Sept. 25, 2020 – By JEREMY APPEL
Thousands of legendary Montreal bagels were shipped overnight to Calgary and Edmonton just in time for the first night of Rosh Hashanah as a fundraiser for Alberta’s two branches of B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO).
Fairmount Bagel in Montreal sent 468 dozen, or 5,616 of the oven-baked goodies, to Edmonton, and 150 dozen, or 1,800, to Calgary via FedEx overnight shipping to ensure delivery for Sept. 18. Local BBYO organizers had sold most of them in advance.
Stacey Leavitt-Wright, who sits on BBYO Edmonton’s parent board and hails from Montreal, said the honey-sweetened bagels baked in a wood-fired oven were a big hit because they’re different from the bagels in Edmonton.
“The [Montreal] bagels go through a different process than a commercial bakery bagel,” she explained. “It makes them a little crunchy on the outside and they have that smoky, wood oven taste. It just adds a different flavour to the whole thing, and when you toast them, to me they’re magic.”
The bagels, served with honey and lox on the side, were distributed drive-through style at Talmud Torah Jewish day school, with BBYO members placing them in the trunk of each vehicle.
“It went beyond our dreams of how successful it could be and how much money we could raise for the group,” Leavitt-Wright said.
“We had a lot of people outside the Jewish community participating. They were all so glad to be able to support teens who are developing leadership skills.”
The BBYOs raised between $3,000 and $4,000, which will go toward programming that is decided by the youth groups’ membership, as well as filling a financial gap created by removing membership fees, she added.
The fundraiser’s genesis comes from another BBYO parent board member, Tamara Vineberg, who saw a news story about someone in Toronto who had ordered “a whole whack” of Montreal bagels in May.
After Vineberg ordered a shipment to Edmonton from Montreal’s St-Viateur Bagels, Leavitt-Wright suggested they do something similar for a BBYO fundraiser.
For former Montrealers, or even anyone who’s visited the city, there’s a certain nostalgia associated with bagels, Vineberg said.
“The smell is just amazing,” she said. “It just fills your car.”
Given the relatively small Jewish populations in Calgary and Edmonton, their BBYO chapters coordinate extensively. While Edmonton has no Montreal bagel shops, Calgary has four, which is why their shipment was much smaller, explains Barry Pechet, who was responsible for the BBYO bagels in Calgary.
“A lot of people felt, ‘It’s a Montreal bagel from Montreal,’ so it has that novelty aspect to it,” he said.
In Calgary, drive-through pickup was offered at the Jewish Community Centre.
Pechet said the funds raised in Calgary will go toward BBYO’s recreation, educational and community service programming, “and allow us to pump in more money so we can have a better output of our programs in frequency and quality.”
Vineberg said another fundraiser is planned, following this one’s success, possibly in the spring.