Sukkot Will be Very Different With Montreal on High COVID Alert

Police Visits of Synagogues Were ‘Respectful’, Jewish Schools Report More COVID Cases

Oct. 2, 2020

By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL— There will be no sukkah-hopping in Montreal this year as the city and surrounding region began a 28-day partial lockdown on Oct. 1 in an attempt to stem a rapid increase in new COVID cases.

Having visitors at one’s home, whether indoors or out, is prohibited during this period of the province’s highest alert, colour-coded red, in force until Oct. 28.

This means participation in any Sukkot celebrations is limited to those residing at that address. No guests allowed.

Police have been granted extra powers to enforce the law. While they are not permitted to make random checks, they can call at homes where they have reason to believe a violation is taking place, Premier François Legault said.

If the occupant does not provide access, police can obtain a “remote warrant” quickly to enter the premises.

Simchat Torah festivities will also be curtailed, as synagogues – as with all houses of worship – continuing with permission to admit a maximum of 25 people at a time.

Celebrations cannot be held in outdoor public spaces, like parks, either, as social gatherings there are banned as well. Those residing in the red zone are also dissuaded from moving activities to an “orange” zone, the alert level just below red – the Laurentians, for example.

Montreal was designated “orange” on Sept. 20, just as Rosh Hashanah was concluding, meaning synagogues were suddenly subject to the 25-person limit, slashed from the socially-distanced 250 that had been in place since Aug. 3 for all houses of worship.

Some synagogues cancelled in-person Yom Kippur services entirely, including Montreal’s largest, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, which provided members with a guide to observance at home, a variety of pre-recorded online offerings, and a livestreamed Neilah ceremony. Most Montreal synagogues are Orthodox and could not use technology during the holy days.

Rabbi Poupko

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron, said the community worked with the police before the holidays to ensure they would comply with the rules.

The 25-person limit, of which he had been critical, is more flexible than initially understood, Rabbi Poupko said. More than one group of up to 25 at one time is possible if synagogues have rooms with a separate and exclusive access to the street, he explained. Curtains, he added, cannot be barriers.

Large tents have also extended capacity. Weddings and funerals, wherever they take place, must also keep to the 25 threshold. (Reception halls are closed during these 28 days.)

This co-operation worked well, Rabbi Poupko told the CJR, and several synagogues in Cote St. Luc, Hampstead and Outremont were visited by police on Yom Kippur, but in a “respectful and dignified” manner.

“From everyone I’ve spoken to, the experience was very positive,” he said.

Rabbi Poupko rejected a claim by Berel Solomon, in a video posted online, that Solomon’s shul, the Beth Chabad Cote St. Luc, was “raided” by police near the end of services, and worshippers were “forced to disband” and chased on the street by police cruisers.

Solomon said all the guidelines were followed, and “no explanation” was given by police for the intervention. He claims at least seven other synagogues were “raided,” and deplored that, since the start of the pandemic, the Jewish community has been subject to “unprecedented harassment by the media and police.”

Rabbi Poupko would not comment publicly on the specifics of this incident, but said Solomon’s characterizations do not align with other evidence.

Meanwhile, four more Jewish day schools have reported at least one case of COVID among students or staff, although none have closed. The latest is Beth Rivkah Academy for girls, which informed parents that two students who are sisters tested positive and, as a result, all students in a grade 3 and a grade 5 class were sent home.

Earlier, Solomon Schechter Academy, an elementary school, reported a case among an unidentified staff member, but judged the risk of transmission “very low” as that person always wore a mask.

Yechiva Yavné told parents a janitor’s positive test also posed little risk to students because he did not have contact with them.

Similarly, Hebrew Academy informed its community that an infected “individual” in its high school “poses a minimal risk to students and faculty.” Parents were asked to monitor any symptoms exhibited by their children.

Additionally, the Yaldei School for children with special needs identified one case.

All schools are acting in co-operation with the Montreal public health department.

Herzliah High School, the first Jewish school affected by the virus, along with its elementary Talmud Torah, is scheduled to reopen Oct. 5 after a two-week closure necessitated by a significant outbreak among students.

As of Oct. 1, covidecolesquebec.org, which crowdsources and verifies information from parents, schools and others, listed 642 schools in the province that have had at least one confirmed case since the start of the academic year.

Montreal Bagels Bring in Bucks for Alberta BBYOs

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.

Cookies for Mental Health: Toronto Tween Delivers

Sept. 21, 2020 – By SUSAN MINUK

Mia Adler has reason to smile. This summer, the 11-year-old delivered cookies to raise awareness for mental health.

Mimi (her nickname) created “Mimi For Mental Health” in preparation for her bat mitzvah on Nov. 7 this year. Her business motto: Be kind. Be empathetic. Be brave.

Mia Adler, Mimi For Mental Health

Mia’s cookie venture has raised $4,226 in support of Mental Health Empowerment Day (MHED), a venture that promotes mental health education, de-stigmatization and builds community.

“Mia’s passion for helping others proves that young people can drive change,” lauded Leanne Matlow, founder of MHED.

The cookie project launched on July 30. And with Mia’s final delivery on Erev Rosh Hashanah, her “Rosh rush” drove record-breaking sales: More than 78 dozen cookie orders.

Mimi For Mental Health cookie delivery

As the Grade 7 student at Humewood Community School explained, “I want people to be happy, especially during times like this [pandemic]. I’ve had mental health issues and I know how important it is to let someone know you care. Receiving a box of cookies can change a person’s perspective on everything. It can put a smile on someone’s face and can make them feel loved.”

To make that happen, she participated in Project Give Back, which started in 2007 to inspire young students to develop meaningful relationships with their community and become global-minded, compassionate citizens. Mia’s cookie project was a special Project Give Back initiative geared to her bat mitzvah.

Mia partnered with Sam Ginsberg, a 15-year old CHAT student who runs Sam’s Sweet Creations. Sam developed the mouthwatering cookie recipes.

“I love baking,” Sam enthused. “I love Mia’s cause and I thought it was really cool to partner with another youth.”

From the start of the pandemic, Sam has been delivering baked goods to front-line workers and shelters, donating 20 percent of his profits to charities.

“So being involved in Project Give Back was a good fit for me.”

After rigorous taste-testing, it was decided that Chocolate Chunk, Reverse Double White Chocolate Chunk, and S’Mores would be available for $36 a dozen.

Mia created a social media presence, providing an online form for people to order the treats, with 100 percent of sales supporting MHED, less costs for the cookies.

“Once we knew the numbers of the orders for the week, we would pay Sam so he can purchase his ingredients and for his labour and time,” explained Mia’s mother, Marnie Adler.

“The rest of the money was put aside into a big pot that eventually would go to MHED. Several people who received the cookie boxes reached out to let Mia know how special it was and then they paid it forward the next week, [by ordering more],” her mother said.

For the first week, Sam baked at home in a small kitchen with a single oven. “That order was 27 dozen,” he recalled. “It took about 12 hours. As the orders grew, my aunt let me use her house with double ovens.”

For the final bake, Sam found a commercial kitchen that donated space. He can now bake 34 dozen at a time.

With cookies typically in hand by midweek, Mia’s work began.

“On Thursday mornings, I would wake up and organize the cookies and put them in boxes,” she said. “I had to write names on sticky notes so I wouldn’t lose track of all the boxes and their addresses. I also wrote handwritten cards included with each box.”

Fridays were cookie delivery day. Father and daughter would leave their Toronto home at 10 a.m. for the four-hour journey that included Etobicoke, the Beaches, Richmond Hill, and Maple.

Marnie gushed with pride about her daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“Mia knows how good it feels to give back and how important it is – and that’s what this was all about.”

Concurred Matlow: “Together, Mia and Sam have demonstrated that anything is possible and the future is in good hands.”

Visit www.mhed.ca to learn more about mental health resources.

Have a Happy, Healthy and Delicious New Year

Sept. 18, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Rosh Hashanah begins this evening and I would imagine that many readers have already prepared most of the special dishes they’ll be serving this weekend.

With COVID looming large throughout the country, preparing and serving holiday meals will entail safety logistics. I’ll still be celebrating the holiday with my siblings and their children, as we do every year, but we’ll be eating outdoors.

There will be no chicken soup this year but we’ll still be eating brisket, as is customary. In this issue, I’ll be sharing American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov’s recipe for Coffee Braised Brisket, which people may want to try on Sukkot.

Chef Solomonov, author of the award-winning cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, did a Rosh Hashanah food demo for Israel Bonds’ Chef’s Table last week.

I attended three virtual Jewish communal events with Solomonov this summer. Despite winning seven prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards, the culinary equivalent of the Academy Awards, Solomonov is very gracious and humble about his success.

Mangoes have been very plentiful this summer so I am including, cookbook author Daniella Silver’s recipe for Fresh Mango Salad. It’s a quick and simple recipe and a perfect side dish for a holiday supper or lunch. The recipe comes from Silver’s first book, The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular Wholesome Family Recipes, co-written with the late, great food maven, Norene Gilletz.

It’s not too early to think about Break Fast dishes for Yom Kippur. Award-winning food author Amy Stopnicki of Kosher-Taste fame has generously shared her recipe for Spinach Feta Quiche. Follow Stopnicki @amyskoshertaste on Instagram.

MY MOM’S COFFEE BRAISED BRISKET Michael Solomonov

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely ground coffee
1½ tbsp (20 ml) ground cardamom
1½ tbsp (20 ml) ground black cardamom
1 tbsp (15 ml) plus 1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
1 brisket (first cut, about 4 pounds (2 K)
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup (90 ml) tomato paste 
1½ cups (375 ml) dried apricots
2 cups (500 ml) brewed coffee
8 large eggs in their shells
Grated fresh horseradish

Two days before serving: Mix the ground coffee, cardamom, black cardamom, and salt in a small bowl and rub into the brisket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

One day before serving: Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Set a rack inside a roasting pan. Put the brisket on the rack and roast until the exterior has browned, about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 more minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the roasting pan with the rack removed. Add the brisket, dried apricots, brewed coffee, and eggs in their shells. 

Add enough water to bring the liquid halfway up the side of the brisket. Cover the pan tightly with two layers of foil, return to the oven, and braise for 1 hour.

Remove the eggs, gently tap them all over to make a network of small cracks, and return them to the braise. Continue cooking until the brisket shreds easily with a fork, about 3 more hours.

Let the brisket cool in its braising liquid, then refrigerate overnight.

To serve: Preheat the oven to 350°F (189°C). Slice the cold brisket, return to the braising liquid, and bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes. Spoon the broth over the meat. 

Serve with the peeled eggs and grated fresh horseradish. Makes 8 servings

FRESH MANGO SALAD Daniella Silver

5 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into long narrow strips
½ cup (125 ml) thinly sliced red onion
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp (30 g) chopped fresh basil

Dressing

¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1 tbsp (15 ml) brown sugar or honey
½ tsp (3 ml) kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine mangoes with the red onion, parsley, and basil. 

Dressing: combine dressing ingredients in a glass jar; seal tightly and shake well.

Add the dressing to the sliced mangoes and onions and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Makes 6–8 servings

SPINACH FETA QUICHE Amy Stopnicki

6 eggs
½ cup (125 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) grated mozzarella cheese
3 cups (750 ml) baby spinach, cleaned and checked, chopped 
1/3 cup (90 ml) feta cheese
1/3 cup (90 ml) pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
1 ready-to-bake frozen deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350°F (150°C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cheese, spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the frozen pie shell.

Bake for 35– 45 minutes or until set. Makes 6–8 servings

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT 

An occasional series on how Jewish-owned restaurant and food operations in Canada are faring during the pandemic. 

Community Spotlight is an occasional “Kitchen Talk” feature on how Canadian Jewish food entrepreneurs and chefs are faring during COVID. The pandemic has hit many restaurants and other food businesses very hard.

This week, we shine a light on Lev Levine, 30, owner of the popular restaurant, Lox + Schmear at 1030 St. Clair Ave. W. in Toronto, which is offering its in-house smoked fish despite COVID.

You could call the St. Clair West-Oakwood Ave. area in Toronto “Bagel Central,” as there are three bagel businesses located near each other: Lox + Schmear (1030 St. Clair Ave. W.); What a Bagel! (827 St. Clair Ave. W.) and the Primrose Bagel Company (317a Oakwood Ave.)

Lev Levine, 30, owner of Lox + Schmear, set up the first of the three bagel shops in this mid-town Toronto neighbourhood, now home to a large number of young Jewish families.

Lev Levine

It was three years in June that they opened their shop, Levine said in a recent telephone interview.

Asked about the close proximity of their competitors, Levine replied with a laugh, “As long as people are eating bagels lox and cream cheese, I’m happy. Of course, I’m happiest when they choose my product.”

Lox + Schmear specializes in small batch fish smoking, they said.

“All the fish is smoked in house. It’s the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever have. It’s really our specialty. We do the whole process. It’s all hand-sliced. There are no additives or preservatives, no artificial flavouring or colourings.”

Before the pandemic, Lox + Schmear was a popular neighbourhood hub known for its loaded cream cheese and lox sandwiches, served on Montreal-style bagels. Levine also offered soups and salad, but the smoked salmon was “king,” they said.

However, in March, Levine closed the restaurant and pivoted to online sales: https://loxandschmear.square.site

While Levine is no longer preparing their famous bagel sandwiches, they’re selling all the ingredients so their customers can make their own.

Along with bagels and cream cheeses, there’s an impressive selection of hot smoked salmon and trout options, as well as Levine’s ever popular house-smoked lox and pastrami-cured smoked lox.

Levine takes orders during the week and the clientele pick up their food on Sunday mornings.

“It’s been going quite well,” they said. “It gave people a sense of comfort when the pandemic started that we were doing all the [food] prep in a safe and thoughtful way.”

Levine grew up eating bagels, lox and cream cheese and this was their preferred dish for breaking the Yom Kippur fast.

CULINARY CALENDAR:

Sept. 22, 2 p.m.: On Lox and Life: The Forward is sponsoring a conversation about all-things-appetizing with Len Berk, the last Jewish lox slicer at Zabar’s, and Melissa Clark, the New York Times food writer and cookbook author. This talk will be moderated by Jodi Rudoren, editor-in-chief of the Forward https://forward.com/culture/452758/september-22-on-lox-and-life/

Sept. 23, 11 a.m. Bernard Betel Cooking Club: Prepare healthy make-ahead breakfasts and snacks with Maria Lindgren https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_

Trudeau visits Ottawa Kosher Food Bank in advance of High Holidays

Sept. 17, 2020 – By SHAKED KARABELNICOFF

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commended the Jewish community for its strength and unity as he joined volunteers in preparing Rosh Hashanah bundles at the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank on Thursday morning (Sept. 17).

Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister McKenna and MP Anita Vandenbeld package honey and apples ahead of Rosh Hashanah at the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank. September 17, 2020.

“There is nothing if not adaptability and resilience from the Jewish community over the centuries and millennia,” Trudeau said to the mask-wearing group of community members who gathered at Ottawa’s Kehillat Beit Israel Congregation before heading to the food bank in the same building.

“As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the spirit of helping each other out and being there for one another is more important than ever before,” added Trudeau. “In the midst of a global pandemic, I can’t think of a better moment to talk about tikkun olam and the need to really reflect on what each of us can do to contribute to a better tomorrow.”

Trudeau was joined by Ottawa-area Liberal MPs including Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna (Ottawa Centre) and Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West-Nepean) as they packaged apples and honey with a group of six volunteers.

The food bank, which serves around 100 families each month, has seen increased demand due to the impact of COVID, explained manager Dahlia Milech. That’s why volunteers are more important now than ever, she said.

(L-R) Prime Minister Trudeau, Rabbi Eytan Kenter, president Judah Silverman, KBI Executive Director Rena Garshowitz at the Kehillat Beit Israel. September 17, 2020.

The increased need matched with the new reality of COVID has meant the food bank had to provide an array of new services, such as home-delivery to those without a vehicle.

“We have about 30 to 40 deliveries every month and it’s all volunteers doing that,” Milech told Trudeau, Vandenbeld, and McKenna as they toured the facility.

It’s the people who were suffering before the pandemic who are hurting even more now, explained Vandenbeld.

“The way the community is coming together to meet the needs [of the food bank] and help those that are suffering more is incredibly important,” said Vandenbeld. “The Jewish community has always had a strong tradition of giving and charity… It’s an example to the rest of the community.”

As synagogues across the province await Premier Doug Ford’s announcement about the potential rollback of social gathering limits, which will affect High Holiday services, Trudeau had an uplifting message for the Jewish community.

“How things are going to happen this weekend is still up in the air,” he said. “But we will adapt and be together. What I see here, and what you have demonstrated throughout these past months, is extraordinarily important to Ottawa and to the rest of the country and the world.”

The underlying slogan of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Emergency Campaign, Michael Polowin, Chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, told Trudeau, was that “the choices we make individually in our community today, will define the community that we will have tomorrow.”

In response, Trudeau light-heartedly referred to next week’s much anticipated Speech from the Throne.

“Well it sounds like you guys have seen a draft of the Throne Speech!” Trudeau exclaimed. “We’ll be talking about a lot of those messages.”


Shaked Karabelnicoff reports on a range of subjects including religious affairs, politics, diaspora Jewry, and Israeli life and culture. Born in Jerusalem, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she studied Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

CJR Rosh Hashanah Message: Believing is Seeing

Sept. 17, 2020 – By RABBI BARUCH FRYDMAN-KOHL

There is a Hebrew expression that goes far beyond the hope for a shanah tovah. It is, “May the old year with troubles end. Let the new year, with blessings, begin.” I hope that this will be the case for us, as individuals and families, for our community, our country, the Jewish people and the world. 

Even with 20/20 eyesight, none of us could have anticipated the past year. But I want to suggest a vision for 5781 based on recent research in neuro-optics. Although every eye has a blind spot near the center of the visual field, the mind’s eye does not know its own gap. In the middle of our universe is a hole which the eye/brain duet transforms into a full image. The eye also transmits upside down images, which the brain turns 180 degrees, situating the external world upright, solid and safe, one in which we can stand with certainty.

You see, believing is seeing. What we think controls our perceptions.

Other studies indicate that our brains create mental models which determine what we see and want. If you are grieving, you see many others who are sad. If you are in love, you see the world in a positive way. What we value floods our vision. We see what we believe.

A key word for the Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah is the Hebrew root word ר-א-ה  (R-‘A-H), to see. Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber taught us that leading words, leitwörter, build “arcs of significant repetition.” The repeated occurrence of a root word adds significance to the narrative.

Seeing plays a role in both Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah. In Genesis 21, the selection for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Sarah initially sees Hagar’s son laughing, perhaps mockingly, and insists that the Egyptian slave-woman be banished with Avraham’s first-born son, to protect Yitzhak, the true heir. Hagar becomes a fugitive, fleeing to the wilderness.

In that uncertain and fearful place, Hagar despairs. She says, “let me not see the child die.” Encouraged by an angel-messenger, Hagar is told not to fear, not to lose sight, to take the child by the hand. Then, God opened her eyes and she saw a spring of water. The child is saved and receives a divine promise that he will become a great nation. And Hagar “called the Eternal One who spoke to her, You are El-Ro’i. God who sees me.”

The reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Genesis 22) begins with Avraham called to take Yitzhak to the mountain that God will have him see. After the boy is bound on the altar, an angel-messenger tells Avraham to stop, “do nothing to the boy, for I know that you have awe (a word play on see) for me.” Only then does Avraham see a ram, which will become the sacrifice. Avraham called that mountain Moriah, the place where God sees. In turn, he is told that his descendants will be innumerable; later he is instructed to see the stars.

In both narratives, Hagar and Avraham must open their eyes to see new possibilities, new opportunities, new realities. Only when they believe can they see.

Many of us have spent the past six months looking at screens. Many of us have had limited occasions to see and embrace family. Many of us have not seen our classrooms or offices. The Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah call us to look to the New Year with hope and vision. We don’t know what is before us, but we are called to believe that, like Hagar, we need not fear, we need not lose sight of one another.

Instead, we are called to take each other by the hand — really or virtually — and to go forward with hope that God will help us to see life differently and to make it better.

In his play, Back to Methuselah, George Bernard Shaw has the serpent in the Garden say to Eve, “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’” The snake slyly suggested the subversion of society. But the American political leader Robert F. Kennedy transformed those lines into a statement of hope and aspiration: “Some see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

This Rosh Hashanah, more than many others of the past, we are called to fill the blind spot of our vision, to reverse an upside down world. We are called to dream, to hope and to aspire. Believing is seeing. Let us believe that in this New Year we will see hesed, care and compassion, concern and cooperation. And then let us build that world.


Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl
Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl

Baruch Frydman-Kohl is Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto, and a Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem.

Editorial: May the New Year Bring Healing Stateside

Sept. 16, 2020 – As a New Year begins, it is time to take stock of the year we leave behind and determine what each of us can do to help shape a better world to come. Our tradition tells us that while we need not complete our work to effect change, we must not shirk from trying.

The Jewish year of 5780 has been the most challenging time since the end of the Second World War. Increases in world hunger, further climate damage, war, racial divide, hatred and extremism have all increased in numbers hardly imaginable even a year earlier.

And as this year draws to a close, the world is caught in the grip of a pandemic unseen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. All this happens at a time political leadership in many places seems incapable, unsympathetic, and in some cases, incompetent.

Nowhere is this in sharper relief than with our neighbours to the south. It used to be that no matter which of the two political parties held power, the office of president was revered and respected. With the ascension of Donald Trump, the United States has foundered to a knife’s edge of no return.

Never before have the American people elected a president as singularly unqualified for the job. In the last three and-a-half years, Trump has proven to be a racist and misogynist; an Islamophobe who tried to close the borders of his country to Muslims; has flirted with wild, extreme right-wing conspiracies; and divided his country to such an extent that ultra-conservative militias feel comfortable storming state legislatures with automatic weapons cocked and loaded.

During this presidency, we have seen protests in the streets in the wake of the shootings of numerous people of colour by police, while Republican Party apparatchiks seem oblivious to the fatal harm being caused by Trump.

And all this happens when COVID has taken the U.S. hostage, causing, as of this writing, more than 185,000 deaths, many of which were avoidable had the president acted sooner and had a plan. As we know by his own words in Bob Woodward’s latest book on Trump, Rage, the president was well aware of the dangers posed by the coronavirus, and openly lied to the American people in a hapless effort to avoid panic.

No less a light than Abe Foxman, former CEO of the most significant Jewish organization worldwide fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, broke his self-imposed decision not to endorse or be publicly partial to any political candidate. Said Foxman in an opinion piece he wrote this week for the Times of Israel, “When our democracy is weakened, and nativism is stoked, the rights of Jews and other minorities will be diminished too.” He continued, ominously: “It may not happen overnight, but it will happen, and Jews know this from bitter experience.”

Foxman was sharp and critical outlining his fear of Trump and his minions adding that the president has “given succor to bigots, supremacists, and those seeking to divide our society…he and his administration dehumanize immigrants, demonize the most vulnerable, and undermine the civility and enlightened political culture that have allowed Jews to achieve what no Diaspora community outside Israel can claim in two millennia.”

Those in our community who support Trump point to his support of Israel, seen in the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and peace deals with Arab nations. But it cannot simply be about Israel all the time. The danger Trump poses to the entire world requires us to look well beyond our personal backyard.

Everyone has a role to play in mitigating an American disaster. It’s in our interest as Canadians, as it’s clear that where America goes, so goes Canada. While it may seem there’s little we as individuals can do, we still have a voice. We have collectively many relatives and friends in the United States, and now is the time to speak out and implore them to fix their country before it is too late.

The coming year – 5781 – can be a harbinger of a new and changed society only if we recognize the work that must be done. We don’t have to finish it this coming year, but we all must engage.

Shana Tovah Umetukah to all.

Montréal Sait Faire: Cool Ways to Mark High Holidays

Sept. 15, 2020 – By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL — Six months into the COVID pandemic, Montreal Jewish organizations have come up with creative ways to observe the High Holidays outside the synagogue, while adhering to health regulations and making the best use of technology.

Chabad of Westmount got an early start with “To Life! An Epic Celebration of 5781” at a drive-in theatre held Sept. 14.

The sprawling Royalmount Drive-In Event Theatre opened this summer at the heavily-trafficked intersection of Décarie Boulevard and Highway 40, providing a venue for socially-distanced, open-air live entertainment.

The aim was “to life our spirits and celebrate the coming new year and the new hope it brings,” said Chabad director Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz.

Participants could stay in their car or sit beside it in chairs they brought, maintaining two-metre distancing for movements beyond that.

“To Life!” featured the eight-piece band Shtreiml and a performance by acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, which has been grounded since the start of the pandemic, and a pre-packaged dinner. There was also blowing of the shofar and song.

Jewish National Fund Montreal is also encouraging its supporters to prepare for the new year in a freilich way. It’s presenting a virtual wine tasting and live tour of the Golan Heights Winery in Israel on Sept. 16.

Participants can purchase packages of three, four or seven bottles of its Mount Hermon label vintages in advance to enjoy the tasting for real, and get a partial tax receipt.

Zoomed yoga and mindfulness are part of observance for Montreal Open Shul, a “post-denominational” pop-up project started by Rabbis Sherril Gilbert and Schachar Orenstein and Cantor Heather Batchelor that has been bringing inclusive, participatory Judaism to “unexpected places” like cafés, community centres and yoga studios since 2018.

Its High Holiday services and programs, all online, promise “more joy, less oy.”

The first-day Rosh Hashanah service is accompanied by live music with Fran Avni. On the second day, Orenstein, a certified instructor, leads a hatha yoga practice “through the lens of teshuvah” and a chanting service. Gilbert continues the theme of deep repentence during the Days of Awe through “centring practice.”

The sole in-person component is tashlich and shofar blowing at Beaver Lake on Mount Royal.

Following a Yom Kippur service, American musician, actor and Jewish studies instructor Anita Silvert present a “Bibliodrama” based on the Book of Jonah.

Two American rabbis, Jan Salzman and Mark Novak of the Jewish Renewal movement, join Gilbert and Orenstein for the concluding Yizkor and Neilah observances.

The Mile End Chavurah is also going almost entirely virtual. Founded 11 years ago, the grassroots, multi-generational community describes itself as “irreverently pious,” while seeking to re-imagine religious practice.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services are conducted by ritual leaders, singers and musicians, and aim to be as participatory as is possible with everyone at home.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, four options are offered: a one-day out-of-town retreat for contemplation and study that may involve yoga and nature walks; an apple-picking outing; an outdoor gathering in the city; or the online “Songs of Social Action,” when participants can sing songs on themes ranging from anti-racism to LGBTQ issues to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Museum of Jewish Montreal reports that the virtual cooking workshop on Moroccan Rosh Hashanah cuisine held on Sept. 13, hosted by its partner Wandering Chew, went well.

Ron Arazi of New York Shuk, an artisanal food purveyor specializing in Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine, showed viewers how to make such traditional holiday dishes as tanzeya, a stew of dried fruits, nuts and carmelized onions, and pain petri, an anise-flavoured challah.

Even the annual POP Montreal International Music Festival, which opens Sept. 23 in a hybrid in-person and virtual edition showcasing indie and alternative acts, is getting into the spirit of the season.

It closes Sept. 27 with “Alphabet of Wrongdoing: A Jewish Liturgical Redux,” a live-streamed performance by Daniela Gesundheit from Los Angeles. She sings her composition inspired by the High Holidays liturgy, adapted “for secular audiences and secular spaces.”

Gesundheit, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Toronto, is a cantor and serves Toronto’s LGBTQ-inclusive Congregation Shir Libeynu as musical director. She is also founder and lead vocalist of the indie-pop band Snowblink. 

“Alphabet of Wrongdoing,” which she created a few years ago, is derived from the Yom Kippur prayer Ashamnu during which one confesses sins of the past year – alphabetically.

Her composition draws on its “themes of reckoning, forgiveness, mortality, striving and atonement,” she says, which should resonate with everyone.

Website Marks Decade of Publishing Jewish Fiction

Sept. 11, 2020 – By RUTH SCHWEITZER

The online Jewish literary journal Jewish Fiction.net is marking a milestone at an auspicious time: It celebrates its 10th anniversary this Rosh Hashanah.

The website is the only English-language journal in the world, either print or online, devoted exclusively to publishing Jewish fiction.

Founded and edited in Toronto by the award-winning author Nora Gold, the site has published more than 400 works of fiction, both short stories and excerpts from novels, over the past decade.

Nora Gold
Nora Gold

The current issue includes 16 contributions, among them five translations from Hebrew and one from Hungarian. There’s also an excerpt from Nessa Rapopart’s latest novel, Evening, which unfolds while the protagonist, Eve, and her family sit shivah for her sister.

Also in the current issue is “The House of Cards,” a comic story by Leonid Newhouse about a young Jewish couple sharing a room in a former palazzo in Leningrad at the end of 1940s.

A crisis created by the advent of digital publishing a decade ago gave Gold the impetus to launch Jewish Fiction.Net. At the time, she recalled, many writers told her, “look, I have a novel in my drawer and the publishers have been telling me it’s really good, but hold on to it for 10 years, until the digital crisis is over.”

Jewish fiction, Gold noted, is seen as a niche market by publishers, who, when facing difficult times, tend to avoid anything seen as niche.

Gold said she’s been lucky as a writer to find publishers for her three books. Her collection of short stories, Marrow and Other Stories, won a Canadian Jewish Book Award, and one of her two novels, Fields of Exile, won a Canadian Jewish Literary Award.

Concerned that some amazing Jewish-themed fiction would be lost during the digital crisis, Gold got into publishing. Her professional background, in addition to being a writer, is in social work. “What happens for someone like me is, I thought in this case there’s a need, (so) I’ll fill the need,” she said.

With the help of an advisory council, she launched the Toronto-based journal, which publishes Jewish fiction from around the world and has readers in 140 countries.

Contributors have included such eminent authors as Elie Wiesel, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua, Savyon Liebrecht, and Aharon Megged, and some well-known Canadians, like George Jonas, Morley Torgov, and Chava Rosenfarb.

A rigorous editorial process ensures that the quality of the writing, whether by famous or lesser-known authors, remains high. Submissions are blind-reviewed by an editorial team of three, located in Toronto, Houston and Jerusalem. “I was able to get people with very strong backgrounds in literature, Judaism and/or Jewish literature,” Gold said.

Contributors are unpaid, and fewer than one out of 20 submissions is published, she said.

In the early days of the journal and today, Gold continues to be concerned about the divisiveness, hostility and polarization within the Jewish community. An activist and co-founder of the New Israel Fund of Canada, Canadian Friends of Givat Haviva, and JSpaceCanada, Gold created the journal with the hope that it would build bridges.

“There would be a place where writers and readers of all different perspectives and backgrounds could meet and be exposed to each other, because fiction is very powerful,” she said. “When you read fiction, your defences drop and you enter the inner world of the other person. And it changes you. It broadens the way you think about things.”

She also tries to build a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora by publishing Israeli writers in translation.

“The younger generation in the Diaspora is so estranged from Israel,” she said, adding she hopes exposure to fiction translated from Hebrew might give young people pause or some opening to experience Israel.

Gold decided to forgo a paywall for the site and make the stories accessible. While she was developing the idea for the journal, she remembers passing a group of Jewish kids at a bus stop near Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.

“I just had this whole fantasy about high school kids being able to read great works of fiction on the bus on the way home instead of playing computer games,” she said.

“I didn’t want even to be charging $5 per issue because there are people for whom that’s a barrier, either economic or psychological. I just wanted anyone to be able to read this journal. And not only Jews, of course. We have lots of non-Jewish readers.”

Menu Planning for Safe Holiday Gatherings

Aug. 21, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Kitchen Talk, the CJR’s weekly food blog. It’s hard to believe that Rosh Hashanah is less than one month away. Erev Rosh Hashanah falls on September 18.

It may be time to try out some new dishes for the High Holidays, but the pandemic may determine how we serve the meal and the type of dishes we prepare. We still have to be extra mindful of health and safety for any family get-togethers.

COVID certainly affected our Passover seders back in April. There were no dinner guests. In fact, the first seder was my introduction to Zoom.

At the time, social distancing was a relatively new experience. Now it’s a way of life, but at our home, we have eased up. My kids usually visit on Sunday and we eat dinner on the backyard deck.

We have had a few larger family get-togethers – all outdoors – for special occasions. I actually hosted a small wedding in my backyard.

We were very COVID-conscious for the simchah. The bride wore a beautiful white dress with a matching mask. We all wore masks and the intermingling of families was kept to a minimum.

We also served the food very carefully. Everyone got an individually boxed meal. It was beautifully presented, but simple.

I also recently attended a backyard birthday party. People arrived in shifts and every person received a box of party tidbits. It worked out well.

Now my siblings and I are hoping to celebrate Rosh Hashanah together with our children and grandchildren. We’ll all be outdoors and wearing masks. We’ll probably group in nuclear family units. For past celebrations, we set out the various mains and side-dishes on a table, and people served themselves. There will be no buffet this year. My sister and I will be plating or boxing the meal, which has yet to be planned.

I’m starting to experiment with dishes that might work for a holiday boxed meal. I’m thinking that a grain dish can easily be served in individual reusable containers. It can also look festive.

This weekend, I’m going to make Amy Rosen’s Kasha Pilaf, a modern take on the traditional dish. The recipe comes from her book, Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook.

I’m also going to prepare Balsamic Mushroom Salad, a recipe from another Amy. It’s from Kosher Taste: Plan Prepare Plate, by Amy Stopnicki @amyskoshertaste. The mushrooms can be served warm or at room temperature.

Of course I’ll have to try a dessert. The recipe for Chocolate Tahini Cookies looks really yummy. The recipe can be found in Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman’s book, The Living Kitchen: Healing Recipes to Support Your Body During Cancer Treatment and Recovery.

Cookies can easily be packaged and included in a boxed holiday meal. I can’t say the same for brisket.

KASHA PILAF – Amy Rosen

4 cups (1 L) vegetable stock
2 cups (500 ml) kasha
1 small bunch of kale, fibrous veins removed
1 cup (250 ml) walnut pieces
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups (1 L) button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped dill
Juice of one lemon
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp honey

In a medium pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil, then add the kasha. Bring the kasha back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes or until it is cooked. Fluff the kasha with a fork, then tip it into a large bowl to cool.

Rinse the pot and add about 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Cover the pot with a lid and steam for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Drain and chop the kale and add it to the big kasha bowl.

Wipe out the pot and toast the walnut pieces over medium heat for 3– 4 minutes, or until slightly browned. Add the nuts to the kasha. Drizzle the olive oil into the pot and sauté the red onions over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the quartered mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes more. Add the onion and mushrooms to the kasha, along with the chopped dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper and honey. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

BALSAMIC MUSHROOM SALAD – Amy Stopnicki

5 large Portobello mushroom caps, cleaned, checked and finely diced
½ pound (250 g) white mushrooms, cleaned, checked and finely diced
5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
¼ cup (60) ml olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)

Combine the mushrooms, garlic, shallots, oil, and vinegar in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until the mushrooms have shrunk to half their size. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. The mushrooms can be served warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CHOCOLATE TAHINI COOKIES – Tamara Green & Sarah Grossman

1 large egg
1½ cup (125 ml) tahini
½ cup (125 ml) blanched almond flour
½ cup (125 ml) coconut sugar
½ tsp (2½ ml) baking powder
One 3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate bar – 70% or higher – coarsely chopped
¼ tsp (1 ml) coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the egg, tahini, almond flour, coconut sugar, and baking powder. It will make a thick, sticky mixture. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Scoop about 1 tbsp (15 ml) of batter and place it on the baking sheet. Continue to do this, spacing each cookie about 2½ inches (10 cm) apart, until you have used all of the dough. If you prefer a larger cookie, scoop 2 tbsp 30 ml) per cookie.

Sprinkle cookies with the coarse salt. Bake in the oven for 8–9 minutes, watching carefully because they can burn easily. They should be just lightly browned on top. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer to a plate or container for storage. Makes 14 cookies

The cookies can be stored in a cool place in the pantry for two days or in the fridge for one week.


Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a long-time contributor to The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemaker’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Tablet Magazine.