, you’re really connecting with someone.”

I remember early in my campaign career, I was at a retreat at Camp B’nai Brith. A lawyer was sitting next to me during a talk we were attending, and he told me he had been to camp when he was a kid and it would mean something if we could look around. As we were walking around the camp, I realized this was an opportunity; this was special, because he was reliving his childhood with me. When he brought me to his bunk to look for his name on the wall, I shared with him that there are many children at camp who come from families that can’t afford to pay the fees. He looked over to me and said, ‘come to think of it, there’s no way my parents could’ve paid for me to go to camp.’

That’s the beauty of our community: that we do things for families and children in such a dignified way that they don’t even realize, in some cases, how they’re being helped. That’s a conversation I never would’ve had if I hadn’t been listening to him. And it’s a conversation that I refer back to today, almost 20 years later.”

“It was a tremendous honour to have won the Killam Prize for Natural Sciences. Knowing what I know now about how many interesting problems there are to solve and how there’s so much work to be done, I wish I hadn’t agonized over it so much when I was younger, and wondered, ‘is this for me? Do I belong?’ I wish I had taken all that emotional energy and put it towards the science, which I eventually did.

I see young girls who just can’t picture themselves in that role of the scientist, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think that cultural biases have pushed people in directions that actually might not be where their talents lie. I think there’s untapped potential for women in science.”

“I only have a few photos of my parents before the war. They were from Poland and had moved to France in 1933. I was born in October 1942, in Angoulême, France. When my mother had me, my father had already been arrested by the French police. My mother took me and my brother to Limoges and the two of us were placed in orphanages for the duration of the war. My mother also went into hiding, but it wasn’t safe to keep children where she was. After the war, we discovered that my father had been sent to the internment camp of Gurs, in the south of France before being transferred to the Drancy transit camp, near Paris. He was deported with the transport number 51 to Lublin-Majdanek (Poland) and he was killed in Sobibor on March 8, 1943.”

Jacques donated copies of his parents’ photographs during a “Collection Day” organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre If you are interested in donating original artefacts, documents or photographs pertaining to the Holocaust, contact info@mhmc.ca.

“I’m in secondary five, but I’m excited to get out of school, to be quite honest. I have my life planned out, and really want to go into Cognitive Science. It’s an interdisciplinary Bachelor’s degree. It’s really interesting because it mixes psychology, languages, philosophy, which is already a lot of things, but also with neuroscience! I’m really interested in knowing how people think, especially when it comes to hate speech. I want to understand what motivates people to be racist or homophobic.”

“We’re very lucky to be a big family because we always have someone to count on. Although we all have common strengths, each one of us brings something different to the table. Dan is the dreamer, Eva is the organizer, Ariel is the engineer, the logical one, Nathaniel is the Beaugoss and Gabriel well, he’s the Rubix master.”

“And what do you all have in common?”

“I think we can all say that we all have that entrepreneurial spirit. Each one of us has started a number of businesses. I’ve had a few myself… more than five… not that they weren’t successful but had to move on with my professional career! Eva started her own law firm. Nathaniel was also a business man. At thirteen years old, he had a commercial account and would be selling clothes to his friends at school.”

“And we can’t forget our mom’s business: she imports olives and truffles from Morocco. So during the holidays, this is a very busy place. There are random people knocking at the door at 8am!”

“Canada Post must think this is Place Ville Marie because there are so many businesses registered at this address!”

“It’s a good thing we have Shabbat dinners. It gives us the opportunity to reunite, share our weekly adventures and give a break to our crazy schedules!”

“This city is full of variety, especially in terms of people. I’m originally from Russia, and in the beginning when we immigrated, the community helped us tremendously. The support we got was enormous. I feel very privileged to be raising my daughter here now. For her to be able to be part of a city that will teach her about tolerance and how different people living together in the same environment can be possible.”

“I love being in grade 3! I love my teachers, and I love that I get to learn different languages because they are all so much fun. In each language we do different activities. In Hebrew, my teacher tells us cool stories. In French, we’re learning about history. My English class was just given really fun homework, where we had to put five things that we love into a bag, and then you go into the front of the class and take everything out and my classmates had to guess why I picked those five things!”

“My late husband’s violin is from Czechoslovakia and was in the family for a long time. Alexander was from Trebišov. He played this violin and it was also played by his brother Ödy, who did not survive the Holocaust. Ödy was caught in synagogue during the high holidays in Budapest, where they were hiding. Their sister was taken too. They were all hiding in Budapest because they had relatives living there. Ödy was shot on a death march from Auschwitz.

After the war, Alexander returned to Trebišov. The violin was still in the family home. Most of their things were taken, but there were few things left in the house and this was one of them. He didn’t play it after the war – and we never repaired it.”

Ilana donated the violin during a “Collection Day” organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. If you are interested in donating original artefacts, documents or photographs pertaining to the Holocaust, contact info@mhmc.ca.

“I moved back from New York this year, in the dead of winter. And I find that now that I’m back I’m really embracing the Montreal community and culture. I work at McGill’s Office for Science and Society—I manage all of their public affairs and communications. I was also able to be a part of the Just for Laughs Festival again, which gives me my entertainment fix.

Both McGill and the Just for Laughs Festival are defining organizations here in Montreal, and I’m very grateful to be a part of them. I’m definitely a proud Montrealer, which is why I do my best to embrace what the city has to offer!”

“My husband isn’t Jewish, but I am. We’re finding a balance between teaching her both religions, and we are bringing her up knowing Jewish traditions and values. We want her to have a strong identity.”

“Like my wife said, I’m not Jewish, but I love the focus on family and community. Those are values that I find really important, especially when you’re raising a child. Becoming part of a Jewish family hasn’t been a challenge at all; if anything it has been extremely welcoming and a real gift. I appreciate every bit of it.”

“I was very close with my late grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor. Later in life, I would visit three, four times a week for lunch. She really appreciated having her grandson spend quality time with her, and we had these amazing conversations. I never wanted to forget our talks, so I started recording our lunches. I recorded around 100 hours of video conversations. Not only do I get to remember the good food we ate, but also I have such amazing, humorous, eccentric conversations with her. To me, that was a priceless opportunity, and she appreciated it because she wasn’t going out and seeing people.

My grandmother was a force of nature. I think that’s what allowed her to survive the Holocaust: her drive to live. That was true for all the suffering that she had in her life, from the Holocaust to being ill later on in life. She would fight through it. She used to say: ‘Don’t be afraid of anyone. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Who are they?’”

“I teach after school Hebrew classes to public schools, and I love every moment of it. These students get to enjoy everything that a child who goes to a Jewish day school gets to do, except they enjoy it twice a week instead of every day.

Recently I had a high school student show me a video that he took while he was in Israel celebrating his Bar Mitzvah on top of Masada. He thanked me and I couldn’t understand why. He then told me that the project we had done together on Israel helped him act as a tour guide for his parents while they were traveling the country.”

“I was always raised to be very involved in the Montreal Jewish Community. I went to Jewish school, attended youth groups and always stayed connected through McGill Hillel and such. When I started my career, the need to be constantly connected grew stronger. I wanted to give back to the community that has done so much for me.

In parallel, running became a passion over the years, after being a very inactive person! Both are now things that I cannot envision my life without. This year, YAD came up with an amazing initiative that allowed us to raise over $18,000 for those in need in our community by participating in the Montreal Marathon series. It has been such a fulfilling experience to raise money and run regularly with a group of highly motivated and driven young professionals of our vibrant community. After having improved my time at the half marathon and exceeding my fundraising goal, I’m still on a high!”

« Je suis conseillère bénévole dans un centre d’accueil pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale et leurs enfants. La résilience des femmes qui trouvent un abri au centre m’inspire. Comme personne ne s’imagine devenir victime de violence familiale, il est très difficile de comprendre le courage qu’il leur faut pour quitter leur foyer et reconstruire leur vie, sans oublier qu’elles ont souvent de jeunes enfants à leur charge.

Nous les encadrons et les appuyons pour qu’elles puissent retrouver leur confiance en elles et leur estime de soi. Nous leur enseignons la sécurité et leur indiquons les ressources qui sont à leur disposition. Il est touchant de jouer un rôle dans le parcours de ces femmes. Et je suis très reconnaissante que ce genre de ressource existe dans la communauté juive. »

L’année dernière, grâce au soutien de la Fédération CJA, plus de 3 500 membres vulnérables de la communauté juive ont pu bénéficier d’une aide psychosociale essentielle à leur qualité de vie.

“I have been running on and off for many years. Running is a great way to keep your head clear, enjoy the outdoors, and ensure a healthy work/life balance.

When I heard that YAD was looking to form a Marathon team, there was no question in my mind: I was going to run for the cause! When you believe in what you’re working for, be it a person, a community, a fundraising goal or a finish line, that goal is easy to reach!

Over the last year I have grown more curious about Federation. Getting involved in the community has helped me to understand where our dollars go and how every single dollar can help to infuse a little more happiness into someone’s life and add vibrance to our Jewish community! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to ‘go the distance’ with the YAD team!”

“I think the root of spirituality comes from thinking there’s something greater than you. Music has played a large part in my own spirituality. It has a power to make you feel certain things. I think that we’ve all experienced a song that just moves us.

Music also has the power to lift up prayer. Certainly with Jewish prayer, music has always been at the forefront as a way to connect. When we come together in synagogue to pray, we’re already opening up our minds to create something spiritual. Everyone’s into the same thing together, and all of a sudden you feel that power in the air.”

“As the director of a music school, I’ve found that music can help people convey their emotions and express themselves. There’s one case where I had a student who wasn’t a sporty guy, wasn’t the greatest student, and was very shy. He took drum lessons for one semester and rocked it at the recital show. I put him on last—he’s like this little twelve year old—and he just killed it. His parents were telling me, ‘he’s a different person now!’ He got the confidence that he didn’t have beforehand.

Sometimes kids don’t even speak to me in the waiting room, and then they get up on stage and just come alive. Music gives them a voice, even if they’re not a singer.”

“When I was diagnosed with anxiety at 19, it was taboo and I never spoke about it to anybody exceptfor my parents. Over the years, I became more comfortable talking about it with very close friends. That was really the only thing about myself that I kept to myself—I’m an open book, otherwise. It always surprises people when they hear that I have anxiety and that, inside, I’m a very nervous person. Whenever I open up to somebody, they say to me, ‘you seem like the most laid-back, easygoing person, always laughing, always having a funny story to tell, the life of the party.’

In the past while, I decided that I want to be open and honest with myself and others. How are people going to appreciate me as a person if I’m not completely honest? I drew from another blogger’s strength and decided to open up and write about the topic on my blog. This was the first time I was actually telling my story, typing away, and I felt fine with it. I just think it was a part of me accepting who I am. It was me telling myself, ‘it’s okay. Just like my hair is brown and my eyes are blue, this is who I am.’

After I wrote it, I sat on it for a while. Then it was the last day of mental health awareness month at eight o’clock at night, and I said to my husband, ‘this is it. I need to post it.’ I did not get a single negative response. If anything, I felt that much more connected to my community and that much more connected to the people in my life.”

“In 1992, I was dating a woman who had a 14 year old son who did work as an extra in films. I used to drive him to the set every morning and I got intrigued with it.

As soon as I retired, I went down to the casting agent and got myself involved. After about four years I finally got lines in a movie called The Aviator. My line was ‘Wonderful, Mr. Hughes’ and my life changed! I absolutely love it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done about 300-400 movies so far and I’ve made about a thousand friends. It’s keeping me young. I saw them take Montreal and turn it into New York. Isn’t that something? I was very lucky. I’m very lucky with my entire life. I believe that God is looking after me.”

“I started running a few years ago and it has become an important part of my life. My incentive at first was to be active and stay in shape. As I got more involved with my community, my motivation to run shifted to raising awareness and funds for causes that are close to my heart.  Running for something that is bigger than me not only motivates me to keep striving but, it creates an even more meaningful and inspiring experience.”

“I’m a clinical psychologist specializing in sexuality, a radio talk show host, and an author of a book. I spend time with my kids, I volunteer, I do yoga, I paint, I sculpt… sometimes I sit back and think: ‘how do I do all that?’ I do it all with passion. Passion drives us; it’s purposeful. Otherwise, you’re blasé about life. It’s like coasting on neutral versus being in the driver’s seat—I’ve always driven my life in the driver’s seat. Even if something was anxiety provoking, I did it anyway.

I never, ever, in my wildest dreams would’ve thought I’d be in radio. But when I was 24 years old, I was offered the opportunity to be a co-host of a radio show. It happened serendipitously, but I jumped through the door. I could’ve said, ‘no, that’s not for me’ or ‘that’s too scary.’ No. I said, ‘what’s the worst that could happen? Let me try it. At least I’ll know I tried.’ That’s how I’ve lived my life.”

“Each of us were placed in different political parties through a CIJA-run intern program. Cedric and I were placed in the deputy’s office.”

“—and I was in head office.”

“It offered us a larger glimpse into what it means to be a politically active Quebecer. All the hard work and stress that they don’t show us—we got to live it with them.”

“What was it like participating in the political world from a Jewish perspective?”

“I dealt with a lot of people who weren’t Jewish and they were very open to learning about the Jewish community, heritage, and traditions.”

“My office in particular is very multicultural, so I taught them Hebrew, but I also learned Spanish and Arabic and Portuguese and Créole. It was really fun.”

“I think that living a life of meaning—or for me, Jewish meaning—is very enriching and it brings our family together. We can always learn from each other and the learning is never done. I’ve learned so much from so many incredible people. Their passion has made me passionate; their love of community has made me love our community even more. I think that by being open, I’ve been able to feel more apart of our community.”

“My wife was very experienced with taking care of kids because she was an au pair, and I had basically no experience, but we never read any books and we never went to any sort of prenatal classes. Our whole philosophy is just to love him. My intention is to give him love to grow into who he’s supposed to become. My wife and I see life as something to which you give meaning. Hopefully he will find a way to give his life a lot of meaning.”

Savouring the summer.

“I was born in Ethiopia and I lived in a village until grade six. Two years later, I moved to Gona, a bigger city in Ethiopia, and studied in a public school where I faced a lot of anti-Semitism. I lived in Gona for two years and waited to make aliyah. After two years, I moved to Israel with my entire family. Now I’m in grade eleven and I feel Israeli.

In Ethiopia, most of the Jews couldn’t show that they are Jewish, so we needed to pretend that we were Christian and go to Church every Sunday. I thought my family and I were Christians and not Jews. Then I came to Israel and they told me that I’m Jewish and I need to do all the mitzvoth. In the Jewish program I’m a part of, I started to consider my beliefs and who I am. I created a new identity for myself. I try to keep all the mitzvoth and wear a kippah, and I’m shomer Shabbat, even though it’s hard for me, especially at camp in Canada. Today, I’m really proud of who I am. I’m really proud that I’m a Jew.”

“Last December, on my way to Florida, I received an email telling me about a fundraising ride from Auschwitz to Krakow in June this year and it hit me that it’s actually the same route that I did when I was a ten-year-old boy. I said to myself, ‘this would be a nice way to celebrate my 70th year of liberation from Auschwitz.’ Auschwitz is a place of death and Krakow is a place of life and excitement. During the event, I was sent out to be the first person to lead the group of 85 bikers, with my son and granddaughter behind me.

I was born in Krakow and my whole family lived there. I walked from Auschwitz to Krakow in the winter of 1945. I was in a group of kids my age walking in the snow, hungry, cold, looking for food and a warm place to spend the night. Very quickly, we dispersed. I knew exactly where to go to see if anyone in my family had survived: my apartment where we lived before the war. I knew my mother and father were on the first march from Auschwitz, maybe one week before I was liberated. I knew that they didn’t survive. The people in my apartment sent me to this Jewish committee in Krakow and they took me to an orphanage.

Many things happened over the span of 70 years. I’m sure I’m not the same person as I would be had I not gone through the Holocaust. The Holocaust must have left some mark on me. I stayed in Poland for most of my youth. I studied, I obtained my degree, I became an electrical engineer, I married… everything fell into place. But I’m sure there’s some kind of scar left on me. The fact that I was able to achieve everything that I did achieve is a miracle. Everybody wonders, ‘what happens to the people who survive?’ But we should also wonder what could have happened to people who didn’t survive? What kind of impact would the six million people have made on society? It’s lost and will never be recovered.”

“I’m Israeli and I’ve been here for six or seven years now. In Montreal and at Concordia, especially, I’ve had the opportunity to talk and collaborate with people from different nationalities that, if I were at home in Israel, I would never have had the opportunity to meet. At the end of the day, we are all just human beings; people. If we can sit in class together, study for exams together, and do projects together, then we can do other things together. We can expand the conversation. What I really want to do is create sports games that bring people together.”

“How do sports bring people together?”

“There is a goal: to win. When you have a shared goal, I believe, you can put your differences aside. It’s also hard to run a lot and play a long game. Human connections get a lot deeper when it’s hard. People will help each other finish that last mile, score that last goal, raise one another up to the finish line.”

“My identity is being a mother. It always has been—even before I became one. So finally having my children was just like coming into my own identity.”

“How was being a mother part of your identity before you had kids?”

“I worked three jobs in high school to put myself through university, because I wanted to make sure that the children I would have one day would have a mother with options in her life. The idea of having children motivated me to push myself, to do more, to be more.”

“We are so lucky for the year we had to bond with our children, the year they’ve had with each other, and the year we’ve had together. We formed a playgroup—our kids are all roughly the same age. At least four days a week, all six of us are together.”

“It’s a great support system.”

“We’ve all become very close friends and I think some of the friendships will become lifelong friendships. We went from not having that, to our lives revolving around this group—in less than a year.”

“Why is it important to have that support?”

“You’re at the same point in life as someone else, so they really understand where you are, what you’re going through, where you’re coming from.”

“Every Tuesday, a volunteer comes to my home and drives me to my weekly get-together where I meet with a wonderful group of women who are all Holocaust survivors. These women are more than friends – they are like family. We support each other, sharing simchas, birthdays, photos of our grandchildren, and sending get well cards to those who are ill. There is entertainment, music, and laughter. When I return home, I feel relaxed and in a good mood all day.

Even though my children are not in Montreal, with the support of the community, I truly feel like somebody cares for me.”

Last year, 2,183 Holocaust survivors living in Montreal benefited from services provided by Federation CJA funding, including psychosocial support, homecare, transportation, recreation, hospital visitations, meals on wheels, and day services.

“After I came back from school in the States for six years I was pushed to go on Birthright—it was my last year of eligibility. I think that was the turning point. I ended up becoming really involved in Birthright: I was a madrich for four or five trips and then I became co-chairman of the program.

My overall understanding of community and my appreciation of being Jewish really changed. My involvement with Birthright made me understand the importance of being Jewish. It made me capture my Jewish identity differently; I realized what my Jewish identity meant to me. It had a very powerful impact on me.”

“The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, of which we are members, is a resident company of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. This year we’ve had the great fortune and privilege of putting on one of the classics of Yiddish theatre—in fact, of theatre in general: The Dybbuk.

“Why is Yiddish theatre important?”
“It’s been said that to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve come from. Yiddish language and culture developed and flourished at a time when the foundations of our modern society were laid. As such, knowledge, or at least an appreciation of Yiddish language and culture, of which Yiddish theatre is a key component, is vital to understanding our place as Jews in modern society. Yiddish theatre allows actors not only an opportunity to be on stage and perform; it offers a venue to engage with the past in a modern medium. It’s no different for audiences. In the case of The Dybbuk, and Yiddish theatre in general, a vital part of our heritage is not sitting in a museum collecting dust, but is very much alive, relevant and having an impact.”

“Some of us are part of a program from Israel called Partnership2Gether. It’s a one-year program where we go to Camp B’Nai Brith in Montreal. We participate as Staff in Training alongside the Canadian SITs.”

“It’s pretty cool to meet people who come from a completely different country, a completely different background. They have totally different customs but, at the end of the day, we’re all Jewish and we can all unite as one. We have a blast together.”

“I think Canadians look at life differently than the Israelis. Israel is very hard with all the rockets and issues going on in the Middle East . The Canadians have a more relaxing country.”

“Like he said, it’s easier to live in Canada, since we don’t have as many problems they do in Israel—we don’t have war on our own soil, for example.”

“Spending time with the Israelis broadens your perspective on life. In Montreal, we grew up in a tight-knit community and when people from Israel come and share new thoughts, new ideas, and a new mindset with you, it’s very interesting and we can apply it to our lives. Israelis tend to be more energetic and upbeat than us. They’re always on alert in their day-to-day lives. A lot of us have an ‘I’m too cool for this’ attitude. I think we should get more excited about things.”

« Au cours des vingt dernières années, j’ai travaillé dans les médias et plus précisément à la télé et à la radio. J’ai animé des émissions de radio lauréates de plusieurs prix, dont certaines ont été reconnues au niveau international. Avant d’animer, j’ai travaillé en marketing et en relations publiques principalement dans les médias et pour les émissions matinales. J’ai eu le bonheur de croiser et de tisser des liens avec toutes sortes de personnalités locales et internationales de passage à Montréal. Lorsque vous travaillez dans les médias, une tribune vous ait offerte et vous permet de faire bien des choses, notamment celle de faire une différence. Le bénévolat étant une de mes passions, j’ai profité de cette tribune pendant toutes ces années pour encourager plusieurs causes et conscientiser la population. Mon Papa me disait souvent : “Il faut absolument qu’à un moment donné, tu t’impliques avec la Fédération. Elle représente notre communauté et assure notre continuité.” Je lui répondais de façon sincère et en guise de promesse : “Oui, oui, je vais le faire, je vais le faire… à un moment donné.”

Il y a deux ans, mon père est décédé. J’ai été prise par surprise lorsqu’il est tombé malade et qu’il est parti. Je ne savais plus quoi faire pour rester connectée avec lui. Alors, j’ai mis les médias en veilleuse et je me suis donné pour but d’honorer la promesse que je lui avais faite et de redonner à cette communauté qu’il estimait tant. Après tout, cette même Fédération est là depuis bientôt un siècle et elle continue de soutenir et de subvenir aux besoins présents, bien réels, et croissants. Présentement, je travaille pour la Fédération et j’y suis comme un poisson dans l’eau — je n’ai jamais été aussi heureuse de me réveiller le matin et de savoir que je faisais quelque chose de “meaningful” (si je peux emprunter l’expression anglaise). De plus, je sais qu’au Paradis il y a un Papa qui est bien heureux de voir sa fille honorer une promesse qu’elle lui avait faite. »

“We’re from Beer Sheva and part of a program called Leadership2Gether that’s designed to bring Israeli and Canadian youth together. It’s my second year as a conselor at camp and it’s great to be here. I pretty much know everyone. The connection and friendships that we make here are very special. We believe that contact with Israel is very important.”

“We’re bringing a part of Israel to Canada. The Montreal campers don’t really have a direct connection with Israel or Israelis during the year. Maybe Hebrew, but not more than that. We try to bring more.”

“What’s something you learned about Canadians when you came here?”

“The stereotype that Canadians eat maple syrup all day is SO not true!”

“I was going to camp up until the year I was engaged. The minute I started working at Solomon Schechter and had my summers free again, it was the best opportunity to get involved at camp. I finish my job and a few days later I’m at the YCC busses, ready to go run the infirmary for the summer.

I love being surrounded by children and knowing I’m making a difference. I also love being in the fresh air; it clears away the cobwebs of the year. Even though it’s physically exhausting, I feel refreshed. And there’s the Judaic component, too – I love seeing the kids walking off to services. It’s a nice environment. It kind of feels like a year squished into two months!”

Gone fishin’.

“I really like visual arts, dance, literature and cinema. The arts are just something I can’t live without. I couldn’t see myself living in a city where I couldn’t express myself or see self-expression in a common, regular way. It just makes life so much more interesting!

Living in the Mile End provides me with an opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of creative people. When the first nice day of spring hits, it’s insane. I love being able to walk on the street and see so many artists. I used to live on St-Urbain and St-Viateur, and I’d walk out of my house and be in a pool of people. The energy is fantastic! This diversity is what inspires me and what makes the area such a great place to live.”

“Not everybody speaks the same language. Like, Margarita—she speaks French—and other people speak Hebrew. There are people from all over the world here.”

“There are different counselors from Ireland and England.”

“There are people from Mexico and a lot of people from Israel, also.”

“What’s that like for you to be able to spend time with people you might not be able to meet otherwise?”

“It’s so cool.”

“Our lives would be very boring and not accomplished if we weren’t at camp.”

“I was here as staff and now I’m the executive director of Camp B’nai Brith. My favourite part of my job is that I get to see kids grow up. It’s amazing; it’s like watching your own kids grow. It’s a great opportunity to see how they mature and to see how camp affects their life. It’s my twentieth anniversary at CBB this summer—I left for a few years in between, but I started twenty years ago today. Those campers that I had twenty years ago are starting their adult lives. I like to think I have a little part in the success in their lives, because of the fact that they remember me and they still think of me in a positive way, although I’m not saying that I take a direct part in it. A lot of those kids that I hope I have influenced in a positive way were kids who really needed it at the time. Today I see most of them are successful and doing well. That’s the best part of working with young people.”

“What’s your favourite thing about camp?”

“Sailing!”
“Woodworking!”
“Having fun with my friends!”
“Dancing!”
“Waterskiing!”
“Probably… eating gum.”

“But you can chew gum anywhere! Is it special in camp?”

“It’s very special because we gamble with gum.”
“It’s exactly like Texas Hold’em poker, except you use gum instead of money.”
“We call it “gumbling.””

“I’ve been coming to camp for 16 years. The only two summers I missed since 1998 were when I joined the army in Israel. I’m born and raised in Montreal, but I wanted to volunteer and serve my people. I love Israel and I always say, ‘Jewish before anything else.’ I was a paratrooper and then I came back. The one thing I learned that I took back with me is that it’s all in your head. Everything’s possible. If you want to do it, and you’re disciplined, you can do it. It’s all in your head.”

“We came to Montreal in 2009. Now we live the life we wanted to live in Moldova.”

“I think what’s helped us to feel comfortable is the fact that we share the same values and that people are very friendly. Over time, we have become more a part of the Jewish community. Right now, it doesn’t feel like we’re out of our native country. We are at home.”

“I always wanted to be a mother so it was a bit scary not knowing whether my dream would come to fruition, but it did and it’s the most rewarding thing. Luckily, it was a great experience, so it made me want have another one. Now we have a beautiful family of four! You can’t ask for more in life; you have everything you need. When things are going wrong, you just look at your family and you realize that, actually, everything is good.”

“My sister and I are very different. She’s a social butterfly and I rarely leave my house. I’m a behind-the-scenes person.”

“Do you get along despite being so different?”

“We fight like sisters, but we’re close like sisters.”

“I started running very young. I used to run to school as a kid and I just haven’t stopped!”

“Why do you think it’s important to stay fit and healthy?”

“You’re asking that to a diabetes doctor! It’s very important. Especially now—we’re in a generation of a lot of obesity, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure, and diabetes. A lot of it’s mediated by lifestyle, so being fit is an important part to prevent these disorders.”

“Why did you decide to become a doctor?”

“I knew I wanted to be a doctor at three or four and just pursued it—there was no other field for me. It was doctor or nothing. When other girls were playing with Barbie dolls, I was colouring the human brain.”

« Grâce à la générosité des donateurs de la Fédération CJA et de bénévoles de la communauté, des élèves vulnérables du primaire et du secondaire des écoles juives bénéficient du Club « Bon appétit! »

Avant l’existence de cette initiative, ces jeunes se rendaient parfois en classe sans repas du midi. Et leurs dispositions à apprendre pouvaient en être affectées. Désormais, deux fois par semaine, ils reçoivent des repas cachers sains et nutritifs, et ce, dans l’anonymat le plus strict. Nous sommes rassurés de savoir que la Fédération CJA pense à ces enfants de la maternelle à la 5e secondaire qui vivent des situations difficiles. Un énorme merci de la part de notre école pour cette grande mitzvah. »

L’an dernier, 5 184 repas cachers nutritifs ont été préparés et livrés, dans 17 écoles de Montréal, à plus de 100 élèves qui autrement n’auraient pas mangé le midi.

“I love sports and traveling. My wife and I went to Brazil for the World Cup last year, so that’s a great way to combine both passions. It was kind of like the big trip before we had kids and now we’re expecting our first kid!

Brazil was an amazing travel experience for getting to know a lot more about the culture, because we got to stay in a Brazilian’s home. When I went to Thailand two years ago, it was an amazing trip—I loved it—but I didn’t get to know any Thai people; I didn’t build a relationship with the country. I worked in Mexico for a few months. That was a great experience because I actually got to know the country. I met Mexican Jews! I didn’t know anyone in that community beforehand, and I got to celebrate Passover there. I went to Israel for the 7th time, but with a group of non-Jews as part of a mission organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Now that was a different way of seeing Israel!”

“I was born in Iraq. I was a year old when I came to Montreal, so I consider myself Canadian, a Montrealer. It just so happened that my father’s brothers were already here so we were fortunate to be able to to come to a place where family was already living. We were very fortunate that we left Iraq at a time when passports were being issued. It was in 1961 and my older brother, my parents, and I came to Canada. My younger brother was born here in Montreal. About a year after we arrived in Canada there was a revolution in Iraq. They closed the borders and did not allow anyone to leave, especially the remaining members of the Jewish community. Then after the Six Day War in Iraq they started randomly targeting Jews and accusing them of being spies and working against Iraq. They actually took 13 people and hung them in a mock trial in a public square. I never experienced it myself because i was no longer there, but many Iraqi’s did, and luckily a lot of them were able to escape and make their way here to Canada and become part of our wonderful community. That’s the beauty of Montreal: there are so many people who have such amazing stories.

I feel it’s important that we preserve and provide a legacy for our children. We are so lucky to be able to live in safety and security. Despite some of the political issues, I think there’s still a very viable future for Montreal and for our kids. I’m especially impressed by agencies that take care of our kids in so many ways, one of which is through career-building opportunities. There’s a vested interest in keeping our kids here in Montreal and I think that we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to provide them with the opportunities to be able to stay in Montreal, and to succeed!”

“As a kid I was really shy, but my mom signed me up for dancing lessons, and that really helped. The main thing was probably going to sleep away camp—I started going to Camp B’nai Brith when I was eight years old. I’m clearly different, so I wanted to blend in, since it’s in our nature to always want to blend in. My late dad—he passed away in November—was from Guyana, South America and my mom is from Canada but she’s Ashkenazi. I’m proud of my identity. And over time, I realized that I preferred to embrace the difference rather than run away from it. Camp really helped with that.”

“I’m a clinical psychologist in child psychiatry at the Jewish General Hospital. It’s a very enriching environment. I just came back from maternity leave and when I was off, I worked on some books geared towards younger kids, two of which were with someone I met through a colleague. First we wrote on a book on anxiety for kids. The second one we collaborated on is about anger. The third book, which I wrote, is on sadness. I’m currently working on a fourth book on fear.

I can only reach so many people in my day-to-day work, and this way I can hopefully help more children. My goal with the book was more general, so it wouldn’t just be focused on mental illness, per se. It’s not meant for kids who are depressed. It’s a book about sadness, which is a normal feeling that everyone experiences. Let’s normalize it.”

— J’ai fait mes études à Paris. J’étais au début de ma carrière quand j’ai rencontré ma future femme. Lorsqu’on nous a offert l’occasion d’aller travailler à Montréal, on l’a saisie.

— Qu’aimez-vous le plus à Montréal?

— La simplicité. Mais aussi les points communs que les Montréalais ont avec les Européens. Cela commence par la langue française, mais cela ne s’arrête pas là. Alors, je trouve que c’est un bon mix entre l’Europe et l’Amérique du Nord. La mentalité montréalaise est une combinaison parfaite entre celle de l’Amérique du Nord et celle de l’Europe.

— Quel est votre endroit favori à Montréal?

— Les restaurants. Nous aimons manger et nous adorons découvrir de nouveaux endroits. Puisque nous avons de jeunes enfants, ce sont les seules sorties que nous faisons encore.

“When I was at Concordia, I got an early acceptance into Law School before graduating. I was doing work for the community—I was president of Hillel Montreal at the time. I felt that student life on campus needed to change a little bit, so I said no to law school and went to continue my undergrad and continue fighting for student rights on campus. We don’t bring that up in my house; my parents wanted me to go to law school! I applied the next year, got in again, and said no a second time. At that point it was clearer to me that you have to really want something. To spend four years doing something that I wasn’t necessarily passionate about wasn’t for me. For every mistake, every decision, that I’ve made, whether declining law school or not leaving Montreal at a certain time, has led me somewhere. You have to play the cards that you have and make the best of the situation you’re in.”

“I’ve been paddling dragon boats for 12 years and coaching for 10 years. I was on the national team two years ago in Hungary, and I just made the national team again this year and the worlds will be in Canada so it’s very exciting.”

“What was that like being a part of the national team?”

“I wasn’t really thinking about the national team until maybe eight years into this. I actually tried out for the 2011 team, did not make it, got cut, but I learned a hell of a lot from that experience. In 2013 I did it again and qualified for the Senior A National Team. To represent your country in a sport at the highest level is something that most people don’t get to do, especially in their 40s. I soaked up every single bit of it—not just the racing, but the bond that you make with your teammates is very special. Ask any team that wins a championship in their sport, they will always have that connection with their teammates forever. There’s eight of us returning this year from the team that was sent to Hungary. It will be an incredibly strong team because everybody wants to be on the national team in their own country. So we’re very excited! We have high expectations. We did well in Hungary: we got two silvers and a bronze out of four possible medals. But now it’s gold or nothing for us. We want to be one of the top crews in the world. The heat is on!”

“Family is extremely important to us because my brother and I were left without family at a very young age—about 20 and 16 years old. We were raised in a Jewish home and these are traditions that my wife and I continue to find important. Getting involved and being apart of community is the most important and being able to raise our family in a Jewish home is something that’s really important to us. So if we can help build the Jewish community, then that’s something we definitely want to be involved in.”

I’m very passionate about vinyl music and music in general.”

“What is it about vinyl music that you enjoy so much?”

“Both the aesthetic and experience of vinyl. It’s so different from what everyone’s used to nowadays. Being on your computer isn’t much of an experience. But vinyl is coming back. 2014 was the biggest year for vinyl since 1996 and I think there’s definitely more to look forward to in the future. I enjoy the stories behind the music and the energy music brings, because some music doesn’t necessarily have a story to it. It depends on the genre.”

“I have a huge family. I have over thirty-two first cousins. Having all those cousins, you just feel surrounded all the time. We can count on one another. If you need something in the middle of the night, call a cousin, call an uncle, and they’ll show up. Even if you get into an argument or you’re not loving them that day, they’re family and they’ll always be there.”

“I went to Jewish camp as a child, and even though my kids go to Jewish day school, it’s very important for me to continue that element in their life in summer camp as well. I have very good memories: the campfires, Shabbat dinners together with friends. It’s very special. We believe in instilling in our children a strong sense of Jewish identity and this is one of the most perfect vehicles. It’s something that we value and we wouldn’t think of sending our kids anywhere else.”

“I’m on the board of Hebrew Foundation School for the 5th year. When your kids see you volunteering and know that you’re involved in their school, it becomes more meaningful for them at a young age. Even in kindergarten, they understood the value of the time you’re putting in—not just for them, but for their school as well. There are many ways to be Jewish culturally; to preserve the aspects of the religion and of who we are outside of a synagogue, whether it’s helping those who do need it or related to Jewish education, culture, or business.”

“I was a consulting engineer and worked ten years in transportation, but it wasn’t my passion so I decided to quit it all and start an MBA at Tel Aviv University and travel around the world, which was when I discovered my passion for healthcare. Now I’m a co-founder of a company that manages nurses to send to people’s homes. The whole purpose of the healthcare system is to care for the patient, so we put the patient first. I feel like I’m part of the changes going on in healthcare. I have a sense of purpose. I also come from a background where no one was an entrepreneur, and it took me so long to change my way of thinking to ‘I can do this too’. I don’t have to be an employee—I can create something myself.”

“I started my own LED lighting business and I service the commercial real estate sector. So I’m a glorified light salesman. I’m pretty happy with what I do now. It’s not where I would’ve seen myself ten years ago, but I’m enjoying it and it’s very rewarding. Music is really my main passion in life—still is. I’ve always liked music, always listened to it, I played an instrument, and I was in a couple of bands in my youth. I think everyone likes music to some degree; I just like it a lot. So I saw myself potentially getting into that business. But, you know, different experiences bring you to different places.”

“I went to camp from the time I was 11 into my 20s. I met my husband and pretty much all of my best friends at camp; it’s like home to me. We have a connection to it.”

“Why do you have a connection to a Jewish camp in particular?”

“I never grew up very religious, but very traditional, and I have a strong Jewish identity. So when it became my turn as a parent, it was the obvious choice because I wanted to continue that tradition of Jewishness. It doesn’t have to be that strict, but the songs and the togetherness get rooted into you and then follow you through your life.”

“Talk to people. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to get out there. I like to network and meet new people and share new experiences. I’m continuously learning.”

« Quand la Concordia Student Union (association étudiante de Concordia) a présenté une résolution incitant au boycottage d’Israël à l’occasion des élections partielles, j’ai été pris par surprise. Nos leaders étudiants ont rapidement mis sur pied le groupe Concordia United Against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) (Concordia unie contre le boycottage, le désinvestissement et les sanctions — BDS). Nous avons travaillé très fort pour sensibiliser les étudiants et avons réussi à éliminer presque complètement les opinions préjudiciables ainsi qu’une question référendaire partiale. En fait, la majorité des votes n’a pas été pour le BDS.

Avant tout cependant, je veux remercier la communauté juive pour son immense appui dans cette lutte. Les conseils en matière de stratégie et de sécurité dans notre environnement de travail que nous avons reçus ont fait une énorme différence. »

L’année dernière, avec le soutien de la Fédération CJA, près de 3 000 étudiants juifs de 7 cégeps et universités de Montréal ont eu droit à des services sur le campus, notamment pour la gestion d’enjeux de représentation.

“What’s your favourite thing about your daughter?”

“Her spunk. Her joie de vivre! She’ll try anything. She was nine years old and crying because she wanted to come to camp. I refused to because I thought she was too young. She went, and that was it. She wants to stay at CBB for two months! She’s a go-getter.”

“We both grew up going to camp and having the experience of our summers being changed by incredible staff. Now, we have the opportunity to pass along our childhood memories to our campers. There’s no better feeling than helping to give our campers the summer of their lives. It’s the reason we come back to CBB every year.”

“It’s nice to spend quality time together.”

“We made it!”

“How do you know each other?”

“You know what—we’ve been friends since Dawson, and then our husbands became friends, we go to the same synagogue, our kids are in the same classes… it’s generational.”

“I’ve been teaching art history at Dawson College since 2011. My other job is at DHC Art and I’m an educator there. I’ve also worked at the Guggenheim, the MoMA, and the Museum of Fine Arts. I like art because it brings people together and creates dialogue and discussion. I kind of love the controversy that it introduces. To me, if you get people talking and thinking, then it’s a success. I find it’s very fun when people get heated about it. For example, when you bring up Marcel Duchamp, who took an object and brought it into a gallery space, some people think it’s hilarious and some people get furious, but they start to have this dialogue. For me, that’s what’s interesting. Even my husband, who’s quite interested in art, will say, ‘why is this art?’ Well, why isn’t it art? Who says it’s art and who says it’s not art? What even is art?”

“My dad came from Russia and my mom came from Poland—she was in the Holocaust, in Auschwitz. When we came to Canada we didn’t have much. In those days, my dad made money by selling on credit to people on welfare. He’d sell them everything from clothes to hardware. At thirteen, most kids would play in the streets; I’d come home and go to collect. I’d pass through the worst parts of the city, knock on people’s doors, and collect money. It wasn’t a pretty business—I have the scars to show it. It gave me the motivation to get out of that and become something in life. I went to school to become an optometrist—I needed something behind me because my family didn’t come from any means, if you will. My family taught me the value of a dollar, the value of working, and that no one’s going to help you, you just have to do it. I learned old school and I think old school. I think poor. I had no problem in terms of discipline and hard work—I’m a ranked tennis player. Playing tennis got me a scholarship to a university in the States. I’ve tried a lot of things, failed at a lot of things, and succeeded at some things. The trick is to make your successes really big and minimize your failures. If you don’t fail you’re not going to learn. I tell people to push the envelope, don’t be scared, live below your means, have fun, and enjoy what you do.”

Aujourd’hui, on part pour le camp!

“Camp has always been a huge part of my life and has been a source of my identity. I’m the associate director of Camp Kinneret Biluim. It’s a Jewish camp and I see myself as a Jewish educator. I’m definitely more connected to my Judaism and Israel now through my involvement.”

“What kind of Jewish values did the camp instill in you?”

“The idea of tikun olam, helping the world, helping others, kindness, respect, passion, understanding… There are a lot of values that we don’t necessarily recognize as Jewish, but they are. I think the idea of being optimistic and enthusiastic about everything is something I particularly embrace. It’s important to stay positive and excited about things and hopefully that will be contagious. Whenever I have one of those really good days when I’m with friends and we go to the park, we’re at Tams, we’re hanging out, we have a picnic, and then we come here and get Dairy Queen, my friends make fun of me because I’ll say ‘guys this is the best day ever’ like every ten minutes.”

“How is positivity particular to Judaism?”

“I think that Jews have been through a lot of negativity in their lives so it just makes sense that having a positive outlook on things and being excited and enthusiastic is how many Jewish people to look at life. It’s hard to stay positive sometimes, but it’s definitely worth it.”

“I’m a volunteer first responder for an emergency medical service that provides service to the community 24 hours, 7 days a week. It’s a way for me to give back to the community. It’s rewarding to know you’re helping somebody.”

“I have to say, your daughter looks absolutely fabulous.”

“She dresses herself! It’s all her.”

“I love driving around the city or walking down the street with a bag of popcorn. I was trying to understand why I like that so much, and I realized it’s because even though I’m a filmmaker, watching movies isn’t the most exciting thing. What I love most is to get out into the world and see the world like a movie. Having a bag of popcorn by my side, being able to munch on that as I go through the world, turns life into a real show. I had that epiphany a few weeks back and it was really exciting to put two and two together and realize that if you look at it in a certain way, life can be a movie for all of us.”

“I’m involved in community to carry on the tradition that my grandmother, who was the president of Israeli Bonds in Montreal, started years ago. It’s important to carry that tradition because our vibrant community is what binds us together and strengthens us.”

“I’m a photographer, voice teacher, glee club teacher, princess for birthday parties, social media and promotions intern for 94.7 Hits FM, and nanny. I’m one of those people that wants to work all the time. I just feel happy when I have something to do and each one of my jobs has something that I really enjoy doing. I love to sing, I love kids, I love acting, I love photography, I love music, and doing social media and promotions work.”

“And how old are you?”

“19.”

“My dog has been to Israel and back. She made aliyah! So far she’s lived a pretty great life—she used to love to swim in the Mediterranean.”

“I have two boys, one is almost five and the other is almost three. They’re wonderful. Their innocence is very charming. It’s an interesting experience to watch how kids interact and play, because they just know what’s around them. They don’t have any preconceived notions or judgments. For example, my five year old likes to say, ‘there’s no such thing as girls toys and boys toys. Everyone can play with anything; it doesn’t matter.’ They don’t see gender or colour or anything like that—they just see people for people; what they have inside.

There’s nothing like coming home from a day at work and seeing my kids and knowing that I created these two little humans who run to the door and love you and want to spend time with you. It’s also rewarding coming home every day knowing that I have a job that requires a lot of brain power, and I like to see my achievements in my job. There’s nothing like getting to go home and be a mother and at the same time, getting to have a very important, prestigious job.”

“Since my sisters and I don’t live in a Jewish area and we attend French public school, camp is a place where we can learn about our Jewish roots. I made a lot of new friends, and I learned Hatikvah for the first time. I also got to have a Bat Mitzvah at camp, dress up, invite my friends and have a party with music and dancing and cake! The counsellors are great at encouraging us to discover new passions, which is where my interest in photography started. Camp helped me gain confidence.”

“My older sister pushed me to go to ‘rookie’ camp last summer and I’m so glad she did.”

Through Federation CJA’s Generations Fund, over 800 Montreal children have received a $1000 grant towards their first summer at Jewish overnight camp. 70% of young Jewish leaders get their start at Jewish overnight camp.

“I wear many hats and I specialize in grief psychology. Almost 27 years ago, my brother died in a tragic car accident—he was 26. I was a social worker at the Snowdon Y at the time, but then I had this traumatic experience. It took me about six years after he died for me to start working in the field of grief and bereavement. Because of my personal experience, I became incredibly passionate about it. I understand the shock, the challenges, and the horror of having to go through that experience. It took me 27 years to finally put together all my experiences in my recently published book.”

“What would you say to yourself after you just lost your brother, knowing what you know today?”

“I would tell myself what I tell everyone that I meet, even though they don’t believe it: the “you” that was, will never be anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a bad life and you’ll never be happy. You can and you will find your way through this. I can’t tell you how long, I can’t tell you when, or what it’s going to look like, but you can. We can’t change what happened, but we have a choice. You may hate the choices that you have, but you always have a choice. And my choice was to not let this be a horrible mark in my life, and live in negative gloom and doom. It was to take what happened and make something good of it. My choice was to learn and to take my experience and make it into something where I can help others. 25 years later in the field of social work, I still just want to make a difference.”

“I’m originally from Europe—I was born in Israel, grew up in Germany, studied hotel management in Switzerland, went back to Israel, and then came to Canada in 1997.”

“What’s it like having lived in so many different places?”

“It’s phenomenal. Who I am today is a mixture of all these different cultures and traditions, and of course my Judaism and my roots. My open-mindedness, the fact that I’m not afraid of ‘no’, has been shaped by these experiences. For example, leaving my family behind in Germany and going to Israel—I literally packed my bags and grabbed a job opportunity. For the rest of my life, I’ll remember standing at the airport in Israel. Coming to Canada was also a huge move. I came to Canada after meeting the mother of my two oldest children on a trip to Montreal. Honestly, I don’t regret a single thing. You just learn—from the good and the bad. Today, I’m happily married with five children and just started my own business, SJF Group Inc.”

“To be honest, my voyage as a Master student in Education was not entirely blissful; there were trials and tribulations with many bumps in the road. Yet, I not only refused to decelerate but I chose to transform these hardships into positive forces, to transform these challenges into catalysts for growth. It was a process that empowered me to personally discover myself visualize my professional future–the founding of the Brain Friendly Learning Centre. It was an opportunity that led me to the bridge between theory and practice and allowed me to traverse it with confidence. And so, on my graduation day, adorned in my cap and my gown, I realize that I am, in fact, not at my destination and that there is no end to my journey. Contrary to what I originally thought, my personal and professional odyssey not only continues, but is paved with endless possibilities and infinite potential.”

« Mon sport favori est le basketball! »

“When we were expecting our third child and we announced it to our family, we were surprised by their very bad reaction. They actually said that we are not planning our lives; that we’re a couple of fools. They said that, because they grew up in the communist system where people weren’t allowed to do many things, such as have lots of kids, because there was literally not enough space for a child in the government-issued homes. They just took all of those fears and problems from their childhood, and put them on us, even though it’s completely untrue. Their biggest concern was that we’re just multiplying the poverty, despite the fact that my husband and I each have a Bachelor’s degree, we know how to use computers, we speak three languages, we lived in Israel at the time, we work full time and have a good salary.

In the Torah, in the prayers in King David, there’s a saying about how it’s good and pleasant to sit with brothers together. It says good and pleasant because there are few things in this world that are good and pleasant at the same time. When I realized the meaning of this sentence, I understood that a big family with a lot of kids is one of those rare things. And I shouldn’t feel guilty; I shouldn’t have to explain to them because I’m so sure about it. If you’re sure about something, you don’t need to prove it. You shouldn’t feel guilty for the thing that makes you happy and makes you feel good. When all of my kids gather together, huddled up under my arms, and we read something or watch something, it’s a truly precious moment. I think to myself, ‘my goodness, I am a mother.’”

“I feel like CEGEP has made me ever more comfortable and fine with myself and things I can’t control. Like the future, or the weather.”

“I was born in the Ukraine and after that I lived in Israel for about fifteen years.”
Я родилась в Украине, последние 15 лет провела в Израиле.

“What’s it like having lived on three continents?”
Как можно охарактеризовать опыт пребывания на трех континентах?

“I’m a woman of the world. Really. The most interesting thing is that the people are all the same, and you just need to understand and accept them. Once you begin to get out of your frame of mind, you start to understand the whole picture of other people’s worlds. In Israel, there’s a huge mixture of people from different cultures. From the beginning, I was shocked because in Europe it was pretty assimilated. But after, I began to see the big picture, and I realized that they’re the same people with the same problems. And here, in Montreal, I’ve just continued my life. The more experience you have, the more open you become.”
Я ощущаю себя космополитом. Я осознала очень простую вещь – люди везде одинаковы.Конечно, только приехав в Израиль, я была поначалу шокирована , в первую очередь, смешением культур и нравов в одной небольшой стране, но , прожив там некоторое время, увидела все тех же людей сo схожими проблемами. Поэтому , озвучивая ваш вопрос о том, как я чувствую себя в Монреале, я могу ответить только одно – я продолжаю жить.

“I was canoeing in the Palmer Rapids and everyone was putting on helmets and life jackets and jumping off a rock into the rapids. I was so nervous, but after I did it once and it was so much fun, I decided I’d do it again even though no one else was (classic me). When I jumped off the rock I did it wrong and hit my shin. I hurt myself all the time doing wacky things, usually at dance parties.”

“Why do you think you’re constantly doing those kinds of things?”

“I have ADD, so I’m always moving—I never sit at home and watch TV; I haven’t had a computer for a year; reading isn’t even a possibility in my life. I get home and I want to do something immediately. I message friends asking if we could meet up at the Canal, or if they could teach me guitar… anything. My friend is teaching me how to flame throw. My goal for the summer is learn how to beat box.”

“Fashion and art have always been a part of who I am and every single important choice I’ve made has been based on following that passion. I was in a school that didn’t allow me to showcase my creativity. I felt really restricted, and so I switched high schools when I was going into grade ten to a school that’s all about art, creativity, and self-expression. I went there and felt very at home. At my first high school I had to morph into what they wanted me to be. When I was speaking to the guidance counselor about what I should be applying into for college, she pretty much said, ‘if you don’t go into sciences, you will not have a career.’ So I felt pressured because I wanted to be successful, but I just knew that even if I pushed myself to do science and math that it would be against my being; it wouldn’t be a natural thing for me.

People tend to be more excited and think you’re smarter if you’re in a science-related program. But I find that people are just built differently. Like, my twin and I were raised in the same household with the same beliefs and traditions and we’re completely opposite: my twin is math- and science-driven, whereas I am creative. Not everybody is geared towards the sciences. It’s as hard as being creative; it’s just a different process. If you tell a science-minded person to draw, it’s extremely difficult for them. If you ask me to do a math problem, it’s the most challenging thing for me. I think people need to take a step back and realize that just because you’re in a different field than what’s deemed to be best, does not mean that there aren’t career choices that are successful and satisfying.”

“Having been on my own in Israel for two years , I have learned to understand more about my Jewish heritage. I have always been somewhat religious, but being there was a profound learning experience and a life turning moment. It was something about the land, the soil, the air, the people and the diversity. I felt connected and free. Things that mattered to me back home seemed trivial, whereas in Israel, I valued life more in the connectedness of people and in their struggles to preserve their identity.”

“Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G-d’s ultimate gift, the Torah. As the mother of four beautiful children it is my constant duty to teach and transmit our values and traditions. With Hashem’s help I hope to succeed in establishing the foundations my children will need in order for them to carry on the traditions for every generation to come.”

“Growing up in Montreal and being part of the community got me to Camp B’Nai Brith, where I had the best summers of my life! Now, I get to live vicariously through the eyes of my children going to CBB as well!”

“My children are my world. As parents, we are committed to sending our children to a Jewish school, if only to strengthen their identity and values. Because the stronger the roots, the taller the tree…”

“Coming from a very traditional Jewish background, I was always taught that my Judaism is based on the continuation of the traditions and values that were passed down to me.

My Zaida inspired me to celebrate all aspects of life. As a survivor of the Holocaust, he faced the worst horrors of our time and yet found the strength and courage to start a new life in Canada. Celebrating Jewish milestones was one of his greatest joys and he inspired me to carry on these traditions in my career choice… Having been involved in the planning, organizing and emceeing of hundreds of Bar and Bat mitzvahs, I am honored that my line of work allows me to celebrate milestones with the entire Jewish community.”

“Every year at Passover, I remember my escape from Iraq.

It was 1970 and Iraq had placed many sanctions on Jews following the 6 day war. We couldn’t work, attend university, or have any communications. My brother had been taken for a spy and tortured.

I was a newlywed and my husband and I knew we had no choice but to run away and leave the country in which we and our ancestors were born. The Babylonion Jewish history goes back 2,500 years – and we had to leave everything behind.

We found someone who would help us to escape. He told us not to say a word to anybody. It hurt me very much not to say goodbye to my family, but for their safety, I couldn’t. Early in the morning in January 1971, we closed our house. In the dark of night and freezing cold, wearing a black veil to disguise myself, 8 of us young adults took to the backs of mules through the mountains on a hidden trail to Iran. There was no guarantee of safety and the 3-day trek was very difficult. When we arrived, we were put in an Iranian prison for crossing the border illegally.

Shortly after, we made aliyah to Israel. We couldn’t wait to get there and I loved every minute. 8 years later, we moved to Montreal. Both Israel and Canada gave me my freedom. And freedom has no price.”

“Some peoples’ commutes to work involve being stuck in traffic or listening to the radio. Mine starts with a car ride with my 2 year old son. It is the highlight of my morning drive. This is a time that we have to ourselves, singing in the car, talking about what he will do with his friends and most importantly… looking for trucks on the road! It can be very quiet in the back seat when all of a sudden I will hear “Papa – look at the crane!” There are some trucks that I am surprised that a 2 year old knows! A back end loader? An excavator? I love my son and cherish these moments we spend together.”

« Imaginez-vous à la maison. L’un de vos enfants joue joyeusement dans la cuisine, et les trois autres sont à l’école juive. On sonne à la porte. Deux hommes sont devant vous. Ils vous présentent des papiers officiels, qui vous ordonnent de quitter la maison dans la semaine qui vient. Je sens encore mes genoux qui tremblent quand je pense à cette journée. J’ai eu un choc. Je ne savais pas quoi faire.

Mon cousin m’a alors conseillé de consulter la communauté juive, car on m’appuierait. J’ai rencontré une travailleuse sociale qui m’a écoutée avec compassion et m’a assurée que la communauté m’aiderait à traverser cette crise. Mes enfants ont eu droit à une thérapie et à des visites de travailleurs scolaires. J’ai reçu l’aide dont j’avais besoin pour conserver ma dignité en tant que mère. J’ai appris à développer mon autonomie. Je ne peux dire à quel point je suis reconnaissante pour le soutien que j’ai reçu. Cette communauté fait une véritable différence. »

L’année dernière, près de 1 500 membres de notre communauté ont bénéficié de services d’intervention en période de crise, notamment pour de l’accès à de la nourriture et à du logement, pour des consultations d’urgence et pour de l’aide dans la négociation avec des organisations publiques et privées.

“Applying knowledge from my social work studies helps me in my personal life. Wherever I go, I bring that professionalism with me, but I also know how to separate it from my personal experiences. I work with kids and with seniors at the Cummings Centre, which is always rewarding. It reminds me that I’m not here to save the world, but just to have a positive impact on their lives in some way. It’s interesting because the people that I get to work with now were once judges and lawyers and had really big professions. Many of them had strict walls built around them their whole lives, and now the walls have broken down and a new side to them appears. Working with them I realize that not only am I impacting their lives in a way, but they are also impacting mine.”

“When we left one labour camp, there were 745 people who couldn’t walk, including my brother. We started to march towards Sachsenhausen. The SS said they would bring a truck to carry whoever couldn’t walk. Once they got them inside the truck, we heard BOOM BOOM BOOM. They had killed them all. Later, there were 3,400 of us who started the 100 kilometer march to Mauthausen. Only 900 remained when we got there. I don’t know how I got out from there. I don’t even know when I got out. It’s a terrible thing to remember.

For 25 years, I didn’t want to talk about my experiences in the Holocaust. And then, when I started to tell my wife, my children and grandchildren – I didn’t want to stop.”

“We had been friends for 5 years before he told me he was a survivor of the Holocaust. I had always wanted to do a painting on the Holocaust, but because I am not a survivor, I felt I didn’t have the right to do it. After meeting Joe, whose tattoo number, 77835, I use in my painting, I felt there was another dimension that most other artists had not touched upon: the strange positive end to the story for those who survived. They defied Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.

After Joe was liberated as a young man weighing 58 lbs., he was able to survive, get married, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He represents the continuity of our people. It’s exactly what G-d said to Noah after the flood: Go forth and multiply. This is what all survivors have done.”

“I’m a sales person for a fashion company, and on the side I became a personal trainer. I love fashion, but I always wanted to venture off and do something on my own. Working out has always been a hobby of mine, so I figured I could turn this hobby into my own business. I run around from place to place, but that’s sort of how I love it… I’m not stuck in a little cubicle. I get to meet so many people, and do something that I really love. The majority of my clients are Jewish; I guess that’s what happens when you’re part of the beautiful circle! I train one person, and then they refer me to another person. I have religious groups, and secular groups, and I’ve learned so much about Judaism just from training these different circles. Every time I finish a session, I learn something new. Being with these groups, they give me a new perspective on Judaism, and they’re helping me guide my decisions on how I want to practice it. It makes me want to do more for the Jewish community, and it makes me want to experience more. Whether it’s having Shabbat dinners, or turning off my phone on Saturdays, it definitely makes me want to change traditional aspects.”

“I played hockey professionally for ten years in the States and Switzerland. Living in Montreal, everything revolved around sports growing up, especially hockey. When I came back to Montreal, I began working for my family business and spending my summers at Pripstein’s sleep away camp teaching hockey. Sadly, Pripstein’s was closing, but I felt this was my time to take over and make it a sleep away camp primarily revolving around sports, but with other fun activities too. I actually went to Pripstein’s as a camper. I have a lot of family history there, dating back to my parents and grandparents. I think there is real opportunity to have kids in the community come back to camp and have an amazing time. Whether the kids want to get better at sports, arts and crafts, dance, or meet new people; we want to make sure they will receive that. We want to know that they’re going to go home and feel like they have achieved something, on top of just having an amazing time.”

“At Ometz I help with the Junior MYP program, which is really nice. It’s like a homework help program, but also building close relationships with the kids and being a positive role model for them. I feel like that is definitely something I try to implement in my social work. Right now I work with young single moms, who are my age, and with kids. I’m helping them with their school work, budgeting skills, parenting skills, and all these kinds of things. I really try and be a positive role model for them.

Do what you love. Go volunteer somewhere cool, go sing three songs, find something that makes you happy. We have to experience different things to find out what truly makes us happy.”

« De nos jours, nous constatons que la communauté sépharade est en pleine évolution, et ce, à plusieurs niveaux, incluant ses coutumes et traditions. Je trouve cependant qu’il est très important que nous conservions nos traditions et que nous les transmettions à nos enfants pour qu’ils le fassent également à leur tour. »

« En raison de mon attachement à nos coutumes sépharades ainsi qu’à la langue française, qui est indispensable pour moi, je suis convaincue que le choix que l’on fait de l’école que l’on choisit pour nos enfants est essentiel, car c’est là qu’ils acquerront les notions de base de leur histoire et de leurs traditions, ce qui leur permettra entre autres de réussir et percer dans la société québécoise. »

« Parlez-nous d’une tradition ou d’une coutume qui est importante pour vous. »
« Je pense que la liturgie sépharade est très spéciale et qu’elle est unique à notre communauté. Bien sûr, ce n’est pas le seul aspect indispensable de notre culture, mais c’est certainement l’un des aspects qui nous distingue du reste de la communauté juive montréalaise. L’enseignement de la liturgie donné à nos enfants, qu’ils nous rapportent à la maison et dans nos synagogues, crée une ambiance phénoménale — le chabbat et les fêtes. Il est très important que notre génération ne perde pas ses coutumes et traditions qui nous ont été transmises de génération en génération, bien que l’on constate qu’elles sont peu à peu oubliées. Elles sont essentielles à la conservation et la survie de notre culture dans un monde qui s’avère bien difficile. »

“While I was travelling, I went to Europe and I was talking to these people at my hostel. We were all talking about where we were from, and I mentioned how I was from Montreal. They all started saying “Montreal is the coolest city ever,” and they were talking about how much they love our city. I asked them if they have been to certain places, and began to list a few of my favorite restaurants and spots in Montreal. I soon began to realize that I had more than just a few! Hearing other people acknowledge how amazing this city that I live in is, made me realize how lucky I am to be from such a great place.”

“We’re building a start up company together, creating custom-fit earphones and other technology. It’s been the best experience of our lives! One hundred percent, we have zero regrets. There was a lot of stress at the beginning. Questioning if what you are doing is right, and if you should be taking a more guaranteed career path, such as the investment advising industry, or another industry… But it’s been amazing. The people you meet, and the entire process has been awesome. We’re a team of fifteen at the moment, and when we look around our work room and realize that we’re all in this together, that we all believe in the same idea… it’s special. A year ago this was a vision, and now we have working devices. The recognition that we received, and how people are able to see our vision and come onboard with us: those are the moments when we know we will never quit.”

“I recently went to We Day, which is a national movement that is organized by Free the Children. It is a non-profit organization and it unites young students who are involved in their community around the world. There were so many different and inspiring people there who were trying to promote change and create impact among the younger generations.

While I was volunteering, I bumped into the founder of Free the Children. As a fan girl I ran up to him and shook his hand. I also told him this would not be the last time he sees my face! I swear! I seriously told him to look out for me because I would be working for him within the next two years after I receive my Masters program in Non-Profit Management.”

“I had the privilege of meeting Sidney in preparation for a Holocaust education experience to Poland and Israel, and by chance found out that he knew my grandfather. Our families had similar Holocaust survival experiences – both coming to Canada on the same boat and later living in Montreal as neighbours. By the time I was old enough to learn about the Holocaust, my grandfather had Alzheimer’s and could not tell me his testimony. The stories Sidney relayed became my closest connection to my personal family history. I will be forever grateful for meeting Sidney.”

“After meeting Chelsea and surprising her with the news that I knew of her grandparents, I began to tell her about her family and some details about their survival story. I knew more about her family than she did. We formed a close bond and during the long days of our trip we talked a lot. It’s important to share my experiences with so many young people. Through them as our witnesses, our stories will live on.”

Over 3,500 students from Montreal have participated in an immersive Holocaust education experience since the program began in 1988, with up to $100,000 in scholarships provided annually.

“I moved here from a small town in northern New Jersey to go to Concordia University, and I’m on the Loyola campus which I love. It’s much smaller than the downtown one, and feels more secluded with a lot of green space. My first year of University, my residency was actually on Loyola campus. I remember one of the first nights, a whole bunch of us on my floor got together and took the 105 bus downtown and all went out for drinks together. That was when I realized Montreal is now my city, and I could definitely do this.”

“I’m the Director of March of The Living, and this is going to be my third year going as staff.”

“Did you go on March of The Living as a student?”

“I did, but sadly it was 2002 when I was in grade eleven and my trip was cancelled because of the Intifada… I was devastated. I had been wanting to go on the March ever since I became exposed to the Holocaust, which was as early as grade one. In 2005, they started the young adult March, which was after my first year at McGill. Going for the first time was an amazing experience. I still have my journal, and sometimes read it… but I don’t really remember much. Now my memory is going the past two years with the kids, and this is part of my present. This is a personal experience for me; I don’t have relatives who were in the Holocaust. I have a great-grandfather who moved to Germany to work in the DP camps just after the war ended, and we have all the letters he wrote to his wife and my grandfather. He would explain to them the reasons why he still had to be there. He was a rabbi and a social worker, and he knew he was meant to give back. So that’s my connection to the March.”

“We’re a very active family, barely home. We are doing things like rock climbing, boating, and skiing. Basically anything that will make us sweat! My motto is ‘Carpe Diem – Seize every day!’ I’m a single mom, with two kids. I never felt like I was your typical Jew to begin with. I’m an esthetician, with a background in graphic design, and a love of stand-up comedy. It’s safe to say my kids might end up being nuts like me… Ha!”

“After the 1967 war in Israel, I figured it was time to do some extra work outside of my business, in the community. I went to the Allied Jewish Community Services building on Sherbrooke and Bleury (which was the precursor to Federation CJA). I saw so many people I knew making the time to volunteer, and I figured, if they are all busy but they have the time, I should find the time too. That’s how I got started.

There are always people who need more and I can do something to help. When I make phone calls to get pledges, after many years the donors recognize my voice. We develop relationships and we have respect for one another. And that means more to me than any gift. Volunteers are people with heart. So are the donors we call. It’s been years of pleasure.”

“Centennial Park has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I did a lot of activities here. It was fun for me… it was always sort of an outlet. During the day I would have school, and then I always had fun things in the evening. I remember I did ceramics, pottery, and ballet for a long time. Actually… today I’m going to a ballet class. I haven’t done ballet in years. I’m excited to do it again! I miss it.”

“Last year I had the opportunity to go on exchange in Israel. I went to the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, and living there really opened my eyes to the bias that is present in the media concerning Israel. It really upset me. I saw all these amazing things going on, but never being portrayed in the news; only the negatives. Because of this, I wanted to get involved in Israel activism. When I came back to Montreal in the summer, I got involved with Hillel and Israel on Campus Concordia. Ever since then, I’ve been doing Israel activism.”

“It’s really interesting being in Montreal and seeing how different the Jewish community is here, because I’m originally from Toronto. I think the city shapes the Jewish community and I think that the dimension of language adds some sort of interesting spices to the Montreal Jewish community. I’ve met a lot of Moroccan Jews since I’ve been here and that was a really interesting experience for me because I’ve been to Morocco and I didn’t know that existed. It’s very interesting anthropologically, looking at how Jews have spread around and looking at the way the Jews from around the world have spread in Canada as well. Like, Toronto has English-speaking Jews; Montreal has both French and English. That adds a totally different approach to understanding what that means to people her, culturally.”

“I just can’t stop laughing!”

“One of the best days of my life was when I found out I was going to Israel. I had just finished university and had applied to a one-year program where 100 of us from North America went to Israel and got to experience different parts of Israel. When I was travelling from Tel Aviv to Eilat by bus, I remember seeing all the land that I passed, feeling that the land is our land, and what the Israelis have done with the land was a special moment. The main realization throughout the trip for me was that Israel really does belong to the Jewish people and how important it is to us, even if we don’t live there, have relatives there, or friends there. Even if we have no personal connection, it really is our land.”

“I have three major things in my life: There’s school—I’m doing a double major in Psychology and Political Science at McGill; I have a part time job as a personal trainer; and there’s my girlfriend who I love more than anything else. I just turned 21 and I’m a personal trainer—I get to play a role in people’s lives. There’s nothing more rewarding than that. That’s why I started this job and that’s why I love this job.”

“How does your Psychology major help you in your job as a personal trainer?”

“I keep telling people that it’s tough to think of any job where psychology doesn’t play a role. Whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, or a trainer, you need to understand who you are, the environment around you, and the people you’re working with. Being a personal trainer, I can use it to help my clients the most. Working out isn’t one-size-fits-all—every client reacts to things differently. Furthermore, I can’t tell you the amount of personal issues clients have told me. It’s not like I feel I have a responsibility to help with these issues, but I want to be there for them and having a psychology background really helps them feel comfortable telling me their issues. I always tell them: I’m not a psychologist yet, but I have no problem listening to your issues and helping you through them. I’m going to give them some advice, put it out there, and it’s up to them to listen or not. Not to mention working out is one of the best things one can do for their general health: mental and physical. Right there, that’s enough help as is.”

“Having devoted much of my life to advancing Jewish education in Montreal, I know the importance of the middle income access fund for families who are struggling with the cost of Jewish education to be able to enrol and keep their children in our Jewish day schools. As President of a Jewish school, I recently received a beautiful phone call from a parent, which touched my heart. The mom of 3 current Jewish day school students said, ‘You cannot imagine the sense of relief my husband and I feel, knowing that the tuition for our children is frozen for the time that our children are in school. We can plan our family life without worrying whether we will have to revisit our decision to send our kids to Jewish school each and every year.’”

Over 650 children have benefitted from a Jewish day school education due to the support of Federation CJA’s Generations Fund CAPS program, which provides subsidies and tuition freezes for middle-income families.

“I never knew how having a child would bring me closer to Judaism. After high school I was really interested in other cultures and left my Jewish-ness behind (except for the odd bagel or Yiddish word). Basically, I had left the fold for the past twenty years, completely disconnected from anything Jewish. My daughter has brought me back to my origins, which I was alienated from for so long. She embraces it with such joy and that joy is so contagious and healing. She goes to a Jewish daycare and sings Jewish songs—It’s just so funny to hear her sing “Oy Yoy Yoy Uncle Mordecai.”

“I’ve been performing since I was five—I started in musical theatre. As the years went by I started to say, ‘this is what I want to do with my life.’ I think there’s just something magical that sparks when you start that opening number of a show. For the performers, we say it’s routine but it still changes night to night because we’re feeding off the audience. It’s a great part of performing; getting that energy from the audience and knowing that they’re enjoying what you’re doing for them. It’s very cool when the audience is seeing a show for the first time and you can feel them enjoying it.”

“I think Jewish education is really important, first of all for the continuity of the Jewish people—we know assimilation happens every day and it’s important for us to strengthen where we come from, not to lose our culture and our heritage. More importantly, I think, are the underlying roots of the Jewish religion; the values that a Jewish education instills within the people to be a good person.”

“Did you have a Jewish education?”

“I did not. It’s interesting because I’ve come to believe, over the past few years, that God kind of puts you where you’re meant to be in life. I feel like everything that I’ve done in my past, my childhood, growing up, my education, has led me to be here. Like, right now, my purpose is to get people to come to Jewish school, whereas that was not where I came from at all. It came in little steps for me: I started out in a Jewish youth group, and loved it, then I went to Jewish summer camp, only for a few years, and then I worked in the Jewish community. When I had kids, that’s kind of when it really hit me that I had nothing to pass on to them. I felt I was lacking that Jewish education. I wanted to be able to give to them, so that when they have their children, they’re not in that same position.”

“The first time he met my family was at a Passover seder.”

“It was my second time doing anything “Jewish-y.” The first time, I was in secondary five. My english teacher was very into Montreal Jewish culture. He had us learn Hava Nagila, and at the beginning of each class, we would have to sing the song before doing anything else. I know all the words to this day.”

“Keep in mind, he is from rural Victoria; no one Jewish lives there.”

“Let me get back to my story! So this was all in preparation for a day trip we took to Montreal, where we went to J&R Kosher at Cavendish Mall. First we learnt how they package and process the meat, and the special prayers they would do. Once that was over, my class went outside the store and sang Hava Nagila to people walking by. I thought to myself, “here you have these Fresh Canadian kids from Victoriaville, coming to J&R Kosher to sing a Hebrew song… people had to have been amused!” That was my first real Jewish experience, and now Hava Nagila has become my song at any Jewish event.”

“Do what makes you happy. Be with those who make you smile. Laugh as much as you breathe. And love as long as you live.”

“I haven’t spoken to my mother in about 7 or 8 years and as much as I hate to admit it, I am who I am because of her. She was an entrepreneur, she fought for what she believed in and she was artsy, like me. I also think we look identical… Only I’m aging better.”

“Since I was a child, all my good memories are related to family reunions and food, every weekend, just because. Just to celebrate. I especially remember Passover, when my grandmother wore my mother’s apron and cooked latkes for her five grandchildren, so dedicated and delightful. She never followed a recipe, she cooked everything by heart and she taught me in that same way how to make Gefilte Fish, Kneidalaj and Leikaj. She transmitted her Jewish legacy to me through her food.”

« Même si mon horaire est très chargé, ce qui est le plus important pour moi, c’est d’aider les autres, de faire ma part pour la communauté. Je veux faire ma part parce que tout le monde a des besoins différents. Quand je suis capable de rendre service à quelqu’un, je dois le faire. Mes parents m’ont toujours appris à redonner à la communauté. Je suis le plus vieux de ma famille. Je sens donc que j’ai le devoir de montrer à mes frères et à mes sœurs qu’il est important de faire du bénévolat. À l’École Maïmonide où je vais, les élèves doivent faire soixante heures de service communautaire. Cela m’a appris à gérer mon temps, mais aussi à penser aux autres. »

“During the first month of my family’s immigration to Montreal, I was put in contact with the Jewish community. From the very beginning, I felt welcomed and included, and I began to volunteer at events in order to meet new friends and help my children integrate. At an event, I was given the opportunity to register my children to receive free Jewish books and music by mail. I felt like this was an essential component of teaching my children Jewish traditions, and they are so excited when the books arrive! My family has been greatly impacted by the experience of reading the books together at home and also by sharing the lessons together at events, alongside other young families.”

Close to 4,000 children in our community have received free Jewish children’s books since 2009, including 150 children from a new program aimed at attracting children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

“I’m a documentary film producer. I produced The Lady in Number Six, which won an Oscar last year. It was a funny thing because it was a movie we did for free, just on a volunteer basis amongst friends here in Montreal. It wasn’t really expected, but we ended up giving the film to some producers in L.A. and they’re the ones who did the route to the Oscar’s. I had never been to L.A. before so going there on the Oscar trail was unbelievable. Making documentaries in Montreal, everyone’s dream is the Oscar’s, but in reality I never really thought it could happen. That film had been refused from every film festival we submitted it to. So the whole thing was a very surreal experience.”

“When people say “family,” I feel like I am in a very unique situation. I have an extremely close extended family. My mother passed away when I was eight years old and since then, my grandmother and aunts have been filling the role of motherhood in ways I could never imagine any other grandmother or aunts doing. When I think of my family, I do not just think of my house, but my whole extended family. I am so super lucky to have people like that in my life, and to have such a big family that I consider my immediate family. We are crazy, but so… so full of love.”

“I was 22 and working at a job that really wasn’t going anywhere. All my friends were settling down and figuring out what they want to do, career wise and family wise. Nothing seemed to fit, so I decided that I was going to travel. I just bought a backpack and went to Australia for three months, which subsequently led me to Japan where I taught English for a year and a half. It was a worldly experience, but the things I did where I travelled, learned about another culture, and lived in another culture made me realize how much I missed Montreal and how much I wanted to come back and how important family is. It took me that distance to realize how fortunate I was to come back home.”

Future Habs players?

“I have a PhD in clinical psychology. I wear many hats: I’m a mother, a Rabbi’s wife, a psychologist… I guess my clinical background and my Torah background help me to wear those hats with more confidence. Merging my Torah background with my clinical background gives me perspectives on different areas, such as relationships, happiness, learning, and growth. I specialize in intimacy, as well. A lot of stereotypes are broken when you apply a Torah perspective to intimacy, and a lot of misconceptions are made away with, because I think a lot of people, especially in the Jewish community and orthodox community, have misconceptions about what the Torah has to say about intimacy. So that’s where I can break down those misconceptions and those stereotypes.”

“It’s important to know what people have gone through, especially when we think of people who have survived the Holocaust. Both of my parents are Europeans, and they were in Europe at the time of the war. Just hearing their stories and knowing how grateful we are just to be free, to be Jewish, to be gay, to be a woman, to be who you are…. We’re allotted this freedom that we don’t realize is a privilege.”

“From a young age I knew I wanted to be a teacher. My mother was a teacher and my role model growing up. I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps and become the best teacher I could be. For the past 17 years I have been teaching kindergarten at HFS.

My job as a kindergarten teacher allows me to lay the foundations for the new generation of Jewish people. My main objective is to instill in them strong Jewish values, independence and self worth. In Kindergarten I don’t teach a subject, but rather a child. I take pride in helping each individual child achieve greatness.

The relationship that develops between a teacher and a student in the classroom cannot be described in words but can be expressed in the following quote: “I call my students “my kids” because in our year together they aren’t just kids on my class list, they become a part of my heart.” Everyday is a learning experience for both the students and myself. One day, I would like to write a book about my experiences in Kindergarten. My students have provided me with so many stories told and moments shared.”

מורה בינוני – אומר.
מורה טוב – מסביר.
מורה מצוין – מדגים.
מורה מושלם – מעורר השראה.
“ויליאם ארתור וורד

“I write spoken word. I’d love to be a rap artist, but I’m a white little Jewish girl, so I figure spoken word is like aggressive poetry. I have a lot to say; I’m very vocal. This year, because of everything that’s been going on in the world, I am writing a piece called ‘Birthright’, about how it’s our right to fight, to stand up for what we believe in, and to defend ourselves, as anybody; as an artist, as a Jew, as a human being.”

“I went to university, even though my father wouldn’t let me go to school.”

“Why wouldn’t he let you go to school?”

“I was a girl; I had to get married. When I came to Canada from Israel, he wouldn’t let me go to school. He got me a job at a panty factory. I walked in there, walked out, and said: ‘you know what—take a gun and kill me, ‘cause I’m not working there!’ I was here for one week. I went to the Gazette, the Montreal Star at the time, I looked for a job, and found a job at an office—I faked myself in—as a filing clerk. I went to high school, well, I finished high school in Israel. Then I went to CEGEP afterwards. I was married already, at eighteen. My first son was born on my nineteenth birthday! I went back to university when the kids were sixteen, and finished my Bachelor of Arts.”

“What did your father have to say about that?”

“He said it was stupid that I had to go. I said, ‘if I don’t go, I’d be stupid.’”

« Il y a deux ans, nous avons quitté l’Argentine, nos amis et notre famille pour venir à Montréal. Nous voulions améliorer notre vie. Nous ne connaissions alors qu’une seule famille dans la communauté juive. Cette famille nous a donné le nom d’un conseiller en immigration, qui nous a accueillis les bras ouverts et nous a appris beaucoup de choses : comment nous y retrouver dans le système scolaire, survivre à l’hiver et obtenir les services qu’il nous fallait. Trouver une maison, une garderie et des emplois peut être épuisant. Nous avons eu de l’aide pour remplir les formulaires du gouvernement, apprendre à nous préparer pour des entrevues d’emploi et adapter nos curriculum vitae aux exigences canadiennes.

Aujourd’hui, je travaille. Mon mari étudie à temps plein à l’université. Et nous venons tout juste d’accueillir notre deuxième fille dans la famille. Nous nous sommes fait des amis. Nous profitons de la vie trépidante de cette ville, où nous faisons de nouvelles découvertes toutes les saisons. Nous sommes très reconnaissants pour le soutien que nous avons obtenu à notre arrivée, alors que nous en avions énormément besoin. »

L’année dernière, près de 1 700 immigrants ont bénéficié d’une aide qui comprenait, entre autres, des conseils préimmigration, de l’assistance à l’arrivée et pour l’installation, des cours de langues et des sorties visant à faciliter leur intégration dans la communauté juive montréalaise.

“It’s important to always set goals. I think it’s very hard, as a young person, to set your ultimate career goal — you never know what you’re ultimately going to do. You may, however, have an idea of where you want to go. So set small goals that will point you in the right direction, whether it’s talking to a new person every day, reading about whatever interests you… After a year, two years, three years, you’ll have taken a lot of little steps to get you the skills you need to get to where you want to be.”

“When I first said that I was going to ride the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I had no bike, nor the money for a bike. I put the word out, and a special friend lent me his wife’s bike. Actually, the first time I went on a road bike, I cried. On the first ride out, we had training rides, and I knew nothing about biking. I went in my running shoes; I didn’t realize I had to have a helmet and glasses… I had no clue what was going on. I was dead last in the training rides. The company where I worked was the top team and of the women employees that participated, I ended up being the first woman that crossed the line. This changed my life because I still cycle, I’m going to be doing my fourth Ride to Conquer Cancer, and I have met the most amazing people that are down to earth, smart, and influential. I find that cycling has been my therapy. I go out, and I can just cycle for hours; it’s like meditation. It has been what’s helped me get through the past few years of my life. Cycling is my escape, and hopefully always will be. I’m all about community, resilience, and cycling. You’ll get thrown curveballs and it’s getting back up that really shows what kind of person you are.”

“I’ve been in the graffiti removal business for ten years, and while driving around I would stumble upon hate graffiti, primarily swastikas. 80% of the stuff I remove is anti-Semitic, but I’ve removed graffiti from mosques, and churches too. I’m a proud Jewish Canadian, but I don’t go to synagogue five times a week. I’m not overly religious. When people ask me who I’m doing it for, to be honest, in the beginning it was for myself. Now that I see how much it affects everyone, it’s turned into something I’m doing for everyone. In every community. For Montreal. I have old men and women who are affected by what they are seeing, like 80 years-olds who are looking at swastikas and don’t know what to do. A few of these people’s parents were killed in concentration camps. So when I get phone calls like that, it reiterates to me just how important this movement is. How it turned from something just about me, into something about everyone.

One day I saw this quote on the back of a t-shirt: “The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil, is for enough good people to do nothing.” It struck me as if it were directed at me personally. Ever since then I have tried to live my life by it.”

“There were a couple times when I was working for a newspaper in the States and I would come to visit friends, and I’d just go for a run up along the mountain. Coming out onto that main southern-facing lookout where the lodge is, you have the whole city spread in front of you and this nice clear view with the mountains off into the distance. You’ve got this picture of Montreal right there and the space is always so crowded and lively. That, to me, and that ability to get this close overlap between the intensely urban with this great big park space in the middle of it, is something I love about this city.”

“I’ve been involved with Federation and what was then called Women’s Campaign since 1950. I have worked in various areas of it and so on, and of course a culmination was when I was elected the first woman President of what was then AJCS, which is now Federation, in 1981. I was also the first woman president of the Herzl Health Centre. I must say that when I became the President of Herzl, I was forcibly struck by the reaction of one of the senior men in the community who put his arms around me, and said, ‘and now, little girl, let’s see what you will do.’”

“Oh, and did you ever show him what you could do!”

“I never concentrated on the fact that I was a woman. I remember when I opened my first officer’s meeting at Federation by saying, ‘I know there’s been a lot of interest, amazement, and remarks about the fact that I’m the first woman President, and I want you to know that I’m here to do my best and it’s not a matter of discussion from here on in. Let’s get down to business.’ That’s what I was there for: to do the business of Federation.”

“I think it’s a pretty cool thing to follow in my grandma’s footsteps — I work in the Women’s Philanthropy department here. I think that her love for the community is something that shines out of all her pores all the time, in whatever way that she can be involved. She’s a role model, and not just to me. That’s why people love you as much as they do, because volunteering isn’t something that you brag about. You talk about it with love and with respect. It’s not something that you do for recognition. You do it genuinely from your heart.”

“I love music. Actually, I make music — I rap. I started off just loving listening to music. I found that no matter what was going on in my life, music could just take me away for that little bit and just put me in a good mood. Since I was listening to it so much, I tried making my own. For the past ten years or so, I’ve been progressing and working more and more. It’s just so much fun to tell stories, and make different lines, and see what I can do with words. My whole life, especially in early high school, I used to get in trouble and be a joker in class and stuff, so I found this is a better way to make use of that. When I put out a song, all these people are going to be hearing these jokes and hopefully it’s going to give them a laugh and bring some joy to them.”

“I was very lucky to grow up with four grandparents and a great grandmother until I was seventeen. I didn’t know loss and heartache in that sense. I think I learned from each one individually. The overall values that make up who I am today definitely stem from what they taught me, specifically to stand up for yourself and be proud of who you are.

Given what’s going on today, it’s scary to announce to the world who you are and where you come from. Obviously being a Jewish woman, I had those struggles professionally in my field. I was hesitant to voice that. But it’s so important, now more than ever, to teach my children to continue that and to teach them what my grandparents taught me about being a proud, Jewish woman and giving back any way you can to the community. It’s a main value. It’s not always religious, but we would pick up on certain traditions and they were fixed. That’s something I’d like to pass on to my children.”

“A friend had been asking me to give her daughter a guitar lesson. Though I’d been playing for over 25 years, I had no idea that I would be a good instructor, or that I would love teaching as much as I do. But I obviously found my calling, and teaching quickly became a full-time pursuit. Now I get to spend my time thinking, talking and playing music with a wide variety of unique and talented people.”

“What’s your favourite thing about being a twin?”

“Our favourite thing about being a twin is having birthdays together.”

“This year, I want to have my own cake. For my 8th birthday, I want a Star Wars cake with Anakin and Darth Vader fighting in a volcano.”

“I want a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake that has the hockey player, Brendan Gallagher, on it.”

“Actually, I want Carey Price and PK Subban on my cake, too. On one side, Subban will be taking a practice shot onto Price’s net, and on the other side, Anakin is fighting Darth Vader. It’s obviously going to have to be a big cake.”