Jews and Israel: a state or a people

barbara Today while perusing blogs from The Other A Word – The Jewish Journal Blogs, I came across this moving recording by liberated prisoners of Bergen Belson broadcast by the BBC in 1945.

Listening to these survivors singing what came to be the national anthem of Israel, before there was a state of Israel, moved me to tears but it also pointed out the connection to Zion which we Jews have carried with us since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans. I scrolled through the youtubes following this one and discovered Barbara Streisand introducing Israel’s national anthem, a year ago, in Israel, speaking about Israel’s national anthem, the same song, with minor variations that became also the national anthem of the State of Israel  “Hatikva/Hope”. The last line translates as – the hope of the Jewish people to be a free people in our country, the land of Zion and Jerusalem – Hebrew- Tikvateinu, Lihyot am hofshi b’artzeinu, b’eretz Tzion, Yerushalayim”.

Then I discovered this video “The best Hebrew Songs” a four minute medley of Hebrew songs performed by a band with Russian roots in a big band rock style. What are the songs they choose? 1.They start with Shalom Aleichem – Peace/shalom to you” 2. It is closely followed by May the One who makes peace in the Heavens bring peace to us and to all Israel. In Hebrew “Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu yayseh shalom aleinu, v’al kol Yisrael.” 3. Then we are treated to the most popular Jewish wedding song with a pantomime wedding couple: May this be a good omen and bring good luck to us and all Israel. Hebrew – “mazel tov ve siman tov, siman tov vemazal tov, yeheh lanu v’l’kol Yisrael.” 4. Then we are treated to an article of faith going back hundreds of years:  “I believe with full faith in the coming of the Messiah. And although He tarry, I will wait for Him to come every day. Hebrew – Ani ma’amin b’emunah shlaima b’viyat Ha Mashiach: V’af al pi sh’yitmamaya, ahakeh Lo b’chol yom sh’yavo” 5. And they conclude with: We bring you peace: Hebrew – “Haivainu shalom aleichem”. What I find so unusual about these songs is that  Three out of the five are taken from traditional and ancient prayerbook texts. Only the last one and the first one, “Shalom aleichem” and “Haivainu shalom aleichem” is a more contemporary formulation. And yet these are the songs that a contemporary and modern band chooses as the “most popular” Jewish songs.

I thought these three You-tube videos illustrate how Jewish people all over the world, for thousands of years have always been, and continue to be bound together, with the fate of the land of Israel and Jerusalem, by communal text and by communal song.

CARING ANGELS/MENTSCHEN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Winchester New hampshire
Joel Yan, a Jewish lay spiritual leader and myself, Abigail Hirsch, a filmmaker/blogger from Montreal, were on our way home from a week-long retreat of classes and singing at the biannual Aleph Kallah at Franklin Pierce College. We were sharing with each other the spiritual teachings about the benefits of charity to both the giver and receiver: One teacher shared that the name of G-d is expressed and offers a feedback loop between the giver and the receiver in such a transaction, when the car suddenly simply stopped cold in front of a light at the Winchester crossroad between the town Hall and the gas station.

It was Sunday and both our families were expecting us back that day.  Joel sent me to call the AAA from the gas station and Joel stayed with the car. No sooner had the car stalled than 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 numbers 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. However, he also showed us how to put the car in gear manually from the engine to drive it if need be.)

•    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

Joel entertaining us while waiting for the AAA.

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

Scott Norm and Joel

Norm with his broken air conditioner

•    The attendant at Mikes’ Market at the Mobil gas station at the corner allowed me to charge my phone, and use the bathroom saying, it wasn’t normally allowed but she was in charge for the moment.

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”.

Joel Yan is a lay leader in the Ottawa Jewish community.
joelyan@rogers.com

Abigail Hirsch is a documentary filmmaker who has just completed the film, Yiddish: a tale of survival which will be screened at the Montreal World film Festival: 2013.
askabigail@me.com

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Henry Morgentaler and Carlos de Soussa Mendes

Rabbi Kruger and Aristides de Sousa Mendes

Rabbi Chaim Kruger and
Aristides de Sousa Mendes, 1940

Yesterday, a full auditorium at the Jewish Public Library, in Montreal, watched the film about Aristide de Sousa Mendes, Disobedience, made for French television, and we all listened to the moving discussion by the panel, one of whom was Louis Philippe Mendes, the grandson of Aristide Sousa de Mendes, who grew up in and happens to live in Montreal.

This is how the movie, created by French television, is described in a recent post:

Joel Santoni’s powerful drama is a vivid retelling of the moving true story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General stationed in Bordeaux, France, during World War II.  His government had issued strict orders to all its diplomats, in a document called Circular 14, to deny visas to Holocaust refugees seeking to escape Occupied Europe through Portugal.  Sousa Mendes defied these orders and issued Portuguese visas to an estimated 30,000 people in May and June of 1940 in an operation described by the Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.” Sousa Mendes’ defiance of government’s order was harshly punished by Salazar, ally of Hitler, the dictator of neutral Portugal.

As Louis-Philippe reminded us last night: Aristides de Sousa Mendes’s act of conscience consisted in defying the direct orders of his government and exhibiting courage, moral rectitude, unselfishness, and self-sacrifice by issuing visas to all refugees regardless of nationality, race, religion or political opinions.

The movie shows how all of his heroic work was done over a period of several days with the help of his male secretary, and a certain Rabbi Kruger, pictured above from the archives of the Jewish Public Library, a man introduced by a letter from a friend who Aristide welcomed into his home along with his four daughters at that very time, and his eldest son. Aristide de Soussa Mendes was the father of 14 children and his mistress was also expecting at that very time.

What I really loved about this “you are there” movie recreation were the little vignettes that one witnesses such as the opening which starts with de Soussa Mendes conducting a small orchestra made up of his children playing a compostion by “me, Aristide de Soussa Mendes”: glimpses of his relationship with his wife, and his mistress, his relationship with his son, with Rabbi Kruger, with his loyal male secretary, and with his twin brother. The other reason that it is worth watching this movie is for the glimpse into the process of totalitarian power: the glimpse of how Salazar, the dictator of Portugal, thinks and acts, how he deals with “insubordinationan”, and glimpses of the others who carry out Salazar’s orders.

A moving and gripping story that is a lesson for all humanity and for all time.

The same day, I listened to the Gian Gomeshi interview with Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, son of the late abortion rights advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler, following his father’s  recent death at the age of ninety.

The outpouring of interviews and reviews unleashed by the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, were intense and worldwide, but hearing about him from his son was special. As his son explained, Henry Morgentaler, grew up in Lodz, Poland, facing local antisemitism there, and then at the age of eighteen endured the Nazi invasion which led him and his family first to a ghetto and then being transported to Auschwitz. After losing both his parents and surviving a slave labour camp, Henry Morgentaler, arrived in Montreal, became a doctor, married and had children, and in the course of his work championed medical abortions for women in Quebec and Canada, at a time when the Church considered that sinful, and the laws of the land supported that stance. He went to jail more than once for upholding his values, and eventually won for women the legal  right to a safe, medical abortion in Canada.

Two stories that Abraham Morgentaler, the son, shared struck me as poignant. He shared a story from his childhood. He was perhaps nine year old at the time. He and his friends were arguing about who was the best hockey player in the world, “Rocket Richard or Richard Beliveau”. Eventually, all the kids ganged up on him: one kid said “we all believe that it’s Rocket Richard, so you are wrong!” He was telling his father about this when his father was putting him to bed, and he recalls his father saying very clearly, “It is possible for everyone in the world to say that you are wrong and for you still to be right.”

The other wonderful image was Gian Gomeshi asking Abraham Morgentaler, “What is your favorite memory of your father to which he responded that he would always remember his Dad, at family celebrations addressing the family, and then singing either a Yiddish song or one of his favorite Edith Piaf songs. And I am thinking perhaps, “Rien de rien, je ne regrette rien”?

Just to let you know that although, Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty and struggling to clear his name, since the death of Salazar, his heirs have banded together with community members to share his story. You can read all about it on the site of the Sousa Mendes Foundation. The movie has been shown at many Jewish Film Festivals and private screenings. Currently, the movie can only be seen via arrangement with the Sousa Mendes Foundation.

The following appears on the website:

For information on hosting a film screening, please contact us at info@sousamendesfoundation.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing he would face harsh consequences for his actions, Sousa Mendes decided to act in accordance with the dictates of his conscience and Catholic faith.
For this adherence to his sense of humanity, Aristides de Sousa Mendes was rendered helpless in a society which no longer recognized his diplomatic status and forbade him from practicing law to earn a decent living and support his family. He spent the rest of his life pleading his case and being ignored time and again by the Portuguese dictator Salazar and his political machine.

 

The same day I heard
http://www.cbc.ca/q/2013/06/10/authenticity-and-politicians-willem-dafoe-henry-morgentalers-son/

Spring Newsletter: AskAbigail Productions

Dear friends,

“The voice of the turtle is heard in the land” – “Song of Songs”

Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring to all.
As many of you are aware, Passover – the celebration of freedom and the seminal holiday of Jewish continuity – invites us to reflect on the past and present. In that spirit, I would like to share with what I have been working on in the last few months.

Since I last wrote to you, my documentary, “Yiddish: a tale of survival” has been completed, and is now in the process of being launched. So far we have had one private press screening at McGill University. It was reviewed by Janice Arnold of the Canadian Jewish news and I was also interviewed by Pierre Landry of the CBC on International Human Rights Day. I have to admit that not only does the film tell a great story, it is also great entertainment. In the next few weeks, I will be sending the DVD’s to those of you who have supported this project on IndieGogo. Without your support it would not have been possible. I am also sending the film to festivals around the world, including US, Australia, Europe, Israel, and even Asia, and I am in contact with university professionals, and distributors. We have so far had some nibbles from PBS and Australia. I am also offering the film to charitable institutions: It would make a fabulous fundraiser.

If you would be interested in organizing a private screening of the film for groups, associations or academic purposes please contact me and I would be glad to work something out.

In other news, AskAbigail Productions has been hired to videotape and post the McGill talks for ISGAP, (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism). Every month they have guests of international calibre, such as David Matas, a well known Canadian lawyer, who makes the case for anti-semitism being behind the failure of the Israel/Palestine peace talks. Jonathon Speyer, research fellow of the Gloria Centre who bases his research on actual visits to Middle Eastern Countries including many recent visits to Syria, Yigal Carmon of Memri, a Middlle East media watch organization, and Shalem Coulibaly,  Professor of Philosophy and Secretary General, Université de Ouagadougou
(Burkina Faso). All have been among the ISGAP speakers. As Shalem Coulibaly, said in his talk, musing about anti-semitism in Sub-Saharan Africa, a place that has few Jews and yet is vulnerable to this virus: “I am interested in Sub Saharan Africa in particular because if we do not fight and engage against anti-Semitism and anti-zionism, then we are responsible for tomorrow’s destruction of our own societies. Hence, it is a question of responsibility for ourselves and not just for others,” All of the lectures can be seen on the ISGAP/vimeo website.

AskAbigail Productions has continued to support the efforts of CIJR (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) and I continue to serve on their board.

As I review my blogs for the past year, it turns out I have written 12 pieces about anti-semitism. I am sad to say that this has been due to the enormous resurgence of anti-semitism http://www.askabigailproductions.com/anti-semitism that has become apparent to me and the general public in the past 2 years, in movies, Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew, Defamation: The Movie, at the academy awards, Purim, Jews, and the Academy Awards,news reports, and conferences,  Highlights of the CIJR conference Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel.

And here is my latest blog about Passover which also riffs on the theme of freedom and its connection to the slavery of thought and anti-semitism in the Middle East.  http://www.askabigailproductions.com/passover-and-the-arab-spring

The other day, as I was chatting with my Iranian emigre taxi driver friend, he said to me, “If I could only see peace in the Middle East in my lifetime, I would die a happy man.”

Insh’Allah, may it be so….

The Passover story is one that embraces hope. As Rabbi Steinmetz points out, the challenge of asking the question is the beginning of awareness, which is the beginning of the path to freedom. May all our questions end in true freedom and redemption for all mankind.

I welcome your feedback and comments and look forward to working towards freedom and peace together with you in the new year.

Abigail Hirsch
AskAbigail Productions.

Passover and the Arab Spring in Middle East Media. 2013

Dear friends,

I thought you would appreciate these two videos which I posted this week.

One is a Passover teaching by Rabbi Chaim Stenimetz:

And the second is about “The Impact of the Arab Spring on Arab anti-semitism“, a lecture by Yigal Carmon with video clips from middle Eastern television programs.

Is there any connection? Passover is the celebration of the journey from slavery to freedom. During the Passover seder, we relive this journey. Rabbi Steinmetz points out in the first video that freedom can only begin when and if one begins to question one’s servitude. Without a challenge to the status quo, no movement is possible.

There is no question that the Arab spring was initiated by people asking questions of their leaders, and seeking freedom from oppressive regimes. Has this resulted in greater freedom of expression and has it led to “freedom”? The answer has to be both “Yes” and “No”. We have all seen how the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East seem to have been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood.

We often forget that the toppling of the Shah of Iran was also billed as a movement of the people overcoming the dictatorial Shah. Very few Iranians anticipated that the revolutionaries who championed the Shah would be arrested and murdered by him as soon as he took power. Very few, least of all America, in the person of Jimmy Carter, anticipated the stranglehold of the Iranian clergy that would take over the political realm of Iran.

Nevertheless, peoples of the Middle East continue to seek freedoms: freedom of thought and freedom of speech. The contrast between the fascism of the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the Muslim clergy, and the efforts of the people to speak up were both clearly apparent in the talk by Yigal Carmon, founder of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) who spoke recently in Montreal. MEMRI monitors the treatment of Jews and Israel in Middle East media. He shared actual clips from Arab television. First he explained the ingrained anti-semitic (i.e. anti-Jewish) tropes of Islamic culture promoted by important Imams and political figures, even President Morsi of Egypt. Then at the 59:33 point of his talk above he shares a clip from a young scholar which I link here. Dr. SA’id Okasha of El Ahram University on Al-Faraeen TV (Egypt January 29, 2010. If you click on this link you will see for the first two or three minutes, the presentation of the anchor regarding the “facts of the Holocaust” that she has “researched”, followed by the attempt by Sa’id Okasha to refute these “facts”. The debating match between them on live television is an exciting thing to watch. And as Yigal Carmon reminds us, the next day Dr. Sa’id has to go back to his university and his colleagues at El Ahram University.

But Dr. Sa’id is not the only one speaking out. Below I discovered on Youtube an amazing woman in disguise, ridiculing Hassan Nasrallah speaking about the Syrian revolution.

This brings me back to the Passover seder, The annual festival that Jews celebrate as the holiday of freedom from slavery. We forget that modern day slavery, especially the slavery of ignorance, is still very much present in many parts of the world. But the first step towards redemption is the questioning of the status quo.

Happy Passover to all who strive for freedom from tyranny.

Purim, Jews, and the Academy Awards

Ted, voiced by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane, and Mark Wahlberg present at Sunday night’s Academy Awards.

This year Purim and the Academy awards happened to fall on the same day. Personally I thought the show was classy and the most fun in a long time. Seth McFarlane can sing and dance and deliver a joke. I loved the dance numbers and I only fell asleep once. (I read in the paper the next day that Barbara Streisand had been there. I totally missed her!!!)

The next day, there were many articles about Abe Foxman, the head of the Bnai Brith Anti Defamation League, who objected to Seth’s jokes about “Jewish Hollywood.” and a series of responsive essays on why these jokes were the best thing that ever happened to Jews. I think they all have a grain of truth but the funniest aspect is that it all happened on Purim: the day that Jews celebrate an ancient anti-semitic attempt to eliminate them by making jokes and putting on parodies called “Purim shpiels”. Some feel that the whole tradition of Jews and the theatre was born in this tradition of Purim shpiels. Check out my blog which explains this tradition and has a terrific modern day example of a Purim Shpiel video.

Now what’s the back story that validates all of this brouhaha? I have read the book “How Jews invented Hollywood” and watched the recent PBS Television documentary about Jewish song writers and creators of musicals on Broadway. Jews wrote many favorite Christmas Songs like “Silent Night” and “I am dreaming of a White Christmas“. Yes Jews excelled in these areas starting in the early 1900′. The dirty little secret is that they excelled in these areas because they were restricted from other occupations by anti-semitic social structures. What you did not know that anti-semitism was alive and well in the US at the turn of the century? It was, especially a part of the upper classes. A very good book that illustrates this social phenomenon is “An Orphan in History“, a memoir by Paul Cowan that shares the history of two Jewish families, his paternal and maternal parents and grandparents living in the US since the 1850’s. Jews were restricted in universities, corporations, and lawyers’s firms even in the United States of America even into the 1950’s. Read Dershowitz’ book “Chutzpa” where he talks about graduating from Harvard Law School in the fifties, and being unable to get a job in any firm, because they did not want any Jews. Yes, he had to start his own firm. Independence is the name of the game. Jews have always had to thrive in spite of anti-semtism. During the middle ages in Europe they were restricted from farming, and so had to engage in commerce to make a living. Also lending money was forbidden by Christian laws so Jews became the only legal money lenders. But I digress.

This morning I was shmoozing about the Academy awards issue with my trainer who is a practicing Mormon. He was telling me about the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” which has been having a strong Broadway run for the last four years. Yes it makes fun of Mormons, but it also shares their story and he loves it. Similarly, he was telling me how he loved “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat”  because the music and the parody still tell the wonderful Joseph story in all its details. Then he said; Could you ever imagine something like that using the Koran as a base text?  End of story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.simchajtv.com/im-thinking-of-suing-iranian-dictator-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-over-hollywoodism/

Jonathan Spyer: Anti-Semitism in Islam and the West

Jonathan Spyer

Prof. Jonathan Spyer is a Journalist and academic currently working out of Jerusalem. He recently made 2 trips into Syria and survived to tell the tale. Last week, he was in Montreal speaking at McGill University for the ISGAP (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy) lecture series, Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective. His talk was about Antisemitism in the Middle East (here is the full lecture Video), historically and in the present.

He reviewed the two theories re Islamic anti-semitism, the “modernist” and the “perennial” theories. The modernist theory, espousing the idea that Middle Eastern anti-semitism is imported from the West and related to the rise of Israel as a state. The perennial theory of Islamic anti-semitism that traces its origins to the beginnings of Islam in the 6th. century. In reviewing these theories he points out how they interweave to create the current ideas and attitudes in the Middle East and also how they compare with Western anti-semitic ideology.

Interestingly, the Jew could survive in Arab lands only if he was a defeated and weak figure of ridicule and contempt. It is for this reason that the rise of contemporary Israel is such an affront to Islamic ideology. It is also in this context, we can understand the terrible current affront to Islam when Jews, who are supposed to be weak, inferior, and ridiculous (monkeys etc.) are in possession of Jerusalem, a seminal Islamic holy site.

By contrast, the Jew, historically in western Christian mythology is a dangerous, powerful, and treacherous, figure who nevertheless must not be killed because his presence attests to the historical Jesus, and the second coming of Jesus is dependent on the conversion of all Jews to Christianity. With the relaxation of Christian ideology in the 19th century and the rise of secularism and science, 20th century western style antisemitism was born based on 19th century “scientific theories of race”. Here the picture of the “Jew as a treacherous, moneygrubbing figure” became etched in biology, leaving absolutely no exit for Jews living under Nazi ideology and sovereignty.

Spyer had an interesting response to the question of whether anti-zionism is the same as antisemitism. “Zionism” was a movement to advance the creation of a Jewish state and there were groups debating pro and con. However, once Israel was created, one can only speak about being for or against the abolishment of the existing State of Israel. Therefore, anti-zionism is not about criticizing the state of Israel but is a screen for the Arab wish to destroy the state of Israel.

Spyer also answered a question about his recent trips to Syria and in a few words conceptualized Obama’s Middle East foreign policy. He states that although Obama’s intentions regarding relations in the middle east were well meaning, they have unbalanced relationships that have held for years. Resulting in a situation that makes the US appear weak towards their enemies and endangers the countries with whom the States have typically been allies.

Spyer is able to concisely summarize Obama’s missteps in the Middle East.

He states that “Obama appears to have thought that by expressing Empathy and understanding of Middle Eastern cultures via his Cairo speech in 2009, he could open dialogue and repair the damage that he perceived had been caused to the American image in the Middle East by the Bush policies. He then proceeded to not back long standing allies of the US, Tunisia and Egypt and Libya, and also not to confront long standing enemies of the US in the Middle East, Iran and Syria. In this way he degraded the US strategic coin in the era. Those who had relied on the US are now dead or in jail and those who had relied on other patrons, were glad that they chose the “right” side – witness Bashar Al Assad who has waged a war against his own people with the support of Russia and China for over a year, and no interference from the US or Western Allies. And this is exactly the opposite of what is needed to have a voice in the Middle East, i.e. one must show that one’ allies can rely on you and that your enemies must fear you.  This is how Israel has managed to maintain some semblance of peace in a very dangerous area of the world. And this is how Obama has seriously devalued the American Strategic coin in the region.” (emphasis mine)

I invite your comments.

Ruth Wisse on Sholem Aleichem and Yiddish Humour

Ruth Wisse

Ruth Wisse was at the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, on October 22, 2012, talking about Jewish humour. In this clip she discusses the beloved author, Sholem Aleichem, “The Jewish Mark Twain” (1859 – 1916), and she analyzes his gift of humour and how it helped to define Jewish comedy and succeeded in bringing Jews together to this day.

Ruth Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She is currently writing a book on Jewish Humour which will be published next year.

This was one of a number of lectures presented by the Shaar Hashomayim as part of their Tuesday night learning seminars. For more visit their events calender.

 

Le Mood 2012


Le Mood is a one day festival that aims to celebrate being Jewish as well as to educate both Jews and non-Jews about a miriad of topics related to Jewish life, arts, and culture. The Le Mood festival prides itself on being quirky, and an alternative to conventional models of Jewish learning. The Montreal festival is now in its second year and has so far been a rousing success; this year saw nearly 1000 attendees!

Le Mood ComediansI think everyone who attended could find something to sink their teeth into. This year there were workshops about food and sustaining our planet; about human rights in Canada and elsewhere; about relationships – straight or gay; about being “religious or not”. There were workshops teaching people to break dance or perform comedy; there was traditional music as well as rapping; Jewish comics, live and several documentaries: Punk Jews and Shlemiel, performance art, as well as traditional Jewish learning! – an amazing outpouring of talent, drive, and creativity, most of it from the younger set although all age groups could be found.

Le Mood does a good job of offering workshops that focus not only on religion but also on cultural aspects of Jewish identity. One workshop was about traditional pickling by Jeffery Yaskowitz. He explained how to pickle…  pickles and the traditions that accompanied the craft. Science and religion intertwined as the recipes and traditions unfolded. Le Mood had various food and beverage workshops throughout the day, and we were treated to many tastes and “how to’s”.

A workshop of particular interest to me was a roundtable discussion, titled: “Is Yiddish Dead?” It started and ended with communal singing and in between we heard the stories of several young people and how their lives intersected with Yiddish in Montreal as young parents, teachers or performers.

Ari 360 The night ended with a Rap performance by Shi 360 followed by a Comedy Roast of the Montreal Jewish Community featuring Joey Elias and some of Montreal’s funniest Jewish Comics. Jewish Guilt, Cote St. Luc, and bar-mitzvas were all on the table as the night ended in laughter.

If you missed it this year, definitely make a point of circling it on your calender next time!

And for all the photos from this year’s festival check out Le Mood 2012.

Anthony Russell, Opera Singer

Anthony Russell is a young operatic singer who has found a way to unite his beliefs and passion. Anthony converted to Judaism as an adult and has always felt a strong connection to Jewish culture, Jewish characters and the Jewish languages (Hebrew & Yiddish).

Anthony Russel

He recently performed at the Ashkenaz Music Festival and at Klez Kanada. Abigail had a chance to sit down with and ask a few questions to this amazing young artist.