A Note from the Publisher: The Bridge is Now Completed

Dec. 23, 2020

The Canadian Jewish Record was born at a fraught time in the history of Canadian Jewish journalism. Our lofty goal in April 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, was to be a bridge between the recently shuttered Canadian Jewish News and its hoped-for return.

Despite nay-sayers who predicted that our fledgling news/opinion service would stand little chance of success, we persevered and became exactly what we strived for: An outlet for Canadian Jews to receive information of Jewish interest, news that touched both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, and opinion from all sides of the Jewish thinking world.

We did all this, as they say, on a hope and a prayer. A few Jewish philanthropists donated some start-up funds. We developed a utilitarian but ultimately well-liked platform, and then began to ask Canadian Jewish journalists, many of whom were out of work because of COVID, if they would write for us…pro bono. And without hesitation, many did.

Some of the top names in Canadian Jewish journalism gave of their time and considerable talent to help create and sustain the CJR. Co-founder Ron Csillag (I was the other) took on the onerous responsibility of editor. He worked tirelessly, up to nine hours a day, to make sure our content read professionally, was properly edited, and error free. He assigned stories, sought out commentators, got pitches almost daily, and dealt with spokespeople, flacks, and the odd irate reader.

Zack Babins was our techie. He ensured that our daily allotment of stories and columns were posted to our website and on social media, and did so with unfailing good cheer. Zack was also among our stable of new young writers who gave the CJR a fresh tone. More on this later.

Barbara Silverstein used her vast knowledge of food and cooking to produce one of the most popular items on our site: a weekly blog that highlighted recipes, often timed to coincide with Jewish holidays, and goings-on in the worlds of local eateries, world-class chefs, and cooking classes.

Michael Marmur of Pinpoint National Photography was our photo editor. He ensured that every picture you saw on our site was fresh, crisp and uniform. Irv Osterer was our talented graphics editor who designed our unique banner and all other sketches and graphic illustrations.

Carol Elman helped balance the books. Her competency with numbers and dollars kept us in the plus column, while lawyer Jordan Cohen took care of legal affairs, ensuring that i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

Suanne Kelman, retired from 21 years of teaching at Ryerson University’s journalism department, and Josh Tapper, a former reporter for the Toronto Star, currently completing a PhD, rounded out our editorial board with sage advice.

And then there were our columnists. It’s no secret that Jews are rarely speechless, and our opinion writers covered the waterfront – left, right and centre. They included well-known writers and pundits like Dahlia Lithwick of Slate and MSNBC fame; Canadian columnist Andrew Cohen; and McGill University professor and international pundit Gil Troy.

It was unavoidable that some readers would decry the opinions the CJR carried (but did not necessarily endorse). Other praised us for opening the opinion pages to a diverse array of viewpoints – refreshing for a Jewish publication, but frankly easier if there are no donors or advertisers to offend.

That was the other thing: The CJR did not have advertising to clutter the site. We made an early decision not to accept any, despite synagogues, organizations and even governments seeking to advertise. Monetizing the site was not in the cards.

One of the really beautiful aspects of the CJR was the chances it gave to young and aspiring writers. The opportunity to submit one’s own creations to a professional editor and become published for the first time can make young hearts sing. Old ones, too.

Speaking of singing, one of our most popular columns was “On the Record” by David Eisenstadt, who provided deep dives into the worlds of often little-known Canadian Jewish musicians.

“Rabbinic Reflections” from Ilana Krygier Lapides was one of our more popular regular reads. By the time you read this, Ms. Lapides will be days away from being ordained as Rabbi Lapides.

Many of our weekly editorials were reprinted in other Jewish publications, as well as the National Post and the Toronto Star.

Much gratitude to each and everyone who made the CJR their success and gave Canadian Jewry news, opinion and information during a very difficult time. It was a labour of love and a deep chesed, an experiment that could only happen in a Jewish community like Canada’s.

It was a good run and we are all proud of the part we played keeping Jewish news and opinions alive. As we hoped, The CJN has returned. The bridge work is done and we can finally rest. We wish CJN editor Yoni Goldstein and his team hatzlacha, and hope that some of those who found their Jewish writing chops in the CJR will find a new home at the CJN.

We are indeed all Am Yisroel. We thank you for joining us on this journey and look forward to reading the new CJN with you.

– Bernie Farber

On the Record: Canadian Jewish Musicians of Note

Zal Yanovsky (Dec. 19, 1944 – Dec. 13, 2002): Guitarist, Co-Founder, Lovin’ Spoonful, Chef, Restaurateur, Cookbook Author

Aug. 14, 2020 – By DAVID EISENSTADT

Just ahead of the COVID onslaught, three of the four remaining members of the Lovin’ Spoonful reunited on a Glendale, California stage for the first time in two decades. The original quartet last appeared together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Missing on stage that evening was their Canadian Jewish co-founder, Zalman (Zal) Yanovsky, who’d died 18 years earlier.

Zalman (Zal) Yanovsky

During my university years, this 1960s band got lots of airplay and regularly topped the charts with memorable tunes like Daydream, Do You Believe In Magic?, Nashville Cats, Rain On The Roof, Summer In The City and You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice. 

A rock music icon and fashion trendsetter, Yanovsky was the group’s conspicuous showman who wore cowboy hats and fringed jackets, a style emulated by Sonny Bono, David Crosby and Johnny Rivers.

The Toronto-born son of political cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky (his mother died while he was still a child), Zal was a self-taught guitarist and folk singer. He was taught to play the banjo at Camp Naivelt by Jerry Gray, who founded the Travellers.

A high school dropout who played the Toronto coffee house scene starting at age 16, Yanovsky moved to Israel, where he worked on a kibbutz and later as a Tel Aviv street busker.

He returned to Toronto and hooked up with Denny Doherty who invited him to join his folk-blues combo, the Halifax Three. Doherty, later a member of the Mamas and the Papas, invited Yanovsky to play with that group and the future “Mama” Cass Elliot in the Mugwumps, as reported in Rolling Stone.

Yanovsky moved to Greenwich Village and teamed with another talented guitarist, John Sebastian, who told Rolling Stone, “He could play like Elmore James, he could play like Floyd Cramer, he could play like Chuck Berry. He could play like all these people, yet he still had his overpowering personality. Out of this we could, I thought, craft something with real flexibility.”

Then came bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler, and the Lovin’ Spoonful, with Sebastian as lead singer, was launched.

So how did they choose their name? According to rocknrollmusichistory.com, it came from a line in a Mississippi John Hurt song, Coffee Blues, in which Hurt paid tribute to Maxwell House coffee, “which is so good, he only needs one spoonful, which he refers to as ‘my lovin’ spoonful.’”

The group’s first single was Do You Believe In Magic, a Top 10 hit in 1965. As a string of catchy tunes followed, the Spoonful challenged the Beatles and other British Invasion groups’ chart dominance.

But trouble was brewing in the band when, in 1966, Boone and Yanovsky were booked on pot charges in San Francisco, but escaped prosecution by turning in their dealer. In mid-1967, Yanovsky was deported back to Canada but was ostracized and quit the foursome.

He played guitar with Kris Kristofferson and in 1969, co-produced an album, Happy Sad, with his Lovin’ Spoonful replacement Jerry Yester. He recorded a solo album, Alive And Well In Argentina in 1971.

Fed up with music business politics in the early ‘70s, he took a shot a TV production, but ultimately found new career success as a chef and restaurateur. In 1979 he renovated a late 19th century livery stable, named it Chez Piggy, and opened a second restaurant, Pan Chancho Bakery, in 1994. Both would be hotspots in Kingston, Ont. Yanovsky’s business partner was his second wife, Rose Richardson. He also wrote the Chez Piggy Cookbook in 1998 which became a favourite for music and culinary fans.

Just six days before his 58th birthday, Yanovsky died of a heart attack. His daughter, Zoe, whose mother is actress Jackie Burroughs, has owned and operated both restaurants since 2005.

In memoriam, John Sebastian told Rolling Stone that “Spoonful reunions without Zal Yanovsky are more like get-togethers. (Whenever we do them), it will be a blast, but a reunion would be a misnomer.”

David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.