Chronicles of Conflict: A Personal Perspective on the Israel-Hamas War

I was in Israel during the recent Jewish holidays when a senseless and brutal attack took place, targeting Israeli civilians of all ages, including men, women, and children. This tragic incident unfolded on the final day of the Jewish autumn holiday cycle, during Simhat Torah/Shmini Atzeret.

My Journey in Israel, October 7-12

On the morning of Saturday, October 7, I found myself at my nephew Rabbi Yair Silverman’s synagogue, partaking in the Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah festivities. This marked the culmination of our Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur-Sukkot holiday season. Simchat Torah is a special occasion where we commemorate the conclusion of the annual synagogue readings of the Torah, also known as The Five Books of Moses and also restart the reading cycle anew, beginning with the story of Genesis/Bereishit.

As we gathered before the service commenced, my nephew, Rabbi Silverman, delivered some unsettling news: there had been an attack on Israel. He suggested that anyone feeling the need for refuge should seek it out. Despite this, the majority of us chose to remain united in our determination to carry on with the synagogue services. The atmosphere remained festive and joyous throughout the day, and, as planned, we reconvened at 6 p.m. for a scheduled talk by one of our congregation members and the closing service.

That evening, as we turned on our electronic devices, we were informed that “Israel was at war” with Hamas in Gaza. Later that night, my nephew received a remarkable phone call from a Rabbi in Tel Aviv. A couple who had planned to marry in Tel Aviv the following day did not want to postpone their wedding. They inquired if my nephew could officiate at their marriage in Zichron Yaakov. This request is rooted in a long-standing tradition derived from rabbinic teachings, emphasizing the importance of not delaying joyous occasions, such as weddings or bar mitzvahs, even in the face of adversity, like unexpected loss or tragic events.

My nephew willingly took on the responsibility and, along with his congregation, orchestrated a wedding for the young couple and their entourage. The heartfelt ceremony took place the very next day, on Sunday, October 8, at 1 p.m., hosted within the walls of their synagogue. It was a momentous occasion attended by the bride’s extended family and close friends while adhering to our cherished traditions. The synagogue community, spanning across generations, joined in to celebrate this joyous event with the family. I was fortunate to capture a video, and the family has graciously permitted me to share these precious moments with you.

The next day, at noon, I made my way back to my apartment in Jerusalem, in the center of Israel among the Judean hills, a distance of an hour and a half drive from Zichron Yaakov, which is situated just south of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast. As I arrived, my phone buzzed incessantly with updates from various WhatsApp groups, each one fervently discussing how to navigate the unfolding situation. They shared information about what had been cancelled, what should be done, and what was still scheduled to proceed. Among all these bustling groups, my pilates community proved to be particularly active, and I couldn’t help but notice that we were all set for a class the following day.

The highly anticipated concert featuring Ishay Ribo, a renowned artist known for his soul-stirring interpretations of biblical texts, originally slated to grace the grand stage of Jerusalem’s Binyanei Hauma, was cancelled, and ticket refunds were promptly issued.

As a sample of Ishai Rebo’s artistry, I share a snippet of his concert on a Jerusalem stage on November 26, 2019, retrieved from YouTube. Commencing the evening’s musical journey, he sings “Modeh Ani,” a heartfelt ode expressing gratitude for each new day, a prayer commonly recited at the dawn of the morning prayers. What stands out is the harmonious union of the audience, fervently joining their voices in this melodic prayer. These concerts transcend mere musical performances and simulate the essence of a collective spiritual experience reminiscent of a live prayer service.


We received guidance from government authorities through official media channels and WhatsApp groups, urging us to prepare our homes for the current reality. This involved ensuring everyone collected ample water, food, flashlights, and transistor radios for their bomb shelters. I ventured out with my friend Sarah Kraft, who graciously offered to drive to our nearby mall. Our visit led us to various establishments, including the electronics store, the hardware shop, the health food boutique, and the supermarket. In a quest to find transistor radios, we encountered an unexpected challenge, as the electronics store had run out of stock. Thankfully, they pointed us in the direction of a nearby place specializing in cell phones, located across the street from the mall. There, we managed to secure the last remaining transistor radios.

All of Israel united collectively to ensure the soldiers and the home front were well-equipped with vital resources. Some individuals gathered protective gear and ammunition, while others dedicated themselves to preparing meals for the 300,000 reservists called to duty on short notice. Simultaneously, many groups offered spiritual support through communal singing, dancing, and many Torah classes, both in-person and via Zoom. Additionally, they handcrafted “tzitzit,” undergarments adorned with fringes meant to serve as a poignant reminder of a Jewish man’s connection to the Torah. These were made available to any soldiers who desired them.

In my Jerusalem residence, we are fortunate to have a bomb shelter in the building, but my friend Sarah, who resides in a building without one, faced a challenging decision. We all had to make choices on how to prepare for the uncertain times ahead. I had a pre-scheduled Air Canada direct flight back to Montreal on Thursday, October 12. However, all international flights to and from Tel Aviv were abruptly cancelled, leaving El Al, the national airline of Israel, as the only carrier operating in and out of Ben Gurion airport.

The CBC announced that the Canadian government would provide evacuation services for Canadian citizens in Israel. I immediately reached out to my travel agent. She advised that if I purchased an El Al ticket to Zurich for $400, Air Canada would honour my ticket to continue my journey to Montreal. I decided to go ahead with this option. Before my departure, I entrusted Sarah with the keys to my apartment.

Since my El Al flight to Zurich arrived two hours later than scheduled, Air Canada arranged an overnight stay at an airport hotel in Zurich. It rebooked me on a 6 a.m. flight to Brussels, followed by a rapidly timed connecting flight to Montreal. Finally, I arrived in Montreal at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 13. My luggage did not accompany me on the journey; however, it was delivered a few days later.

Re-entry to Montreal

Upon arrival, I was warmly invited to join my cousins for a typical Friday night dinner. The following day, I could attend the Shabbat morning synagogue service in my customary synagogue with Rabbi Poupko. The atmosphere during the service was comfortably familiar, except for a brief additional prayer dedicated to remembering the hostages and a heartfelt rendition of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Hatikvah, also known as the “Hope” or “Aspiration,” resonated with the collective yearning of the last two thousand years for freedom in our homeland, making it a poignant and cherished moment of the gathering.

My reunion with the congregation was filled with relief and joy. As we reconnected, we openly shared our experiences and the challenges we had faced since the onset of hostilities. In this tight-knit community, we all have family and friends in Israel, and many of us have connections to individuals who have tragically lost their lives. Our sense of unity and vigilance remained high as we grappled with the uncertainty of the situation.

That night began a weekly tradition as our community gathered for an additional prayer service dedicated to reciting Tehilim (Psalms). We gathered to listen to words of comfort and support from our rabbis and to recite our designated psalms communally. Reciting Psalms is a cherished Jewish tradition that provides solace and strength in challenging times. This weekly act of unity and faith will continue in the weeks to come for as long as required by the situation. Bacol Serlui, a prominent Israeli poet, esteemed literary critic, and dedicated educator of Hebrew literature, shared her perspective on the profound tradition of reciting psalms.

“At noon on that dark Shabbat of the holiday of Simhat Torah, one of our sons went off to war. I almost died of fear, trembling, and sorrow for the little we knew, from worrying about him and others. And what does a person do when he has no way out? He cries and screams his way through. And like my mother and all the other women, I sat with my Tehillim, reciting from beginning to end until the close of the holiday, until my tears dried up and the breaking news broke me once again. I recite the Psalms again and again and feel that the Tehillim are reading me, dubbing my fear and sorrow, giving me a voice. Three millennia ago a Jew sat and poured out the agony of his soul in times of peace and war, and here he reaches out a hand of prayer and speaks to our own day, until we will be redeemed.


Psalms for a State of Vertigo, Tradition Magazine

Our influencers and Rabbis have eloquently reminded us that we are all now active participants in God’s divine mission, irrespective of whether we serve in the armed forces, contribute on the home front, or engage in contemplative prayer. They encourage a deepened dedication to mitzvahs, righteous actions, and prayer.

Furthermore, drawing inspiration from the timeless tale of Queen Esther, who, in the Purim narrative, called for a three-day communal fast before approaching King Ahashverosh, the Rabbis in Israel have decreed a similar three-day fast. This tradition mirrors the time when Haman had secured a decree to annihilate the Jewish community in Shushan, Persia (modern-day Iran), on an appointed day. Queen Esther, on a mission to avert this catastrophe, had implored the community to observe a three-day fast before her audience with King Ahashverosh. This moving narrative is commemorated annually during the festival of Purim, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

On Sunday, October 15, we marked Rosh Chodesh, the Jewish celebration of the new month. Several years ago, the women of Montreal initiated a remarkable tradition of hosting an exclusively female Rosh Chodesh service. Whenever I find myself in Montreal, I make it a point to attend this unique gathering. However, on this particular occasion, the service was even more special as we came together to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of a young girl who turned 12, a significant milestone in the life of every Jewish girl. Listening to her flawlessly chant the Torah portion for the day was an inspiring and moving experience. Surrounded by her classmates, friends, and family, we celebrated this important day in her life.

On October 16 and 17, I had the privilege of participating in a conference in Ottawa dedicated to addressing the issue of Antisemitism. This significant event was organized by CIJA – The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and had been planned before the outbreak of current hostilities. The conference served as a platform for a diverse group of 1,500 attendees, which included 250 high school and college students and professionals spanning from various fields, such as school board members, law enforcement officers, leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and dedicated researchers with expertise in combatting internet-based antisemitism. Among the attendees were grassroots advocates like myself, as well as notable politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Pierre Polievre, Jagmeet Singh, and Yves-François Blanchet, who delivered keynote addresses during the closing evening.

Throughout the conference, one testimonial left a profound impact on me. It was given by a dedicated teacher within the Ottawa Public School system, who courageously shed light on ongoing instances of relentless bullying targeting young Jewish children in public schools. These painful situations have persisted in recent years, raising serious concerns about the lack of intervention from school administrators.

On the second afternoon of the conference, attendees had the unique opportunity to engage in private meetings with Members of Parliament in their respective offices. I was fortunate to have a meeting scheduled with two esteemed parliamentarians: Sherry Romanado, MP representing Longueuil, Quebec, and Brad Redekopp, MP representing West Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. Both were exceedingly gracious with their time and genuinely eager to listen to our perspectives and insights. The depth of discussions during this conference is noteworthy, and I am fully dedicated to compiling a comprehensive report, which I will be delighted to share with you.

The Jewish community draws two profound lessons from the tragic events of World War II that resonate to this day: silence equates to complicity. And secondly, when individuals and communities unite, they become formidable agents of change.

After the conference, the Shaw Center’s front doors were secured, and we were directed to use alternative exits. I departed through the Rideau Center Mall, where I observed a noticeable police presence on street corners. While I awaited my departure, I couldn’t help but notice a group of individuals carrying a Palestinian flag as they passed by. It was only the following day that I discovered the presence of Palestinian protesters in the vicinity and how the police were diligently safeguarding both the Shaw Center and our conference.

Resilience and Unity: How the Jewish Community Responds

The Jewish people have a rich history of solidarity with our fellow brethren and displaying remarkable resilience in adversity. Throughout the centuries, Jewish communities have consistently demonstrated their commitment to caring for orphans, widows, and strangers. In Montreal, these noble endeavours are entrusted to the Federation- CJA, which tirelessly works to provide for those in need. Every year, the community comes together for a fundraising campaign, rallying to gather funds for these vital services. This year, our mission includes raising urgent funds for the war effort, which was initiated on the first day of the conflict.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a remarkable fundraising concert featuring some of my favourite Jewish entertainers who generously lent their talents to this noble cause on concise notice. Among them, Milena Kartowski delivered an awe-inspiring rendition of “Stand by Me,” leaving a lasting impression on all attendees.

Our enduring traditions, commitment to Torah study, and alignment with Torah principles have provided sustenance for the Jewish people throughout millennia in both prosperous and challenging times. This emphasis on regular Jewish practice is pivotal in our collective efforts to support Israel’s existential war of survival, which includes the eradication of the threat to our people from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Whether inside or outside Israel, we are all dedicated to the common good, working towards the recovery of our captives and the elimination of threats like Hamas, ensuring the safety of our people.

The Jewish community recognizes that the enduring issue of antisemitism, the enduring hatred directed towards Jews, which serves as a motivating force for entities like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, is far from a recent development. This understanding is voiced in the following passage from our Passover seder.

She’ lo echad bilvad amad aleinu l’chaloteinu
Since (through the ages), not only one group has stood over us to destroy us.

V’ha Kadosh, Baruch Hu, matzileynu mi’yadam.
But the Holy One, Blessed Be, always saves us from their hand!

On April 7, 2020, the talented Ishai Ribo enchanted the audience with his rendering of this Passover classic, “Vehi She’amda.” With his mesmerizing vocals, he breathed life into the timeless lyrics, reminding us that throughout history, many have tried to bring harm to our people.


However, God’s miracles unfold only when we actively engage in the world. It is a collective responsibility to confront and oppose evil. Every individual, regardless of age, must join the ranks of the Divine army to combat those seeking to harm us. We must consistently contribute to goodness, both as individuals and as a unified community. This call is extended to both the Jewish and non-Jewish members of our society.

Only when we have successfully eliminated such malevolence can we hope to usher in the messianic times when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb” — a peaceful world committed to universal well-being, health, and happiness.

We pray daily that it comes soon, speedily and in our time!

Hazan Mutlu of Central Synagogue in NYC recorded this prayer that we all recite on behalf of our brethren, facing adversity, wherever they may be on land or sea. We pray that the boundless mercy of God frees them from distress to comfort, from darkness to light, and from slavery to redemption now, soon and speedily in our time.

“Hashta ba’agala uvizman kariv”

We are united, we are prepared, and we have no question that we will prevail against the evil forces threatening us!

Am Yisrael Chai: The Jewish People are alive and living, now and forever!


Oppenheimer: What is his story?

Intrigued by the buzz around “Oppenheimer,” I decided to watch the film because of its historical focus on Robert Oppenheimer, the architect of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The film explores the complex world of scientific inquiry and the challenges of creating such powerful weapons. The latter part of the film delves into the political influences on Oppenheimer’s life after 1954.

As I watched, Oppenheimer’s character became more mysterious. Questions arose about his Communist party ties and whether he shared atomic secrets with the USSR. The film also delved into his extramarital affair and the tragic suicide of his mistress, adding layers of complexity. Oppenheimer’s demeanour throughout the film remained unreadable, making it challenging for viewers to understand his true nature. Struggling to grasp the movie, I researched online for more insights.

In an enlightening interview, JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin spoke with historian Harvey Klehr, an expert on Soviet spies in the U.S. during that period. Klehr’s insights revealed the Soviet interest in espionage, particularly regarding the Manhattan Project since the 1930s. This background shed light on the historical events and personal choices that shaped Oppenheimer’s legacy.


Before World War II, many Americans, including Oppenheimer’s students at Berkeley University and his friends and relatives, were attracted to the ideals of the Soviet International Communist Party and its utopian Marxist ideology. Notably, Oppenheimer’s wife’s second husband fought and perished in the Spanish Civil War in support of the communist cause. Furthermore, there were suspicions surrounding Oppenheimer himself, who was believed to be affiliated with the Communist Party, information that was likely in the possession of the FBI when he assumed leadership of the Manhattan Project.

Soviet archives indicate a persistent interest in obtaining information about the atomic bomb project dating back to the 1930s. Reports from Klehr suggest that individuals within the United States, spying for the Russians, had successfully infiltrated the U.S. federal government both before and after the war—a concern paralleling contemporary worries about Chinese Communist infiltration.

Despite these associations, FBI wiretaps released from that era reveal Oppenheimer’s deliberate distancing from Communist ties once he assumed control of the project, thwarting Soviet attempts to secure his cooperation.

Understanding this historical backdrop is paramount today, given that in 1941, many were oblivious to Stalin’s true nature as a Communist leader. Recognizing the depth of Communist influence and espionage during that period offers valuable insights into the intricate geopolitical dynamics of the time. It is a cautionary tale, underscoring the potential consequences of political ideologies and covert activities.

Stalin and his Soviet party led the endeavour to collectivize all of the farmlands of Ukraine in 1929. Teams of Communist Party agitators forced peasants to relinquish their land, personal property, and housing to collective farms. Many “kulaks”—wealthier land-owning peasants who resisted collectivization- were deported to the Soviet Gulag and a campaign of repression and persecution was carried out against Ukrainian political intelligentsia, political leaders and Ukrainian religious leaders. Collectivization led to a drop in production, the disorganization of the rural economy, and food shortages, a series of peasant rebellions and a very serious famine that resulted between 1931 and 1934 in the deaths of at least 3.9 million people. The Ukrainian term for this period is the “Holodomor.”

As the famine was happening, news of it was deliberately silenced by Soviet bureaucrats. Party officials did not mention it in public. Western journalists based in Moscow were instructed not to write about it. One of the most famous Moscow correspondents at the time, Walter Duranty of The New York Times, went out of his way to dismiss reports of the famine when they were published by a young freelancer, Gareth Jones, as he “thought Mr. Jones’s judgment was somewhat hasty.” Jones was murdered under suspicious circumstances in 1935 in Japanese-occupied Mongolia. Stalin himself went so far as to repress the results of a census taken in 1937; the administrators of that census were arrested and murdered, in part because the figures revealed the decimation of Ukraine’s population. (*2)

This brings to mind the narratives detailing the tactics employed by Chinese Communist leaders and North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. These include political indoctrination, the existence of concentration camps for dissenters, individuals deviating from the prescribed ideology, or those with independent thoughts or religious affiliations.

Is Putin presently adopting the role of Stalin and employing similar tactics in the Ukraine conflict? According to Timothy Snyder, an American historian with expertise in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, this seems to be the case.


Many Western, left-leaning academics are still enamoured of communism and deny the brutality and aims behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the present time and are apologists for Putin and blame the US for what is happening.

Turning our attention back to “Oppenheimer,” the film uncovers the presence of not one but two scientist spies embedded within the Manhattan Project. Ted Hall, a remarkably talented graduate student, was recruited at eighteen through his Harvard professors. Surrounded by card-carrying communists as roommates, he independently chose to divulge atomic secrets to the Soviets. Hall believed that a shared possession of the nuclear bomb would contribute to a “safer world.”

A recent documentary titled “The Compassionate Spy” delves into Hall’s story, defending his decision to share crucial atomic information with the Soviets. His apology, featured in The New York Times Magazine under “The Boy Who Gave Away The Bomb,” provides further insight (*3).

The second spy, Klaus Fuchs, assumed leadership in the British atomic lab post-World War II. Operating as a double agent, Fuchs was eventually apprehended and served time in jail.

In the third hour of the movie, Oppenheimer’s alleged spying and the loss of his security clearance in 1954 are portrayed. However, an article from September 1977 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists provides a more nuanced perspective. According to an eyewitness, the motives behind Oppenheimer’s troubles were more intricate than the personal conflicts shown in the film. The attack on Oppenheimer was influenced partly by President Eisenhower‘s desire to highlight Democrats’ perceived leniency towards Communists. Additionally, Senator McCarthy’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, was involved in these manipulative actions (*4).

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Kai Bird, the author of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” – the book upon which the movie is based – expands on these intricacies (*5).

Sadly, Oppenheimer’s life story is relevant to our current political predicaments. Oppenheimer was destroyed by a political movement characterized by rank know-nothing, anti-intellectual, xenophobic demagogues. The witch-hunters of that season are the direct ancestors of our current political actors of a specific paranoid style… Oppenheimer did not regret what he did at Los Alamos; he understood that you cannot stop curious human beings from discovering the physical world around them. One cannot halt the scientific quest, nor can one un-invent the atomic bomb but it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that our current technologies are integrated by our leaders into a sustainable and humane civilization.

These three historical films—”Golda,” “Shttl,” and “Oppenheimer”—remind us of human limitations and the contrast between our insight and the lasting gaze of the divine. Israeli rock sensation Yishai Rebo recently released a moving rendition of the Hebrew prayer verses in his latest chant, Ata Zocher, beautifully encapsulating the essence of divine remembrance across the intricacies of the universe (*6).


You (G-d) remember all the workings of the universe
And you note all the creatures of this world
All events and mysteries are revealed to you
Because there is nothing forgotten before Your Holy Throne
Or hidden from your gaze.
(English Translation)

Reflecting on historical events, we’re reminded that divine justice unfolds at a pace distinct from human justice, sometimes taking 70 years for the truth to emerge.



  1. Explore the conversation between JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin and historian Harvey Klehr on the movie Oppenheimer and the enduring legacy of American Communism.
  2. Delve into the details of the Holodomor with Britannica.
  3. Check out the NY Times Magazine, Sept. 14, 1997, article “The Boy Who Gave Away The Bomb.”
  4. Read “The Oppenheimer case: A study in the abuse of law” by Harold P. Green, published on July 17, 2023, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
  5. Gain insights from Kai Bird, the author of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” in his NY Times opinion piece.
  6. Watch the captivating “Ata Zocher” performance by Ishay Ribo & Mordechai Ben David on YouTube.


SHTTL: A Glimpse into Ukrainian Village Life Amidst Tragedy

SHTTL, although not publicly released, has garnered acclaim and accolades at various film festivals (*1). I had the privilege of watching it during a recent screening at the Montreal Holocaust Museum.

Among the four movies, SHTTL stands out as the most challenging yet profoundly rewarding. The narrative unfolds in a Ukrainian forest, weaving a Hasidic folk story around two young men embarking on a journey. Their arrival at a bustling market, where familiar faces recognize them, sets the stage for a complex tale. Amidst a backdrop of a Soviet manager, overlapping conversations, and references to the protagonist’s former girlfriend—the Rabbi’s daughter, engaged to be married that weekend—the film ventures into dreamy sequences with the protagonist’s deceased mother, encounters with his father, and surreal moments in a synagogue with the Rebbe and the congregation. The audience is immersed in a 24-hour snapshot of life in an obscure Ukrainian village near the Polish border.

SHTTL skillfully immerses viewers into the pre-Nazi invasion era of Ukraine, portraying the intricacies of village life as an engaged observer. The film adeptly hints at the dynamics between religious and secular Jews, Russian occupiers, and other neighbours, showcasing the complexities of their relationships.

On the 22nd of June 1941, German troops launched Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. From the point of view of the Nazis, this was not an ordinary military conflict but a battle against the chief ideological and racial enemies of the German nation…

At the rear of the German army were four Einsatzgruppen-special units whose task was to fight against ideological opponents. They were required to kill all Communist functionaries, Jews holding party and state functions, and other radical elements. In reality, however, the main role of these units was to massacre the Jewish communities.

To begin with, only Jewish men were murdered, but soon, women and children were also being killed. The largest single massacre was the execution of over 30,000 Kievan Jews in Babi Yar at the end of September 1941. It is estimated that these units, aided by local militia and in coordination with the army, slaughtered approximately 1.25 million Jews in all, as well as hundreds of thousands of other Soviet citizens. (*2)

As the Nazis advanced into the heart of the Soviet Union, their grip extended over numerous Jewish communities spanning a broad expanse from the Baltics through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea. SHTTL serves as a poignant representation of one such village, functioning as a memorial that focuses on celebrating the vibrant lives of its inhabitants rather than dwelling solely on the tragic fate that ultimately befell them.

Remarkably, the movie is entirely filmed in the native languages of the villagers, predominantly Yiddish, interspersed with Ukrainian, Russian, and German, all accompanied by English subtitles.

Adding to its significance, SHTTL boasts a solid connection to Montreal. Notably, two of the producers are esteemed entertainment professionals from the city: Eric Gozlan, recognized for his work on films like Beautiful Boy, Stand Off, A Score to Settle, and Bandit (*2), and Joe Sisto, a well-known Montreal-based entertainment lawyer associated with projects such as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Upside Down, Brick Mansions, and Erased according to IMDB (*3).

Word has it that the producers plan to submit this film to the Oscars in the foreign film category. Filmed in Ukraine with a local crew, it’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in creating this 21st-century masterpiece. Kudos to the entire team!



  1. “Shttl,” Wikipedia,
  2. Terezín Initiative Institute
  3. Eric Gozlan, IMDb,
  4. Joe Sisto, IMDB,

Barbie: A Cinematic Journey of Self-Discovery, Reflection, and Growth

“Barbie” was an enchanting cinematic experience, weaving together elements of music, humour, and a profound message. Transforming the beloved Barbie and Ken dolls into animated characters endowed with human traits, the film unfolds a joyous celebration until the disruptive notion of ‘death’ intrudes upon their magical world. A captivating exploration of self-discovery and personal growth ensues as individuals from various walks of life, encompassing genders, generations, and roles, undergo a thorough introspective journey to unearth their ‘true selves.’

In many ways, the movie evokes reflections reminiscent of Yom Kippur, the sacred Jewish Holy Day dedicated to contemplating life’s tribulations. Barbie’s narrative delves into the universal human condition, similar to the ritualized Yom Kippur service, which prompts contemplation on personal missteps and the mending of fences. The film is a powerful reminder to self-reflect and consider if we’ve strayed from our values or hurt others.

Like the midnight Selichot services before Yom Kippur, the film’s exploration connects with communal ideas. These gatherings, often featuring public concerts, mirror a collective effort for self-improvement. I experienced this firsthand at a concert in Beit Avichai, Jerusalem, where communal spirit and personal reflection came together.

At its core, the movie echoes the timeless message embedded in our tradition: the constant potential for human growth and improvement. The concept of ‘teshuvah,’ or returning to one’s pure soul, is a testament to our inherent capacity for development. Just as the High Holidays stress, the film emphasizes that, like Barbie and Ken’s evolving story, we all can grow personally and together, discovering moments of peace and connection in a fast-paced world.


GOLDA: A Reckoning

On August 24, the Federation CJA, the central Jewish community organization in Montreal, launched its annual fundraising campaign with a remarkable event. They secured all eight screens of the newly renovated CineStarz Deluxe Cavendish movie theatre to host two “Golda” screenings featuring Helen Mirren as the iconic Israeli political figure, Golda Meir.

CJA actively follows the philanthropic tradition from Moses’ Torah, which stresses the duty to “feed the hungry and clothe the poor.” Their website features a powerful video for this year’s #StandUpCampaign, supporting the vulnerable and tackling concerns about antisemitism and Jewish identity (*1).

“Golda” kept me glued to the screen, revealing the harrowing narrative of Israeli citizens and soldiers thrust into the midst of a war initiated by Egypt and Syria, quietly backed by Jordan, on the sacred day of Yom Kippur in 1973. Faced with an unprepared army and reserves, Israel confronted an existential crisis, with the lives of six million Israelis hanging in the balance (*2).

The film meticulously portrays Meir’s leadership during this critical period. Serving as the Prime Minister of Israel and the designated commander-in-chief, Meir navigated the challenges with unwavering determination. Recently released archival footage from the battlefield provides a haunting glimpse into the atrocities of that historical event (*3).

The war started on Saturday, but by the time we got [to the Golan], it was early morning on Sunday. And what we entered was a very difficult scene of utter chaos. Burnt tanks, tens of casualties and people screaming for help…

Thrown onto the defensive during the first two days of fighting, Israel mobilized its reserves and began to counterattack. In the south, Israeli forces were having little success in stopping the Egyptian onslaught. Still, the Sinai Desert offered a large buffer zone between the fighting and the heart of Israel.

The situation was different in the north, where the Syrians had swept across the Golan and could, in short order, threaten Israel’s population centers.

Shortly after the war, Golda resigned, and for an extended period, she faced personal blame. Questions lingered about whether her gender or age affected the inadequate preparedness and the significant losses.

Although by the end of the fighting, 2,688 Israeli soldiers had been killed and 9000 of them wounded. The replenished Israeli forces stopped the Syrian advance, forced a retreat, and began their own march forward toward Damascus and Cairo and ultimately caused the Egyptians and the Syrians to sue for a ceasefire.

The movie reveals new aspects of Golda’s life, including her secret battle with cancer, taking charge of media responses from General Moshe Dayan to uplift public spirits, and grappling with U.S. reluctance to provide arms to Israel. It showcases Meir’s compassion, intelligence, and steadfast leadership in confronting significant challenges.

Golda’s true essence shines through in the film as she exhibits empathy for those around her and steadfastly holds the line during tough times almost single-handedly. Her leadership style, which emphasizes putting the needs of the state and the people above her own, is a valuable lesson. She guided her nation through a tumultuous period, earning our profound gratitude.

Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the complexities of this character is genuinely compelling. From the opening scenes, her expressive face communicates volumes without words. Her performance deserves an Oscar, making the movie worth the ticket price.


I’m in Israel for the Jewish High Holidays this year, where our traditions began. In this historic land, our daily prayers retell our journey from the time of Abraham. The high holiday season deepens this connection. From the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul to the concluding moments of the Sukkot holiday, Shmini Atzeret, the “High Holidays” mark an annual reenactment of the pivotal events that unfolded in the desert.

Forty days after receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai and committing to be G‑d’s chosen people, the children of Israel despaired of Moses’ return and created a Golden Calf (*5) to worship as their leader. This act directly violates the first two of the Ten Commandments:

  1. “I am the Lord your G‑d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
  2. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, nor any manner of likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them. For I the Lord your G‑d am a jealous G‑d, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.” (*6)

Over the following forty days, the people engaged in repentance, and Moses fervently pleaded with God to spare His wayward nation. (*5)

G-D Forgives the People

Holding the newly made tablets in his hands, Moses stood on Mount Sinai, and God taught him how the children of Israel could make atonement for their sins through real repentance and prayer. G‑d proclaimed the “thirteen attributes” which the children of Israel were to recite on their days of repentance (Exodus 34:6-7): “L-rd, L-rd, benevolent G‑d, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth, preserving loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; yet He does not completely clear [of sin]. He visits the iniquity of parents on children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generations.”

Moses bowed down before God and said: “If I have now found favor in Your eyes, O Lord, let the Lord go now in our midst [even] if they are a stiff-necked people, and You shall forgive our iniquity and our sin and thus secure us as Your possession.”

In reply, G‑d told Moses: “Behold, I will form a covenant; in the presence of all your people, I will make distinctions such as have not been created upon all the earth and among all the nations, and all the people in whose midst you are shall see the work of the Lord how awe inspiring it is that which I will perform with you.”

This is the narrative echoed annually throughout our Yom Kippur prayer services. This tale has fortified our people against adversities such as the Crusaders, the Inquisition, and the Nazi onslaught.

Within the Yom Kippur service, a poignant moment arises during the Yizkor prayer, where we reflect on our departed parents and ancestors. This year, a member of our congregation shared a vivid account of his experiences during the Yom Kippur War, a testament to the profound impact of this historical event.

The video’s miraculous rescue story reminds us how our unwavering traditions support us in tough times, emphasizing our national identity as servants of our one God, whom we crown as our only King on Yom Kippur.

In this footage, despite the enemy’s perception that attacking Yom Kippur would confer an advantage, it becomes evident that the day itself may have bolstered our triumph.



  1. Federation CJA website and video:
  2. Jewish Virtual Library, The Yom Kippur War: Background & Overview
  3. Ynet News: Israel declassifies massive archive to mark 50th anniversary of Yom Kippur War
  4. Israeli Casualties of War:
  5., The Golden Calf
    • “When the children of Israel saw it, they believed that it was to be their representative before G‑d, and they wanted to pay homage to it. Meanwhile, G‑d informed Moses of the downfall of the children of Israel. Taking up a position near the entrance of the camp, Moses said: ‘Whoever is with G‑d, come to me!’ The entire tribe of Levi gathered about him, and Moses ordered them to slay everyone guilty of worshipping the Golden Calf, regardless of his position and relationship to them. That day, the seventeenth day of Tammuz, three thousand men of the children of Israel lost their lives, in punishment for their idolatry. The next day, Moses again told the people that they had gravely sinned against G‑d, and that he would now go to pray for atonement. Moses went up to Mount Sinai and prayed to G‑d for forty days and forty nights while the people mourned their dead and made atonement for their sins.
    • Moses was greatly distressed. In moving words, he prayed and implored G‑d to spare the Jewish people… Finally, G‑d’s mercy was aroused, and He promised to spare the people of Israel.
  6., The First and Second Commandments
  7., What is God
    • “…the flow of being: now you have found G‑d. In fact, in Hebrew, G‑d’s name is a series of four letters that express all forms of the verb of all verbs, the verb to be: is, was, being, will be, about to be, causing to be, should be —all of these are in those four letters of G‑d’s name. As G‑d told Moses when he asked for His name, ‘I will be that which I will be.'”