CJAD’s 75th Anniversary: A Jewish Broadcaster Looks Back

Dec. 15, 2020

By SIDNEY MARGLES

As CJAD Radio in Montreal marks 75 years in operation, I’ve had the opportunity to look back some 60-plus years to when I broke into the broadcasting scene.

I began on a part-time basis while at university in 1957 and never looked back. I became a newswriter, and was promoted to the first fulltime on-the-scene reporter, with a radio-equipped car I used to cover any and all events, from fires to floods to disasters and politicians.

I was not the first Jew to sign on with CJAD. In fact, Lee Fortune from Ottawa had been a mid-afternoon fixture before leaving for the CBC, but he was not as identifiable as I, for I did not change my name as many broadcasters, even Gentiles, did in those days.

But did being Jewish carry any advantage or disadvantage?

Truthfully, I never did notice if ethnicity or religion was a disadvantage, but it did prove beneficial in dealing with leaders of the Jewish community, who sometimes saw me as someone with an entrée to government.

And while, over more than 25 years, I did interview two Israeli prime ministers – Golda Meir and Menachem Begin – as well as Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, among hundreds of leading personalities, I think what stood out the most was my ability to bring together Montreal’s Jewish leadership and Montreal’s civic leaders for an important community undertaking. And it gave me great satisfaction.

It dates back to the 1960’s, when there was a pressing need for seniors’ housing in the Jewish community. One day, I received a telephone call from Gordon Brown, who asked me to a meeting with other ranking officers of Allied Jewish Community Services, the predecessor to Federation CJA.

There was a piece of land owned by the community in the Cote-des-Neiges/Snowdon area which was suitable for the project, but the civil servants did not like the project. It would be to the rear of housing along Cote Ste. Catherine Road, and the proposed height adjacent to those two-storey homes was an obstacle.

So I spoke to the then Chairman of the Montreal Executive Committee, Lucien Saulnier, and arranged for him to receive Brown to discuss the issue. The meeting was obviously fruitful. Today, the two Bronfman buildings for seniors north of Cote Ste. Catherine Road between Westbury and Lemieux are visible testimonials to that effort, not as high as originally proposed, but still most satisfactory at the time to meet community needs.

By the mid-1960s, my workload had evolved. As a reporter with a regular weekly program featuring Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau and Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, I added a supervisory position in news. So, CJAD management agreed to hire, first Rick Leckner, and later, Peter Shurman, also as reporters. We became known as the J.M.S., or Jewish Mobile Squad.

I can safely say that the CJAD reputation for news coverage was second to none in Montreal in those years due to the three of us, and especially during difficult times, culminating in the October Crisis in 1970.

I eventually moved to Ottawa for 10 years, heading our news network, building a new radio station, and coming back to Montreal to be President of Standard Sound Systems; Leckner took over CJAD helicopter traffic duties; while Shurman moved into management, ending up for a time as head of the radio division for the parent company, Standard Broadcasting in Toronto.

I was considered a pioneer, and as a result, was named to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Other Jewish voices have come and gone over the years at CJAD, but we had laid the foundation


Sidney Margles
Sidney Margles

Sidney Margles is a retired award-winning broadcaster whose career dates back to the 1950s. He was based primarily in Montreal but spent 10 years in Ottawa and could be heard over the years on many Canadian radio stations through Standard Broadcast News, a service that no longer exists. He has written the history of Canadian news broadcasting between 1960 and 2000 for the Canadian Communications Foundation and is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Hamilton’s Sandi Seigel is New President of Na’amat Canada

Oct. 26, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

When Sandi Seigel walked into her first Na’amat meeting 20 years ago, she was looking for a way to make friends in a new city.

Sandi Seigel

The Toronto native had just moved to Hamilton with her new husband and she was looking for a Jewish women’s organization in which to get involved. Now, the Hamilton pediatrician and McMaster University medical school professor has been elected National President of the organization.

Na’amat – the name is an acronym of the Hebrew words meaning Movement of Working Women and Volunteers – is one of the largest agencies providing social services in Israel.

Like many service groups, Seigel said, Na’amat is facing a tough challenge in convincing women to spend some of their scarce free time on its projects. But the need is so great, she’s determined to see the group survive and thrive.

“It has been challenging for a long time to get people involved,” Seigel said in an interview with the CJR. “That has been a challenge for all of us, and even more so during the COVID crisis. The needs we’re trying to meet, from a social standpoint, are just huge.”

Na'amat Canada

Founded almost 100 years ago, according to the history recorded on the group’s national website, Na’amat was known as Pioneer Women in its early days and was dedicated to the idea that women could work with men in equality and help other women improve their families and society.

In the early years, Na’amat women – including a young, idealistic American who took the name Golda Meir – worked in the fields, factories and communal kitchens of Israel, even before it was a state. Today it is the largest women’s movement in Israel, filling a gaping social need government simply can’t meet.

It is the largest provider of daycare centres in the country, with over 200 facilities; operates women’s shelters; provides scholarships for women in gender studies and the sciences; and campaigns against domestic violence.

“We’re filling a gap with services that just wouldn’t exist if Na’amat wasn’t there,” Seigel said. “The scholarships we provide go to women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to continue their education.”

In addition to its work in Israel Na’amat chapters across Canada are active in such efforts as providing school supplies for the children of women in shelters.

Na’amat is also active in the field of domestic violence – a problem Seigel said has become especially troubling during COVID-related lockdowns.

Before moving onto Na’amat’s national stage, Seigel was co-president of the Hamilton chapter. Nationally she served two terms as chair of the National Education Committee, and has been national vice-president and chair of the Na’amat Canada National Development Committee.

She has also participated in a solidarity mission to Israel, has headed the Israel leadership seminar, and has represented Na’amat Canada in Israel at the Na’amat International and World Zionist Organization meetings.

Professionally, Seigel is a general pediatrician practicing at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and McMaster Children’s Hospital.  She has cared for HIV-positive patients and children and infants of HIV-positive mothers.

She has also been involved in assessing children for possible abuse and caring for premature infants.

She served as deputy chief of pediatrics at St. Joseph’s Healthcare for 13 years and was the 2020 recipient of the Sister Joan O’Sullivan award.

Her husband, Joel Yellin, is a Hamilton native. They have three sons, Samuel, Jonathan and Robert.