Islam, Judaism, Christianity – Then and Now

This year I attended and filmed three lectures by three eminent visiting scholars at McGill University: David Nirenberg “Sibling Rivalries, Scriptural Communities: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”, Dr.Mordechai Kedar “Antisemitism in Modern Islamic and Arab Discourse”, and Christine Hayes “What is Divine about Divine Law?”.

David Nirenberg is a contemporary scholar fully conversant with Muslim, Jewish and Christian texts.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, was invited to speak at McGill by ISGAP. He spoke on Antisemitism in Modern Islamic and Arab Discourse.

Christine Hayes, a Yale University biblical scholar, shared her appreciation and comparison of ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish theology and law.

 

Experience the Holocaust through the eyes of a young girl

At the tender age of fifteen, Catherine Shvets was writing about the Shoah through the memories of her survivor grandmother. She addressed the important actions of nameless rescuers who saved a little girl, the theme of Shvets’s recent oeuvre , « Hitler et la fillette ».

Catherine Shvets, born in Quebec of Russian Jewish heritage, is today twenty-one years old and a second-year student in philosophy of education at McGill University.

Sonia Sarah Lipsyc interviews Catherine Shvets about her book “Hitler et la fillette” that brings us into the moving experience of the holocaust through the eyes of a young girl.

 

Yiddish: Un histoire de survie

Avant la Shoah /l’Holocauste, une majorité de Juifs en Europe parlait le yiddish. Apres la decimation des juifs pendant la deuxieme guerre mondiale, la culture yiddish – la langue, la littérature et le théâtre – a été pratiquement, entièrement détruite. Le sort de la langue yiddish était menacée et nul n’osait croire  que  le yiddish allait revoir le jour. Ce film, crée a Montréal, est un documentaire sur la survie du Yiddish après la Shoa par la route du theatre. Comprenant qu’est-ce que c’est de perdre sa culture, les Québécois français était des grands amis du theatre Yiddish a Montreal et cela est clairement démontré dans le film.

Ce documentaire se concentre sur trois générations d’artistes yiddish qui examine l’état du yiddish dans le 21e siècle.

Arrivé au Canada en 1950 avec deux jeunes filles, Dora Wasserman, a réussi à créer une troupe de théâtre yiddish composé d’étudiants et de leurs parents, de nombreux survivants de la Shoah. Son travail a été réalisé par sa fille Bryna Wasserman, qui a récemment présidé le cinquantième anniversaire de la Yiddish Dora Wasserman Troupe en lançant le tout premier Festival international de théâtre yiddish à Montréal.

Milena Kartowski, une étudiante de 23 ans qui a exploré la danse, le jazz et l’opéra à Paris, une petite-fille de survivants de la Shoah, a récemment découvert la langue yiddish et sa culture d’origine. Elle est «tombée en amour» avec le théâtre yiddish et sa chanson. Milena comprend non seulement l’essence de la culture yiddish, mais aussi l’importance de préserver une culture qu’elle craint être menacée d’extinction.

Voici Milena chantant à Montreal, 2011 à la Festival Internationale de Theatre Yiddish.

Il y a vingt-cinq ans, Shmuel Atzmon, un survivant de la Shoah, a commencé à faire renaître le théâtre yiddish en Israël. Il a pris les jeunes acteurs de langue hébraïque et leur a enseigné la langue yiddish, sa musique et sa culture. Il est maintenant responsable du yiddish Repertory Theatre à Tel Aviv,  appelé Yiddishspiel.

Abigail Hirsch est née dans une famille juive qui a survécu à la Shoah en Europe. Abigail est arrivé au Québec à l’age de cinq ans, finit l’école à Montréal et parle plusieurs langues, mais pas le yiddish. Elle écrit : « J’ai redécouvert la beauté et la profondeur du yiddish à travers le Festival international de théâtre yiddish qui a eu lieu à Montréal en 2009. J’ai été inspirée et je me suis lancée dans ce documentaire. Partout où je suis allé en Israël, aux États-Unis et au Canada, j’ai partagé ce projet avec des gens de toutes les langues, juifs et non-juifs, qui se sont montrés très intéressés par ce sujet.»

Jeudi, le 22 mai, le documentaire sera presenter sur le canal PBS Mountain Lake à neuf heure du soir.

Après avoir vu la bande-annonce, vous serez sans doute d’accord avec Abigail, comme c’est important de préserver le francais c’est aussi un projet important de continuer à faire des efforts pour préserver l’héritage yiddish pour le monde.

KlezKanada 2012

Klez Kanada

Klez Kanada is Quebec’s largest annual festival of Jewish/Yiddish culture and arts. Every year, musicians, Yiddishists, Jews, and non-Jews gather in the Laurentian Mountains at camp B’nai Brith for a week of inter-generational song, dance, and culture.

This year, I attended several very interesting lectures and was treated to numerous musical performances by a wide range of artists, both young and old, from all corners of the globe.

Here are a few of the photos from the festival.

 

(Photographer: Chris Zacchia)

 

Yiddish: a tale of survival is now on Amazon

The DVD of Yiddish: a tale of survival is now available from Amazon.com.

For those of you who have seen the documentary and were inspired by it, please write a review.

We are planning a DVD launch at L’Escalier, a vegetarian cafe, 552 St. Catherine St. West, second floor. Berri Uquam metro station.

Come to join in the fun (live entertainment) and learn something about Yiddish. Hope to see you there.

Sais-tu vraiment qui je suis?

Qui es tu?

This was a play created and performed by the collaboration of students from autistic and non autistic classes, and from two different schools, the students of L’École de la Magdeleine, La Prairie, and students from Herzliyah High School in Montreal.

The project was conceived by Helene Masse, teacher of autistic students at L’École de la Magdeleine and made possible by a grant from the Ministry of Education of Quebec.

The collaboration offered these students an excellent opportunity to discover each others talents and to uncover their different forms of self expression.

Below is a series of video compilations from the Project.


Une création collective mise en scène par Hélène Massé réalisée par des élèves autistes et non-autistes de l’école de La Magdeleine, La Prairie, et l’école Herzliah, Montréal. Une bonne occasion de découvrir les talents de ces adolescents, d’apprécier la richesse de ces projets regroupant des élèves de différentes cultures, de différentes religions et qui ont différentes manières d’être, de s’exprimer, de créer.

Après avoir découvert les réalités de la 2e  guerre mondiale et les génocides africains, des adolescents autistes se sont demandés « Que pouvons-nous faire devant tant d’horreur? »  « Nous pouvons au moins apprendre notre histoire pour ne pas se faire compter des histoires. » a dit Simon C. pendant un cours d’histoire. Puis ils ont fait un diaporama afin d’informer leurs camarades de ce qu’ils avaient découvert.  Ils ont  ensuite présenté  leur diaporama à La Conférence  des Droits de l’Enfant, organisée par  Human Promise au Centre Gelbert, à Montréal. Par la suite , ils ont correspondu avec les élèves de l’école Herzliah et  visité le Musée de l’Holocauste et la Maison Amérindienne. La pièce de théâtre “Qui es-tu?” a finalement est une création collective qui a pour d’éveiller les conscience sur l’importance de connaître l’Histoire et de faire des choix judicieux pour collaborer à un monde meilleur.

La pièce de théâtre Julien est un jeune homme sportif, aimable, sensible mais un peu insouciant. Myriam est intelligente, consciente mais manque de délicatesse avec les gens qui l’entourent. Tout au long de la pièce, les deux personnages apprendront à se connaître. Ils découvriront différentes réalités et leurs valeurs en partageant leurs idées et leurs rêves. Plusieurs personnages aussi spéciaux les uns que les autres, comme des extra-terrestres, Sherlok Holmes, Colombo, et différents personnages historiques, fictifs ou réels participent pour faire de cette pièce de théâtre un moment unique, où la magie, l’humour, la sensibilité, la connaissance et l’engagement sont au rendez-vous.

Voici quelques extraits de cette pièce de théâtre dont la durée est de une heure trente.

Sur la vidéo No 4 vous pourrez entendre un extrait du témoignage de M. André Michel, directeur de la Maison Amérindienne et surnommé le peintre des amérindiens et de M. Walter Absil, un survivant de l’Holocauste qui ont tous deux assister au spectacle.

37th Annual Montreal International Film Festival

Over Labor Day week, Montreal hosted the 37th edition of the Montreal World Film Festival.

This Year my own documentary film “Yiddish: A Tale of Survival” was selected to be screened.

From August 22 – September 2nd, the festival managed to screen over 400 films, most more than once. There were student film shorts, documentaries on every subject, and from all over the world. The subjects included the sequelae of war, of failed relationships and of ordinary relationships, epic stories of morality and immorality.

Based on a true story, “Life Feels Good”, a Polish film, by a new director Pierprzyca, captured three prizes at the festival: the grand prize awarded by judges, the public award as most popular of the festival, and the ecumenical award, based on artistic merit and Christian values. It is based on a true story about a disabled boy who is diagnosed as a “vegetable with no potential” at birth and how he it is uncovered when he is almost thirty years old that actually he is quite intelligent and aware of the world around him.

Another film that captured the audience’ fancy, L’autre maison/Another House was about two brothers involved with the care of their father, who has Alzheimers. The film tries to capture the interior world of the two brothers as they grapple with their own lives, their relationship to each other and to their father. Here too the filmmakers, who were present, shared that they brought their personal experience to bear on the script.

In a secular age, it appears that the cinema remains the pulpit of the people, sharing their joys and their woes. Even films that are not documentaries use the intimate knowledge of the filmmaker to tell moving and powerful stories.

Rosh Hashanah: Angst

Rosh Hashana is the season of Jewish angst. It is the Jewish New Year, a time when Jews are supposed to grapple with their own demons. It is a time for self assessment, for asking forgiveness from those we have harmed and making resolutions for the future.

Life however is not entirely in our hands and we reflect also on the fragility of life and ask for a new year of joy, good health and continued life, all the time knowing that none of us has any guarantees in this regard.

Our prayers meditate on the question “Who will be raised up, and who will be brought down? Who will live and who will die in this new year?” And this suspense is the suspense of life itself. And this is the drama of the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Holiday cycle to which we have to bring our mind and soul.

A friend sent me the following parody of New Years wishes.

May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs, and your stocks
not fall.

And may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest not rise.

May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber, and the Internal Revenue.

May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere during rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking space.

May this Yom Tov, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the Jewish New Year ahead.
May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them.
May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner, may your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity.

May you remember to say “I love you” at least once a day to your partner, your child, and your parent(s). You can say it to your secretary, your nurse, your butcher, your photographer, your hairdresser or your gym instructor,
but not with a “twinkle” in your eye.

May we live as intended, in a world at peace with the awareness of the beauty in every sunset, every flower’s unfolding petals, every baby’s smile and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous part of ourselves.

Bless you with every happiness, great health, peace and much love during the next year and all those that follow.

Wishing everyone a “Shana Tova Umetooka”: A good and sweet year to everyone.

L’shanah Tova to all of us.

Montreal World Film Festival screens Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

After a successful launch of “Yiddish: a tale of survival” at the New York City International Film Festival, the documentary will now be screened at the Montreal World film festival (MFF).

The resilience of Yiddish since the Holocaust is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who at the age of fifty, after a lifetime spent in the Hebrew Theatre in Israel, founded the Yiddishpiel  Repertory Theater in Tel Aviv. The second, Bryna Wasserman, heir to the legacy of her mother, Dora Wasserman who championed Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, has continued her mother’s legacy and shepherded it into the twenty-first century, by commissioning new Yiddish plays, and also initiating the International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. In the words of one reviewer, “The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and of Yiddish culture worldwide.”

This subject is particularly poignant in Quebec where awareness of the vulnerability of culture and language is so strong.

The film will be screened twice at the Montreal World Film Festival:
Thursday, August 29, 7:30 pm
and Sunday, September 1st at 10am in the Quartier Latin Cinema: Salle 15

Tickets can be acquired from the MFWW Website

There will be a Q&A after the screening with Abigail Hirsch, the filmaker and Bryna Wasserman will be in attendance at the Sunday Morning screening.

Caring Angels/Mentschen In New Hampshire

Winchester New hampshireJoel Yan, a Jewish lay spiritual leader and myself, were on our way home from a week-long retreat of classes and singing at the biannual Aleph Kallah at Franklin Pierce College.

It was Sunday and both our families were expecting us back that day. No sooner had the car stalled, people started stopping, asking if we needed any help, offering to move the car off the road, to diagnose the problem and even to offer us shelter if we needed it.

Katherine Stewart (originally from Ontario and a graduate of Joel’s alma mater, University of Toronto) stopped and gave Joel her phone number urging him to call if needed.

A man in a pick-up truck stopped and helped to diagnose the problem saying the same thing had happened to him with his Toyota Camry – the cable broke disabling the automatic transmission and prompting the car to stop in its tracks.

Bruce who lived across the street drove up in his pickup truck with his wife saying we should knock on his door if we needed a drink or somewhere to relax.

Another person drove up in his jeep  with a small American flag.

By this time Joel had taken out his music stand and guitar and was playing up a storm in the searing heat.

Joel playing guitar

Norm then drove up on his bike pulling a broken air conditioner and hung out with us for a while.

Norm with his broken air conditionerThe attendant at Mikes’ Market at the Mobil gas station at the corner allowed me to charge my phone, and use the bathroom.

Even the AAA truck driver who arrived after a two hour wait was especially kind,
explaining the car could be driven safely once it was in gear, and we really did not need to be towed to a garage.

But our very special mentsch/angel was Ralph Scott Britton. He had been directly behind us on a motorbike when the car broke down. First, he helped diagnose the problem, and push the car off the road. Then he stayed with us helping total strangers for over 3.5 hours. He waited with us for the AAA to come, advising us all along, and then escorted us to Keene behind his motorbike while we looked for a place to stay and a solution to the car problem. In the end, Scott trained Joel how to switch the gears manually under the hood and then watched and tested him making sure he could do it himself. Then, only when he was sure we were safe he sent us on our way. He refused any compensation for all his help and suggested only that we pass his good deeds along to others who were in need.

And thanks to Scott and all the other kind people we met, we made it safely with the broken cable, first to our friends in Vermont who put us up for the night, and the next day to Montreal and Ottawa to our respective families.

We feel that sharing these stories is a way of passing on the power of good will that we experienced in the tiny hamlet of Winchester. Thank you to all of you. You are clearly a community that cares.

“mentsch” a Yiddish word that means “a human being, a person who does the right thing when he sees what needs to be done, and brings honor to what is truly human.” sometimes known as an “angel”.