Thursday, December 29, 2011

In case you missed it... PM Spins dreidel with aplomb!

Over the Hannukah holiday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took time out to engage with the Jewish community on a serious matter... the famous dreidel spin.

Yes, the PM and his wife, Laureen, spent a few moments with kids at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre on the third night of Hannukah to play a game of dreidel. No word on how much money he put down on the famous Jewish game of chance, but rumour has it he's working on a new spin technique for next year because he got smoked by that kid with the white kippah on the right.

Stephen Harper, second from left, demonstrates his deftness with a dreidel last week in Calgary. [Photo courtesy of the PMO]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Rocky Hora Chanukah Song

For this year's Festival of Lights, the team at The Canadian Jewish Shmooze is sharing the Shlomones' new holiday parody track.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chanukah's history and lighting rules

In an exclusive to, Rabbi Michael Stavsky takes us deep inside the meaning of and the lessons to be learned from the festival of lights. Chanukah comes alive in his retelling of the Second Temple's desecration and in his detailed account of the rules for lighting the menorah.

For your primer on the true meaning of the chag, jump to Rabbi Stavsky's column here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intermarried Holidays

Dear Ella,

My husband and I were invited to a family dinner at the home of my niece, Marlene. Marlene is married to a non-Jewish man and has two beautiful boys. It was the first time we’ve been there at this time of year. When we walked in, there stood a towering Christmas tree decorated with blue tinsel and blue ornaments, topped with a lit Star of David.

I know I must have turned white, because Marlene asked if I was OK while she helped me off with my coat. My husband, didn’t seem to care, but I was completely offended and disgusted.

After dinner, when we all retired to the living room, I was forced to sit on the couch facing that monstrosity, and I could no longer keep quiet.

I made sure the boys were out of the room, and I asked Marlene how she could so blatantly disrespect the Jewish religion by having such a sacrilegious symbol in her home. Perhaps I went too far when I asked if she thought her grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, would approve. My sister stood up for her daughter and told me if I was so uncomfortable I was free to leave, so I did. We have not spoken since, and I feel terrible. I don’t want to apologize, because that will send the message that I approve. I’m not sure how I should proceed.

Sickening Symbolism

Dear Sickening Symbolism,

It’s understandable that you were shocked when you walked in and saw this tree topped with a Star of David. The tree is a symbol of Christmas, which is the holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus, while the Magen David sitting on top signifies Judaism. It’s a symbol on the Israeli flag and was used to identify Jews during the Holocaust. Since your parents were Holocaust survivors, I can see how this might offend you. However, the fact is, you are part of western culture, and many people don’t have that same strong connection to the Magen David as you do.

The Jewish Federations of North America did a survey that showed the percentage of intermarriage in 2001 was 47 per cent. That’s a huge number, and my guess is it’s gone up since then. You may not like it, as I’m sure many parents don’t, but in the end, they must accept it or lose their children.

Try to look on the positive side. Marlene and her husband are doing their best to keep Judaism in there home. They are showing their children that they are the product of two religions. Raising children this way may not be optimum from a religious point of view, but it does teach tolerance and acceptance. I’m sure when it’s time to light candles, they will have a chanukiyah too.

Intermarried families are here to stay, and the sooner the community accepts them, instead of shunning them, the better chance of teaching them about Judaism and not losing them completely.

Apologizing is the right thing to do. You can’t impose your way of living on others, but you can take over latkes, dreidels and Chanukah gifts and tell the story of Chanukah. Kids will accept learning a lot better if it comes from the heart.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coming up in the next 'Ask Ella'

This week's Ask Ella column dispenses advise on a possible path to take in response to a reader being upset upon seeing members of her inter-married family place a Magen David upon a Christmas tree. Inter-married families are apparently here to stay, Ella says. The sooner the community accepts them, the sooner we will likely stand a better chance of teaching them to carry on Jewish practices instead of losing them completely.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sexual abuse of female journalists continues in Egypt

In February it was CBS reporter Lara Logan. Yesterday it was U.S. based Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy.

Both have now become symbols of a long-lasting, much larger problem with women's rights in the Muslim Middle East: the fact that the gender is viewed as inferior and treated as such.

Ongoing reports of brutality against women and girls – a well-known example being a case of the Taliban throwing acid into girls faces as they "dared" go to school for an education – the despicable practice of honour killings, and a general attitude of disdain for female rights are sadly all too prevalent across the region, with the notable exception being Israel.

Lara Logan
As you might recall, last February, while covering the uprising by Egyptians against their now-ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, Logan and her crew were assaulted and eventually separated from one another by a mob in Tahrir Square. And as Logan herself later revealed, during that time, she was sexually molested and violated by hundreds of men for nearly 25 minutes who shouted at her all the while, and incited each other by calling her a Jew and an Israeli spy while "raping me with their hands," she said in a CBS interview months later.

Meanwhile, yesterday Eltahawy – who writes for both The Toronto Star and The Jerusalem Post – was arrested by Egyptian security forces while covering more unrest at the square. During her detention she also claims to have been sexually assaulted by her captors.

Mona Eltahawy

In tweets she sent after her release – she spent 12 hours under the authority of Egypt's Interior Ministry – she wrote that she was sexually and physically assaulted by a half dozen men on the security force. Eltahawy also noted that her arms were now in casts and her hand severely injured. Here are some of her tweets from the last 24 hours:
"5 or 6 surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers."
 "The past 12 hrs were painful and surreal but I know I got off much much easier than so many other Egyptians."
So what did Eltahawy, Logan and so many other women in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East do? Simple, they were born girls.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Business is like a marriage

Dear Ella,
Why are some people so full of themselves? It makes it very hard to like them, let alone be friends.
I have worked with Tamara for almost 10 years. We’re real estate partners. Clients seem to like us, and on a professional level, we fit well together. However, on a personal level, it’s an entirely different story.
Tamara was raised by her mother after her father left. She lived in a six-plex apartment for most of her life. Her mother struggled to make ends meet. Tamara wore second-hand clothes and never had anything that wasn’t a necessity. As an adult, she has overcome those difficult days, but her feelings of inadequacy have led her to overcompensate by leading a lavish lifestyle and thumbing her nose at people who have less than she does.
Tamara is good at her job, but she constantly points out material items that she feels makes her better than her clients, her peers and me. I find it harder and harder to be around her, but would hate to break up our successful business partnership.
Deep down, Tamara is a sweet girl and she has many traits that I like, but somehow her need to appear richer than everyone overpowers any of her goodness.
Should I cut my losses and get out of this relationship, even if it means a setback in my career?
Partnership Problems

Dear Partnership Problems,
A good fit in a business partner is like a rare jewel. It’s very hard to find someone who is perfect. A business partnership is like a professional marriage. As a matter of fact, you might spend more time with your business partner than your spouse. Like any marriage worth fighting for, it needs constant work – lots of compromise, communication, trust and equality.
The first thing you need to do is define your relationship. It sounds like you would like Tamara to be more than just your partner. A successful partnership has to have more assets than liabilities. That applies on an emotional level as well as a financial one. If the emotional part carries too many liabilities, the financial end will suffer.
A good business partnership doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be good friends. It means you have to get along and work well together with the goal of making your business succeed, and it sounds like you’ve done that well.
What you haven’t done is define in your own mind where the relationship’s boundaries are. If you’re searching for a partner who can also be your friend, perhaps Tamara is not that person. She has insecurities that run deep, and it doesn’t sound like you have the desire to address them.
If you decide to continue with your real estate partnership, you need to communicate and set ground rules. If not, cut your losses by getting out now. The sooner you dissolve your business association with Tamara, the sooner you can find a partner that you are more comfortable with, in all aspects of your relationship.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Canada has Israel's back (again) at the UN

Canada has stood up once again for Israel on the world stage.

A series of resolutions brought forth at the UN General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee – which deals with a variety of subjects, including Palestinian refugee issue, human rights, peacekeeping and mine action – were voted on by member states on Nov. 10.

Canada voted “no” or abstained on all of them.

Read the full story in The CJN online and in print next week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Texting replaces talking

Dear Ella,

Either I’m nuts, or everyone else is. OK,so I may be a little older, and maybe I’m not so “with it,” but I can’t understand how people communicate today.

I had the pleasure of spending the holidays with my daughter’s family. I have two bright, wonderful grandsons, 12 and 15. Except for their cellphones, the family functions quite normally, but what I witnessed was very disturbing.

Josh, the 15-year-old was sitting on the couch with his head buried in his iPhone. I thought he was playing a game. Within minutes, his angry brother appeared in the room with an iPad and grudgingly threw it at Josh. “What was that all about?” I asked.

“I texted him that his time was up and it was my turn,” Josh replied. My jaw dropped. He texted his brother, who was in the next room? Why couldn’t he get up and get the iPad? The next few days continued in the same manner. Very little talking, but lots of texting.

I see this in the streets too – people walking, standing, driving with their heads down and their thumbs moving on their devices. What happened to communication,to talking face to face and seeing expressions? Has LOL taken over the sound and sight of a real laugh? Is it me, or has the world gone mad?

Talk To Me

Dear Talk To Me,

There’s no question that texting has grown steadily in the last few years, and with the addition of full keyboards to most phones, technology has made it very convenient for people to use this as a new primary form of communication. What texting has essentially accomplished is the elimination of small talk.

No need for pleasantries – after all, it’s a text message. It’s meant to be succinct and quick. You want someone to know you are happy or sad, just add one of those emoticons.No more “How are you?” “What have you been up to?” “Did you hear about the latest?” Who needs to be burdened with unnecessary communication?

Parents are to blame as much as technology. They, too, set this kind of example, and most don’t impose boundaries. For example, not using cellphones in the house is a simple rule that would force family members to speak to each other. How about old-fashioned family nights where people actually talk and practice verbal banter? Our fast-paced society doesn’t allow time for everyone to be in the same place at the same time.

These kinds of family gatherings have gone the way of the dinosaur and have been replaced by mobile apps, video games and Facebook friends. What you need to do is force your grandchildren to talk to you. Engage them in conversation. Don’t just ask a question like “How’s school?” or you will get a one word answer: “Fine.” “What did you do today?” will get you, “Stuff.” Bring up an interesting subject, maybe sports. Your wanting to talk face to face makes you a minority. You’ll need to be creative if you want to break through and get the kids to look up.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Disgruntled customers target RIM

Customers of Canadian tech giant Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd. are apparently still very outraged over the BlackBerry maker's global outage earlier this month. Device users in Canada and the United States have joined with the Consumer Law Group to file a class action lawsuit against the Waterloo, Ontario based company. The suit cites RIM's failure to directly compensate smartphone users who regularly pay their monthly data fees. An offer of $100 worth of preselected applications from the RIM's "App World" store did little to appease angry clients.

Fraught with product issues left and right, the class action suit was brought before Superior Court in Quebec on Oct. 26, on the heels of RIM announcing that their new PlayBook's 2.0 software will not be ready until sometime next year.

Will the judge have the people's best interests in mind? Guess it depends if he or she is a BlackBerry user too. What say you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah 101

That's right! It's just about time to turn the pages back and start anew on the Torah reading cycle as we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. How much do you know about the traditions and customs to observe during the final days of the Sukkot festival? Here's a little primer from CHABAD.ORG.

These two days constitute a major holiday, when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and we enjoy nightly and daily festive meals, accompanied by the Kiddush. We don't go to work, drive, write, or switch electric devices on or off. We are permitted to cook and to carry outdoors (unless it is also Shabbat).

The first day, Shemini Atzeret, features the prayers for rain, officially commemorating the start of the Mediterranean (i.e., Israeli) rain season, and the Yizkor (prayer supplicating G‑d to remember the souls of the departed).

We no longer take the Four Kinds, and we no longer mention Sukkot in the day's prayers; in the Diaspora, however, we do still eat in the sukkah (but without reciting the blessing on the sukkah).

The highlight of the second day....well those can be found by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

For Gilad... FREEDOM!!


Chag sameach to all.

Noam Schalit embraces Gilad upon his arrival in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu looks on in background.

Netanyahu welcomes Gilad back home to Israel.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sukkot preparations in song

What is a Jewish holiday these days without some form of a musical parody? Here at The CJ Shmooze on the eve of Sukkot, we thought we'd bring you this musical tale of preparing to build the holiday dwelling of the sukkah to you. Enjoy and Chag Sukkot sameach! from The CJ Shmooze and The CJN.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mike Myers joins protest on Wall Street

The #Occupywallstreet march received celebrity support from new father and now American citizen Mike Myers. Born in Scarborough Ontario, Myers is best known for his international man of mystery Austin Powers, his animated alter ego Shrek, rocker Wayne Campbell of Wayne's World and stereotypical Jew Linda Richman on the Saturday Night Live sketch Coffee Talk. On camera Myers stated he arrived in the US with a Canadian dollar and a dream. He believes in capitalism and a level playing field between the rich and the downtrodden.

Hundreds of people will gather next in the heart of Toronto's financial district at Bay and King starting October 15. Preparations will be made for the march to commence October 17 as the Toronto Stock Exchange begins its trading for the week. Occupy Wall Street will then be entering its third week and at present shows no sign of slowing down. These are troubling times indeed for the United States as they move into a major election year, with big decisions ahead to be made.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova from The CJN and The Maccabeats

Jewish song-spoofers, The Maccabeats, have done it again with a parody of One Republic's hit single "Good Life". It arrived just in time to greet the Days of Awe with song.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All together, each alone

Dear Ella,
The Jewish New Year was always a nice time in our home. Memories of wonderful smells filled the house, and there was a sort of bustle that surrounded the dinners on those nights. Dad would have to set up the large dining table, and my sister and I were in charge of polishing the silverware and setting the table with the good china.

When I was younger, I actually went to shul with my parents, too, but did little praying. Instead, my friends and I ran through the corridors of the synagogue and often got in trouble for making too much noise. But the awe of hearing the shofar was always the highlight. It was a very special memory that fills me with warmth.

Then my parents separated and the entire mood in the house changed. My sister and I stayed with our mom. At first, she tried not to involve us in their fighting, but eventually, the venom spewed and the hatred was evident. Our first Rosh Hashanah as a split family was nothing short of torture. They fought over us and forced us to choose. I’m thankful that I’m now away in school and can make excuses for not coming home. I actually dread the High Holidays now and feel very lonely. I wanted to share my story in case any of your other readers feel this way, too.

Alone for the holidays

Dear Alone for the holidays,

I can hear in your letter the longing for those days that have left their mark in your heart. It’s time, however, to make new memories to carry with you. Rosh Hashanah is a time for self-reflection. However, when you do it together with others as part of a community or group, you’re given guidance and a sort of “program” to follow. The warmth you’re looking for is still there, it just has to come from within.

I’m sure that if you try, you’ll find other young Jewish students that are alone at school during the holidays. Perhaps there is a Hillel at the school, or a Chabad, or another congregation nearby. You don’t have to know anyone there. You’ll meet new people. I think you’ll be surprised to see that your situation isn’t so unique and that many people, for one reason or another, are alone for the holidays.

All of us together, each of us alone. The High Holidays are a time when all of us stand alone before God as we reflect on our lives and review our past year. But whether you realize it or not, you’re part of a much larger Jewish community. Don’t go it alone. Go to a place where, once again, you can hear the shofar. It may bring back memories, but at the same time, you’ll be making a new connection, one you’ll carry with you through adulthood, a new memory that’s yours alone, not one from your past.

The memories you shared with your family will always live on in a special corner of your heart, but you have room for many more special moments. Find your own compass and follow it in other directions. Embrace the new community you’re part of. Don’t sit alone in your dorm room listening to the shofar on YouTube. Go online and find a service nearby. Who knows what’s waiting for you.

Shanah Tovah.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Previewing: All together, each alone

In next week's advice column, Ella advises 'Alone for the holdiays', a student who looks back on past Jewish new year celebrations that were a little less awesome and filled with a different kind of dread.

Ella says, The High Holidays are a time when all of us stand alone before God as we reflect on our lives and review our past year. But whether you realize it or not, you’re part of a much larger Jewish community.

With reasons for not wanting to go home for the holidays, 'Alone for the holiday' feels a great sense of loss.

Stay tuned to The Shmooze for next week's installment of Ask Ella.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Skate Park in Alberta defaced with a giant swastika

As tweeted by @CJPAC (Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee) and reported by Pamela Roth for, a swastika was carved into Castle Downs Park's Edmonton Hill.

A mother and her two young boys came across the disturbing symbol on Wednesday while playing on the playground in the park. The night before a group of young males had been seen jumping the temporary fence.

Constable Patrick Ruzage of the city police said while it is not uncommon to see graffiti around town especially in the summer months while school is out, the size of the swastika carved is rare.

Councilor Amrjeet Sohi, leader of the Racism Free Edmonton initiative, hopes the vandalism was merely a thoughtless act, rather than a co-ordinated effort to make a racist statement. In a statement made by Sohi, the councilor said, "This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. This does not reflect what Edmonton is all about."

City crews have since removed the swastika and will likely have to seed the ground again as it continues to renew the look of the park.

In related news former Christian Dior designer John Galliano was found guilty of antisemitic remarks and racist behaviour. Full story on

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shatner, The Captains and FanExpo Toronto!

Exactly one year since we last saw the legendary William (Bill) Shatner grace the stage at Fan Expo in Toronto, he was back again. While he saw many of the TV projects that he promoted at last year’s convention cancelled in the last 12 months, Shatner was quite upbeat and excited about his two new documentaries.

In The Captains, an original documentary both produced and directed by the original series captain of Star Trek’s Enterprise, Shatner travelled the world reconnecting with each of the actors who have played captains as part of the Star Trek franchise. Among them are Patrick Stewart, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine, who discuss their experiences captaining the famed starship. Special appearances by Kate Mulgrew and Avery Brooks are also accompanied by clips from their respective shows.

In speaking with Stewart, Shatner has an epiphany about his time playing Captain Kirk and what the ongoing love from fans at the conventions he attends ultimately means to him.

The Captains had a showing on the U.S. cable channel Epix in July. Look for the DVD to hit stores in early October.

The second documentary Shatner has been working on is the yet-to-be-officially-titled Fanatics. In it, he explores what genre lovers are after when they take part in the communal experience of attending conventions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's out of your hands

Dear Ella,

I play mah-jong with the same group of women every week. We’ve been playing together for many years and have become close friends. Janice, one of the members of the group, was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She told us all individually. She said she didn’t want the mood or the conversations at our games to change. We often talk about life situations when we get together – anything from shopping to rotten kids and everything in between. We know we need to respect Janice’s wishes not to discuss her health at our games.

Ruthie, one of the other women, does and says whatever she wants. No matter what’s going on, Ruthie manages to twist it around and only see how it affects her. She dominates the conversation with her problems week after week. She is a good person, but a little hard to take.

We were all shocked when at our last game, she brought up how difficult it was when her aunt had cancer and how it turned the whole family upside down. I wanted to reach across the table and duct tape her mouth shut. Janice excused herself early, claiming she had a headache.

Talking to Ruthie and letting her know will only have an effect for a short time, because she doesn’t really hear any kind of criticism. You can see in her eyes that she isn’t listening. What should we do? It was a very uncomfortable evening for all of us.

Sad Mahj Member

Dear Sad Mahj Member,

No one has control over the personalities of others. They say that “it takes all kinds” to make the world interesting, but it’s unfortunate that Ruthie lacks the sensitivity that’s so needed here.

Janice has a battle ahead of her, and she wanted to use your weekly mah-jong games as an escape. Since you’re all close, Janice knows what kind of person Ruthie is, so her little story about her aunt probably wasn’t a surprise.

There are a few things you can do. Start by bringing it to Ruthie’s attention. She’s so self-absorbed that she didn’t have a clue how her story affected her friend. I’m sure she didn’t tell the story out of malice. She just can’t see past her own life. People like Ruthie suck the energy out of those around them. They cause a lot of eye rolling and thoughts of “here we go again.”

Since no one can really control Ruthie’s mouth, you may experience some uncomfortable moments at your games in the future. You can try to jump in and change the subject or try handling the situation with humour. A funny line hurts less than an embarrassing serious moment.

Maybe Ruthie will pick up on what your are doing and stop, but she may be so far gone that she won’t even realize what’s happening.

At the end of the day, it will all be up to Janice. If having a place to escape to is important to her, she will have to sit down and have a talk with Ruthie and lay down some ground rules. You can only go so far to create that comfortable place for Janice to escape to.

It’s times like this that really test the bonds of friendship.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Next week’s supplement

The CJN’s annual Community Focus supplement is done! But you’ll have to wait until next week to read it.

The special section will be part of our Aug. 25 issue, and will be downloadable online.

In my editorial for the supplement, I wrote that it offers a bit of a mixed bag – just like Toronto’s Jewish community – and that it reflects changes that have come about in recent years.
How are congregations dealing with diminishing appeal of synagogues to some men? What approaches are different denominations taking with intermarried couples? How are university students adjusting to living away from the community they grew up in?

There are also articles about Israeli and Russian Jews, deaf Jews and a program for bar mitzvah students with Asperger Syndrome.

Now that the supplement is done, I’m already thinking about what to include in it next year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Previewing Baruchel's Goon

In a little less than a month, the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will present some of the best offerings of international and Canadian cinema.

Among those to be screened is Jay Baruchel's hockey film Goon.

Born in Ottawa and raised in Montreal, Baruchel had quite the year last year with three commercially successful films –  She's Out of My League, How to Train Your Dragon and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, along with the critically acclaimed independent film The Trotsky.

Baruchel co-wrote Goon, a comedy, with Superbad writer Evan Goldberg. Based on the real life story of a bouncer who overcomes great odds to rise through the ranks of the semi-professional hockey league, the script was adapted from the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith.

In a statement to Baruchel said "We like to think of it as a funnier 'Raging Bull.' It's real mean, and it's truthful, and it's everything hockey is without any of the 'bs' sports movie clichés, and it is dead funny. Lot of swears, that's a hard R. It's a very crass movie, there are something like 20 fights in it, but it's the badass movie that hockey fans have been waiting to see their whole lives. It will be by far the best hockey movie since 'Slapshot.' Hockey fans have needed one for a long time, it's a sport that movies never do well. Ours will be a f**ing movement."

The film is directed by Michael Dowse, and the cast includes, Sean William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy and Alison Pill, in addition to Baruchel . In an interview with The Canadian Press back in January, Baruchel claimed he and the 25 year old Pill, now his girlfriend, were drawn to each other almost as soon as they shot their first scenes of Goon in Winnipeg last October.

If all goes according to plan after the TIFF première in the weeks to come, the film is scheduled to hit theatres on February 3.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

PopChips™ – Parve & Dairy @kosherreviews

Hello Shmooze readers. This was a quick fun read from Kosher Food Review, a blog that reviews kosher food for both taste and convenience.

This week one of their contributors reviewed Pop Chips. The snack food marketed as a super crunchy chip, that explodes with both potato flavor and seasoning, keeping out fake stuff and more than half the fat of fried chips.

The Canadian Jewish Shmooze and The CJN in no way endorse Pop Chips, however if you happen to walk down the snack aisle and your eye catches sight of a bag or two, knowing which flavour is best you can do well by your taste buds.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kids’ feelings come first

Dear Ella,

My little girl, Emma, is off at overnight camp for the first time. It’s going to be a long summer without her, but she wanted to go so badly I didn’t have the heart to say no. She is only eight, and I thought she should wait at least another year before she attempted sleepover camp.

Visitors’ day is very important to me. The problem is, her dad and I are divorced and we don’t get along. Most of our communication about our daughter is through e-mail or lawyers. We do everything possible to avoid speaking to or seeing each other. He is going to want to see Emma too, and the thought of sharing her with him and his new girlfriend at camp is not something I fancy.

Emma is used to our doing things separately. We celebrate birthdays, holidays and any other special occasion separately, and she has accepted this as normal.

He let me take her to the bus when she left, because he had to work anyway, but we have not even discussed visitors’ day. I’m sure he could care less if I’m there and he will just go, with no regard to my feelings or my daughter’s. This should be a fun time for her, and I don’t want anything to spoil her memory of her first year at overnight camp. Should I take the high road and just let him go?

Lonely Mom

Dear Lonely Mom,

Overnight camp is a milestone in your daughter’s life. It’s a bittersweet time for you, but you put your feelings aside knowing Emma is going to have a wonderful time. At overnight camp she will build independence and social skills, and make new, lifelong friends. It’s a new experience for her, too, so it’s extremely important that her first experience without her parents is a positive one.

If there is the slightest chance that you and your ex will argue, or even give off negative energy, around Emma, then you can’t go to visitors’ day together. Kids pick up on fake smiles and tension in the air. This is her time and you must both put your needs aside.

Staying away on visitors’ day is not the answer. Emma will miss you and want to see her mom as much as her dad. I agree that visiting together may be uncomfortable for all. You are not the only divorced family at camp, and many camps have adjusted and added a second day. If Emma’s camp is not one of those, then speak to the camp director, and he/she will accommodate your situation.

The next hurdle is who gets the “real” visitors’ day and who gets the extra day that has been allocated for Emma. Visitors’ day is not always easy on kids, and some camps with a shorter duration have eliminated this tradition. Two days could cause emotional feelings twice. You might consider splitting up the day so that one of you is with her in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

You and your ex have some choices to make. Whatever you decide, remember you must do what’s best for Emma. Your priority must be to make sure your daughter is happy in this new life experience.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rabbi Korobkin and the plan for BAYT

Now that the "BAYT's" - Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto – selection committee has chosen its next head rabbi, he is currying favour with the synagogue's congregants.
At a recent young family meet and greet, the beginning of a road map was laid out on how to reinvigorate BAYT's membership. Many Toronto Jews in recent years have pulled away from the community, creating a gap in attendance to programs and even services on a regular basis. Rabbi Korobkin stressed greatly that we (the Jewish people) have a deep need to stand together and be a part of a community. It's a lesson very much present in the bible and our teachings. The parsha for this week, Matot, highlights the effect tearing the tribe asunder can have on the future of the Jewish people.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CIJA further supports CIIRDF

The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) as many of you may or may not know, is the arm of UIA Federations Canada, comprised of all the public affairs agencies of the Canadian Jewish community. Under the umbrella of CIJA those who became a part of the unified organization earlier this month, namely the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) the Canada Israel Committee (CIC) and the Quebec Israel Committee (QIC), were represented on July 10 at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The purpose of the event at the museum: a renewed bilateral agreement was signed to fund and support the Canada Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (CIIRDF) for another five years. The foundation was first established in 1994 for research and development and the commercialization of new technology to be pursued by private companies from both countries. With more than 70 projects supported since the foundation was created a yield of approximately $1 billion in revenue has been achieved.

The success of the CIIRDF is attributed to having a similar design to the Israel-U.S. Bi-national Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) initiative. CIIRDF contributes up to 50 per cent of the joint R&D costs for Canadian and Israeli companies' joint activities.

Many Israeli and Canadian leaders were on hand at the museum for the high profile event. Among them, former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Haim Divon; chairman of the Israel-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group in Knesset MK Yohanan Plesner, and The CJN's columnist and Professor of the Harman Center at McGill University Gil Troy. Additionally representing the Jewish community of Canada were MP for Mount Royal Irwin Cotler and CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's a beautiful thing when the community gives back

After writing a story, specifically covering charitable events, it's always a bit humbling when someone tells the reporter that as a result of their article many people contributed to a charity that will help others.

Usually, in the course of reporting, one doesn't think about the long-term impact of a specific story. It's all about getting the facts, presenting them to the reader in as unbiased a way as possible, and then moving on to the next assignment.

But occasionally, a reporter pauses in his or her tracks when confronted with how their story added some tikkun olam to society.

Last week, I had the honour of being invited to attend the Canadian Friends of Meir Medical Center's annual awards gala in Toronto. After writing an advance story on how this Israeli hospital is in need of funds to complete a children's wing, the organizers of the event contacted me to thank me for the story and tell me that it had led directly to an influx of donations from Canadian donors and philanthropists.

This was terrific news.

But there was another element to this story in The CJN.

The gala organizers also were honouring the Florence family of Toronto with a humanitarian award. Why? Because Dana and Jared Florence have been blessed with miraculous triplets, all of whom have Cerebral Palsy.

Since just after their birth, the Florence children, diagnosed with the impairment to their motor functions, have undergone various surgeries, therapies and protocols to help them progress physically as much as possible. And despite being told not to expect too much by doctors, the Florences have never given up on their children. Quite the opposite. They decided to wage war on CP in the form of their foundation "ThreeToBe".

Having had the pleasure of interviewing Dana and Jared and listening to their story, and having been told by the Canadian Friends of Meir Medical Center executive that my story had brought much-needed funding to their cause as well, I was reminded that one can and does make a difference through their work.

Here's a small video from ThreeToBe's website that tells you all you need to know.

-Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf

Monday, July 4, 2011

JUMP marks year 3

It takes little effort for the rush of everyday life in Toronto to surround and consume the time and attention of its culturally diverse-yet-assimilated population. Aside from the more observant folks within the Jewish community, for young professionals the need to connect intellectually, spiritually or in a cultural vein varies a great deal.

JUMP (Jewish Urban Meeting Place) which is among the handful of organizations that strive to strengthen the neshama of today's Jewish youth,  is celebrating another year of tremendous growth. And the three-year-old center wants you to join in the festivities.  

Have you been on one of the amazing trips to New York City in the winter? Israel in the summer? Attended one of their social events shabbat dinners, volunteer opportunities or classes? Do you plan to check one out in the near future? Get your feet wet with an all-out greet and meet anniversary party this Thursday starting at 8 p.m. at This is London.

Get up close to Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo as he performs live. Or shake it with the samba squad, chow down on some delicious food and walk away not just with swag, but maybe a phone number or two of those cute guys and gals you've been eyeing all night?

For more information on tickets to the event or to get involved click here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding cures in a virtual space

Determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain cancer and other neurological disorders, the province of Ontario entered into a co-sponsorship with Israel just a little more than a year ago. Together, Israel and the province began collaborating on a virtual brain research institute.

Israel’s renowned life-sciences capabilities mesh well with the advanced neurological research being conducted in Ontario. In a recent tweet on the social network Twitter, Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, Glen Murray, said it’s “to be a global centre of excellence.” Murray was put in charge of the project by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Last October, the Ontario cabinet approved $15 million in funding for a research institute to be headed by Dr. Joseph Martin, dean emeritus of Harvard Medical School. This is the first virtual research centre to be established for multi-site research projects, which will be conducted by experts from both countries.

It is McGuinty’s deep desire to “build a dynamic social cultural and dynamic diplomatic relationship with Israel that allows it to strengthen its economy and independence,” he said.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Family above money

Dear Ella,
My brother-in-law Mark, the lawyer, who eats in our home regularly, who visits our cottage with his family every summer, who claims to be closer to us than any other relative, charged my daughter a hefty amount when she used him to litigate a legal problem she was having at work.
Sandra was let go from her job after 12 years for reasons she felt were unjust, so she decided to sue her employer. She discussed the matter at our dinner table one night when Mark was over with his family.
Mark listened to her side and told her it sounded like she might have a case. He suggested that she call him at the firm on Monday morning. Sandra took him up on his offer. He took on the case, but they didn’t discuss fees. We just assumed that he was doing this for free for his niece because he loves her and they are close.
Imagine our shock when she came to us in tears waving a huge bill. I was livid. My husband tried to calm us down, but I think it’s outrageous that he has the chutzpah to charge Sandra that kind of money when it was his idea that she call him in the first place.
Should there not be some sense of family or loyalty? I would be interested to hear your opinion.

Dear Disheartened
You don’t have to look too far to find a family or friendship which has been torn apart because of money.
Not every circumstance is the same. You mention that Mark said to call him at his firm. Does that mean he doesn’t work alone? Does he have to answer to other partners? Are there legal assistants, disbursements, receptionists, rent and other overhead that he has to pay? How much time did he spend researching her case, writing letters, going to court or mediating on Sandra’s behalf?
It’s easy to say he shouldn’t have charged her, but when you actually look at all that was involved, you might feel otherwise. Why should Sandra’s problem cost Mark expenses? What I’m sure Sandra did get was special attention from an uncle who loves her and happens to be a competent lawyer.
Whenever a business transaction occurs between family members or close friends, everything should be out in the open right from the start. Whether it’s something as small as the sale of a pair of pants to something as large as the sale of a house, fees, commissions, prices and work expected should be discussed by both parties, especially the one who is the recipient of the goods or services. Know what it’s going to cost you. Never, ever assume! With all the cards on the table, you can make an informed decision and keep the relationship intact.
Before you write Mark out of your family completely, Sandra should ask him to explain exactly what he charged and why. Is it possible that he did give you a reasonable discount? Maybe with some understanding, you’ll have a different opinion. If you’re still unhappy, tell him. Talk it out, and then put it behind you. Family is more valuable than money.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Facing Tomorrow Today

Facing Tomorrow 2011, the third annual conference under the auspices of Israeli President Shimon Peres, is coming to a close.

The two and a half day conference focused on vital issues and the solutions to them, all designed to bring about a better tomorrow.  Approximately 200 of the world's best minds, global leaders, international scholars and activists, scientists, entrepreneurs and industrialists, came together to take part in plenary sessions and incredibly varied panels. The decisions they come to over the two and a half days are to be implemented without delay, improving the quality of life for all mankind in addition to diaspora Jews, those within the State of Israel and the state itself.

One of the main issues deliberated at the heart of the conference is the deligitimization of Israel and the underlying fuel that powers it; the Boycott, Disinvestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Campaigns against Israel on university campuses around the world as well as many anti-Israel condemnations at the UN Human Rights Council are also of great concern.

Chief among the world's best minds, making a repeat appearance at the conference, Canadian Liberal MP Irwin Cotler. He asserts that of the two great evils of the 20th Century, Apartheid and Nazism, Israel is accused of both. To anyone who lifts the blinders, it can clearly be seen that Israel's vibrant democracy bears no resemblance to Apartheid-era South Africa. The BDS activists demonize Israel as the embodiment of ultimate racist evil, designed inexplicably to remove any moral grounds for the Jewish state's existence.

Perhaps from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address today toward the close of the conference, the world's brightest lights will have devised the newest, best strategies on how we can win the war against those who have made it their mission to deligitimize Eretz Yisrael.

The CJN's Sheri Shefa has been on site reporting live from the conference. Click here to see what she's seen and heard.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bocelli, Noa duet at Masada

You'll have to pardon the shaky camera on this beautiful video from Israel.

Recorded on Sunday June 12, renowned Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli performed at the foot of Masada with the Rishon LeZion Symphony Orchestra and the opera choir as the closing concert of the
second international opera festival at Masada-Dead Sea and Jerusalem.

Below is Bocelli alongside Israeli singer Noa (Achinoam Nini), singing a rendition of "Santa Lucia Luntana."

It's quite amazing when you think about it: a Christian Italian and an Israeli singing their hearts out about a town named after an Italian saint... in the Jewish state.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A night of fun and fundraising

Reena's VIP Event, is typically held in conjuction with the foundation's annual Not Just Another Saturday Night event. This year the new leadership division has decided to hold the night's charity tournament as a stand alone gathering of players and VIPs. All proceeds from the kick off to this October's main event will, once again, go towards the foundation's endowment fund which provides essential programs to children and adults with developmental disabilities. On Sunday, June 26th at 4 p.m. at the Factory Lounge located at 34 Futurity Gate in Vaughan, beginners, novices and expert players alike, will show off their skills, as they vie for one of the ten coveted seats at the final table. Buy-ins earn players a buffet style dinner and, at the very least, plenty of swag to walk away with. Come on out to see if you can raise, bluff and stare down  the other players to claim the bracelet and title as the 2011 Reena Foundation's VIP champion.

To buy your ticket now click here

Thursday, June 2, 2011

An exclusive coming next week...

In an upcoming article exclusive to by Rabbi Michael Stavsky, the impending holiday of Shavuot will be discussed. Rabbi Stavsky's focus will explain what significant customs are associated with these holy days.

Most Jewish people have attended a Pesach seder, lit Chanukah candles and heard the shofar on Rosh Hashana. So, what about Shavuot? What special customs are observed on Shavuot? The Tikkun Leil Shavuot (literally translated to the rectification of the night of Shavuot), is the custom of studying Torah all night and the recitation of the tikkun composition, which for many is the most difficult Shavuot custom to observe.

For more on this check back at on Tuesday June 7 for all your answers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Toronto Jewry bowls for Peace of Mind

Bowl-with-a-Soldier, held last night at Playtime Bowl near the Yorkdale shopping centre in Toronto, raised the bar on what a party atmosphere within a bowlerama should look like. The premiere event for Peace of Mind (POM), a program of The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICPT) in Jerusalem, amassed nearly $13,000. POM’s co-ordinating director in Toronto, Linoy Hazan, brought together a cross section of supporters of all ages.

There were prize giveaways for top scorers, a 50/50 raffle, music, soldiers singing, lots of laughs – and who could forget the food! The strength and unity shown by leading members of Toronto’s Jewish community in attendance, was greatly felt and much appreciated by the young men and women from the Israel Defence Forces who participated in the POM program.

When Bowl-with-a-Soldier is announced again, be sure to mark your calendar. It’s an event you won’t want to miss.

For more information about Peace of Mind, jump to the feature piece on or the post on Heebonics, visit, or e-mail Hazan at .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Combating a new form of delegitimizing Israel

The following is inspired by a news brief found on Recently re-elected Canadian member of parliament Professor Irwin Cotler, warned attendees at the Begin-Sadat Center conference on Bar Ilan University's campus, of a new approach at de-legitimizing Israel. The conference focused on democracies and the right to self defense. Cotler calls it "lawfare", laundering the de-legitimization under the cover of the law, by way of decisions made in accordance with the United Nations, international law, humanitarian law, the struggle against racism and the struggle against genocide. For more on the story click here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One Survivors Story

With Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) now having just passed, a very touching story was told by one of the shoah's remaining survivors: Paul Henri Rips. Rips shared his story at JUMP (Jewish Urban Meeting Place) from his memoir Fate Undecided recently published by the Azrieli Foundation. Here is a clip of Rips describing what the conditions were like to obtain food in Belgium during the time of the war.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

BAYT finds its new voice

In the coming months, Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation will welcome its new senior rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, the first of the three recently screened rabbinical candidates.

The decision recently made by BAYT's Board of Governors, was based on the strong recommendations from the Senior Rabbi search committee and also resulted from the membership survey.

While Rabbi Korobkin remains in a transitional state making preparations to leave his present pulpit at Kehillat Yavneh in Los Angeles, the congregants of BAYT very much look forward to his first official sermon, as their new senior rabbinical voice come September.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover Parodies - Among the Best we Found

With all the parody groups out there from the Maccabeats to The Ein Prat Fountainheads, (graduates and students of Midreshet Ein Prat, Israel) it's refreshing to find original ideas on what to do with all that leftover Matzah at the end of Passover.

Performed by Michelle Citrin and William Levin

Chag Kasher v’Samayach from all of us @TheCJN and The CJ Shmooze

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Na'amat Canada Toronto presents Israel Day Festival

Did you know: Na'amat supports 250 day care centres in Israel? Pictured left is one of them where we provide 3 meals a day for children as well as 2 snacks.

Join us at our 16th annual FREE Israel Day Festival, June 5th, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Mel Lastman Square.
It's a cultural event featuring both Hebrew and English entertainment, Hebrew Day School children's choirs, Middle Eastern and Canadian food, vendor's market, live auction and the best part is the money raised goes to support social services and enhance the lives of women and children in Israel.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Exploring Passover's Traditions...

The Seder so nice, we do it twice! But why??

Read Rabbi Michael Stavsky's latest holiday article:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Canada Votes 2011 - CJPACers Blog (Part II)

The hardworking team over at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) continue to provide terrific insight into the minds of young, Jewish, Canadian federal party volunteers as they campaign towards the May 2 vote.

The following are four more blogs from the CJPAC members – Julien Newman, Sarah Kitai, Zach Paikin and Aaron Silver – each reveal more about their experiences with their chosen parties this election. Read on and enjoy. Oh, and don't forget to go to the polls on May 2. 
Your vote counts. 

- The Shmooze Team.


Julien Newman – My first time:
The first time I volunteered in a large-scale political campaign was to elect Ed Broadbent in 2004. Mr Broadbent was a former leader of the NDP. He had delivered the party’s most successful electoral results and he was returning to federal politics to support of our promising new leader – Jack Layton. We had thousands of volunteers throughout the campaign and we managed to win the seat from the Liberals.

Read more at Julien's  blog

Sarah Kitai – Lessons Learned:
Sometimes, it’s the unpleasant experiences in life that teach us the best lessons.

This was certainly true of my early encounters with political organizations. As a high school student, concerned about environmental issues and eager to get involved, I naively decided to volunteer with a certain left-wing environmental advocacy group which shall henceforth remain unnamed.

Zach Paikin – My First Political Campaign:
This week’s topic is about our very first political campaign and what we wished we had known at that age.

My first political campaign was when I was 13 years old, and funnily enough it was working for John Tory in his race to become leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in 2004. (I have only been a partisan since 2008, when I decided to join the Liberal Party.)


Aaron Silver – My First Time:
Thinking about when I was first involved in a campaign takes me back to September 2008.  I was a junior CJPAC fellow and hungry to get involved in politics.  I lived in Toronto at that time, in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence and wanted to get involved in a Conservative campaign.  My desire to work on a campaign led me to the nomination campaign of Joe Oliver.