Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celebrate all that love

Dear Ella,

I’m getting married in October and my guest list is a bit unusual.

In attendance will be my two mothers and three fathers. This happy bunch is the result of my mom’s three marriages and my dad’s two marriages.

Let me explain.

My mom, Linda, and dad, Paul, divorced when I was five years old.

My mom remarried, and I was primarily raised by her and my stepfather, Brian. Three years ago, my mom and Brian split up, and she’s now with her new partner, Rob. My dad, Paul, remarried Eve when I was a little girl, and I spent a lot of time with them over the years. What’s funny about all this is that I love them all. They are all wonderful people and are important in my life. What’s even more unusual is that they all like each other and get along very well at family functions.

Now that you know the background, here’s the problem: I want them all to play an important role in my wedding. Larry, my fiancĂ©, is fine with whatever I decide.

Who walks me down the aisle? Can they all be in my wedding party? What about the head table and the speeches? The invitation is a whole other nightmare!

It’s very complicated, and I don’t want to hurt anyone, as I love them all.

Lots of Lovin’

Dear Lots of Lovin’,

The addition of stepparents is not so unusual. What makes this unique is that they all get along. Of course, this works in your favour.

For the invitation, the phrase “together with their families,” could be used, as there may be too many names to mention. A professional invitation person will have options for you to choose so your wording can reflect exactly what you want.

Now let’s tackle the wedding party. Since they’re all very special to you, you may want them all to take part in your ceremony. Perhaps the married couples could each march down the aisle and Brian, whom I assume did not remarry, can walk down on his own. Both Linda and Paul will stop in the centre of the aisle while their spouses continue to their seats in the front row or stand under the chupah –your choice. Linda and Paul, your biological parents will wait for you to come down the aisle, and they should walk you up to the chupah.

For the head table, if you want them there with you, just add more chairs. Remember: this is your wedding and you can do it your way.

Speeches can be a little tricky. For the sake of the guests, you don’t want too many speeches. Possibly a short toast from some could be an alternative? How about having a pre-wedding meeting with everyone and do a little brainstorming? All the “steps” may even come up with a cute group speech.

An experienced wedding consultant can help with suggestions and proper execution. The most important thing to remember is this is your day. It can be as creative and meaningful as you and Larry want it to be. You don’t have to follow “wedding etiquette.” You’re a lucky woman to have so much love in your life.

Celebrate it!

Readers may submit their questions to Ella at But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Emmanuelle Chriqui on genre series work

Canadian actress Emmanuelle Chriqui is immersing herself in yet another groundbreaking series.

While known most notably for her role as Sloan on Entourage – that series was a fictional look at the life of an emerging Hollywood star and his friends – Chriqui has been cast alongside top performers in an all-new animated offering from Disney.

Tron Uprising, premiering June 7 and running for 18 episodes on Disney XD, is set between the events of the original feature film and the 2011 blockbuster followup, Tron Legacy. Beck, a young program, voiced by Elijah Wood, is destined to become the next top renegade of the computer world known as "The Grid". Trained by its past champion Tron, Beck will soon lead a revolution against the villainous Clu and main protagonist General Tesler.

In a press conference for the series first season, Chriqui who voices Paige, the general's young field commander, says she treated the role as if it were a live-action program. While not plugged into the world of science fiction, she could not help but be drawn in by the script and the journey each character was set to embark upon, she told the press at a series launch interview.

Chriqui and Wood will also be joined vocally by the likes of Bruce Boxleitner, who portrayed Tron in both theatrical releases, as well as Mandy Moore and Lance Henriksen.

This is the in-between feature filler Tron fans won't want to miss.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When all has been said about Shavuot

Compared to most other holidays on the Jewish calendar, Shavuot is perhaps one of the dullest ritually speaking.

Consuming dairy products, hardly stacks up against the symbols and rituals associated with the High Holidays, such as blowing the shofar and listening to the familiar strains of Kol Nidre, or Passover, when we recall the Exodus from Eqypt and spend eight days eating matzah.

Last year The CJN's Rabbi Michael Stavsky discussed the Tikun Leil Shavuot – the custom of studying Torah all night and the recitation of the tikun composition – which for many is the most difficult Shavuot custom to observe.

After all the readings have been exhausted and the mind needs a rest check out Jewish Humor Central where among their posts you'll find this scene from Mel Brooks' classic film History of the World - Part 1. In it Brooks, playing Moses, gives us his explanation of how we ended up with "only" 10 commandments. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shatner guest stars on ABC summer hit

One of the most anticipated shows returning to this summer's TV schedule is ABC's Rookie Blue. The fictional cop drama with an almost all-Canadian cast, kicks off its third season with rookie Andy McNally (played by B.C.'s Missy Peregrym's) return from suspension.

Among his many roles, William Shatner, who portrayed police sergeant T.J. Hooker on the series of the same name from 1982 to 1986, guest stars in the Rookie Blue season 3 premiere, as a drunk driver with an axe to grind against the city's police force.

Watch the promos from ABC and Global TV below; then tune in for all the action next Thursday May 24, at 8 p.m.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cohabitation vs. marriage

Dear Ella,

My granddaughter Megan, a bright and beautiful 25-year-old, has been dating Carey for the past year. They have recently finished school and have started new careers.

They are ready to move on to Phase 2 of their relationship: cohabitation. Now that they both have an income, they can move out of their parents’ homes and afford to rent something modest.

When I asked Megan why she wanted to live with Carey instead of getting married, she looked at me like I had two heads.

“It’s a test, Bubbie, to see if we are compatible for marriage. Everyone lives together first.” She was so excited about this new venture I didn’t have the heart to burst her bubble.

I’m not old-fashioned, but I don’t believe that living together before marriage is a good test to see if a couple is compatible. It somehow blurs the lines of commitment. There are far better ways to tell if the person you are with is the right one.

I don’t want Megan to make a mistake that will cost her years of her life. Am I wrong?

Bummed-out Bubbie

Dear Bummed-out Bubbie,

Many people, like Megan, feel that living together is the first step to take before committing to marriage. You get to see how grumpy your partner is in the morning, how messy they leave the bathroom sink, and how they handle day-to-day finances and regular household chores. But does that prepare them for a lasting marriage?

Statistics show that the majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.

It usually starts quite innocently. You date, you spend more time at each other’s homes, and then you move to regular sleepovers. The next natural and most convenient step is to move in together. But there are pros and cons to cohabitation before marriage. Living together does allow you to “try it on” before making the final purchase. Does it suit you? Is it a good fit? Does it bring out the best in you?

Is it trendy or something that will never grow old?

Living together as a test can also backfire. Often couples will get comfortable in a cohabitation lifestyle, and you’re right when you say this can blur the lines of commitment for some. When two people vow to stand under a chupah before God, family and friends, there’s something very solid about that as a commitment versus simply saying, “Let’s move in together.”

There’s a more lax attitude that comes with living together. It allows you to think you can leave easily, but once you’ve melded your finances, bought furniture, enjoy the same friends and invested so much time in each other, you may feel it’s easier to just get married than to start all over.

It’s hard to get young people to listen. Growing up means making decisions, even if some of them end up being mistakes. Your job as her bubbie is to be there for her no matter what. You can certainly help by offering articles, books and statistics, but in the end, Megan will do what she feels is best.

Either way, there are no guarantees.

Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Getting design ideas reading No Place Like Home

Our annual residential lifestyle supplement No Place Like Home arrives in next week's pages of The CJN and will also be posted online to

In it you'll find new and fresh ideas for lighting, kitchen renovations, furnishings and trends for 2012 in high-rise, mid-rise and retirement living.

If it'll be your first time flipping through, take a look at last year's edition by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

HOOPS 4 ISRAEL "H4I" expands its reach

One of the most anticipated annual Jewish sporting events in Toronto is the basketball charity tournament Hoops 4 Israel or "H4I".

A volunteer initiative administered by the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto's young adult engagement division, Community Connect,  H4I has raised more than $500,000 over the past six years for programs in Israel that support at-risk youths.

The competition's tremendous growth has allowed it to expand its mandate to help equally underprivileged youth in Toronto. H4I will contribute a part of its proceeds to the JCC Chai Sports and Center Camp Scholarship funds for summer programs.

The three-on-three half-court, round-robin games are fast-paced and competitive, providing great entertainment for all who attend. This year, spectators are invited to the Kimel Family Education Center at 9600 Bathurst St., Sunday May 6, starting at 9 a.m. to root for their favourite team.

Take a look at last years action:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering Rabbi Jonathan V. Plaut

The Jewish communities of Windsor, Ont., and Jackson, Mich. are mourning the loss of Rabbi Jonathan V. Plaut, who held many civic and religious posts throughout his illustrious career. He died April 17 after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He was 69.

His family was of the utmost importance to him. He was a devoted son to both his mother, the late Elizabeth Strauss Plaut, and father, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, the former spiritual leader of Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple and president of Canadian Jewish Congress, who passed away in February.

Ordained in 1970 by Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, the younger Rabbi Plaut first served Congregation Beth El in Windsor as senior rabbi until 1984. During his time in Windsor he was also editor of the Journal of the Canadian Historical Society and Through the Sound of Many Voices: Writings Contributed on the Occasion of the 70th Birthday of W. Gunther Plaut. He then assumed the pulpit of Temple Emanu-El in San Jose, Calif., where he remained from 1985 to 1993.

Rabbi Plaut, earned a doctorate from HUC in 1977, then taught for eight years at Santa Clara University. Since October 2000, Rabbi Plaut had held the position of spiritual leader at Temple Beth Israel in Jackson, Mich.

Funeral services will be held at Holy Blossom Memorial Park in Toronto, and there will be a memorial service at Congregation Beth-El in Windsor. Further accounts of the rabbi’s accomplishments are listed here. May his memory be for blessing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mend fences: Life's too short

Dear Ella,
At every major holiday or family event, I encounter the same problem, and this Passover was no exception. My two nieces don’t speak to one another.
I have not taken sides in their feud, but have expressed my opinion about it. Although I agreed with Deborah, the younger of the two sisters, that the events that started this feud were handled improperly, I said I would not exclude Daliah, her sister, from family functions. But Daliah would not attend any gathering if Deborah was going to be there.
After 10 years, Daliah finally concluded that she had missed out on enough family functions and accepted my invitation for Passover this year. When Deborah found out, she called the night before the seder to tell me that she and her family would not be attending.
I later heard from their brother, Richard, that Deborah felt that “I had made my choice,” and I believe she is angry with me now.
I refuse to be put in the middle of this war and don’t want a repeat of this stress every holiday. It takes years off my life. How should I handle this?
Frustrated Auntie

Dear Frustrated Auntie,
Sometimes people get so caught up in their grudges and pride that they can’t see past it and how it affects their children, spouses and extended families. Life is too short to hang on to this kind of animosity for more than 10 years, but this should not be your problem. This feud belongs to Deborah and Daliah, and if they can’t see, or don’t care, what it’s doing to the rest of the family, I think you need to stop caring, too. Next time there’s a family gathering, you’re not going to be the one to choose between them. You need to drop the ball squarely in their court and let the chips fall where they may.
For your next gathering, send both of these gals an e-mail, and make sure to use both their names in the “send to” line.
It should read something like this:
Dear Deborah and Daliah,
On [insert date] we are having an [insert event]. I have invited the whole family.
First let me say that I love you both. In the past, you have made it very uncomfortable, forcing me to choose between the two of you, and I can’t do it any longer. It would be very meaningful to me if you could put aside your differences and enjoy this important day with us. I know it would mean the world to the rest of the family as well.
I hope you give this some thought before you answer out of anger. Please let me know by [insert date] how many in your family will be attending. Once you get past the first five minutes, I promise you will enjoy catching up with everyone. Please don’t let pride stand in your way. Life is too short. I hope more than anything to see you both on this special occasion.
Love [insert name]
Then sit back and wait for the reply. This isn’t your problem. You didn’t create it, and you shouldn’t be in the middle of it. Go ahead and plan your event. If they can’t get past this, unfortunately you’ll have to get used to moving on without them. It will be their loss if they choose not to attend.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Urging Canada's HOC to stamp out antisemitism

In a parliamentary meeting this week preparing for the annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) observance, York Centre Conservative MP Mark Adler and Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler both rose in the House of Commons to spur their fellow parliamentarians into taking action against all forms of antisemitism.

Irwin Cotler
Mark Adler
Below is a transcripts of their remarks in the Commons.

Adler: "Mr. Speaker, on the evening of April 18th, Jewish communities around the world will come together and mark Yom Hashoa, a special day of remembrance for the suffering and murder of millions of innocent men, women and children during The Holocaust. Mr. Speaker, as Parliamentarians it is our duty to ensure that “never again” is about more than just words, it is about action.

While there are numerous examples of our governments work in the fight against anti-Semitism, I am most proud that in the 2010 speech from the Throne, our Government committed to supporting the National Holocaust Memorial, which will be located in the National Capital Region.

On April 19th, this Yom HaShoah, I ask you to join me in rejecting anti-Semitism in all its virulent forms and in remembering the victims of the Holocaust."

Cotler: “Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate National Holocaust Remembrance Day, a remembrance of horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened, of the Holocaust as a war against the Jews in which not all victims were Jews but all Jews were targeted victims - defamed, demonized and dehumanized - as prologue and justification for their destruction.

“As a reminder of the dangers of state-sanctioned incitement to hatred and genocide; of the dangers of the oldest and most enduring of hatreds, antisemitism; of indifference and inaction in the face of incitement and mass atrocity; of the targeting of the vulnerable, whom the Nazis spoke of as having ‘lives not worth living’; of the culture of impunity; of the dangers of forgetting, ignoring, trivializing or denying the Holocaust; and, remembering also, on this centenary of Raoul Wallenberg, this hero of the Holocaust who demonstrated that one person can resist, that one person can confront evil, that one person can prevail, that one person can transform history.

“Let us pledge never again to be silent or indifferent in the face of evil. Plus jamais!”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting ready to greet Passover once more

Winter has officially left us, spring is beginning to bloom around us, and, amazingly, a year has passed, Passover is back. Families will come together in the coming week for their annual seders and retell the story of our Exodus from Egypt.

Before Erev Pesach rolls in next Friday, be sure to check out our Literary/Greetings supplement in next week's paper. It's a collection of fiction and poetry submitted by our readers. For you the web generation think of it as our most effective use of user- generated content.

Starting Tuesday you'll find the 2012 edition posted in the supplements section on The CJN's main site at

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SDM bringing Tel Aviv heat to Toronto!

Size Doesn't Matter, the web campaign highlighting Israeli nightlife, pop culture, art, innovation and more is aiming to capture the attention of young professionals from across Toronto right after Passover.

For those who have yet to experience the Holy Land, the exotic flavour of Tel Aviv, considered by some to be a cultural mecca, will be on display in Toronto at the first annual TLV to the YYZ. The event will feature world renowned Israeli spinmaster, DJ Erez Ben Ishay, samplings of delectable Israeli food and wines, and showcase the hottest trends from the streets and runways of TLV during its premiere designer fashion show.

For more information and to get on the guest list click here

Don't forget to check out the event's teaser video below.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tackle problems together

Ask Ella
By Ella Burakowski
Dear Ella,

Michelle and I have been together for a long time. We’ve discussed marriage and at this point, we just assume we will always be together, but I can’t bring myself to pop the question just yet.

Michelle is very close to her family as I am with mine, but there is a big difference: she shares everything with them. Last week, her mom approached me to discuss an intimate, private problem that should have stayed between us. This was very personal, and my girlfriend metaphorically brought her mother into our bed.

I have spoken to Michelle at great length about her unhealthy dependence on her parents and how it’s time for her to distance herself from them if she wants to move on with a new family of her own. She disagrees with me and feels I don’t understand because I don’t come from a close family. She says you can’t have too much love. In fact, I do come from a close family. It’s just that we don’t speak to or see each other every day, and I choose to solve my problems without my parents’ intervention.

As far as I’m concerned, the relationship she has with her family is unhealthy, and last week it became embarrassing. Do I give her an ultimatum to choose them or me? I don’t know what to do.

Cut the Cord

Dear Cut the Cord,

It’s very important to feel loved and to have a close bond with family. However, at some point, there needs to be a natural break. It’s not unusual for a child of overprotective parents to have a difficult time separating. It’s possible that Michelle is having a hard time letting go because her parents have always helped solve her problems. The fact that her mother approached you about something so private between the two of you is proof of that. She should have advised her daughter to work it out with you, rather than take over and try to fix things for her little girl.

You have to make Michelle feel secure enough to trust that together you can solve your own problems. Right now, you’re like the outsider trying to break in to a sealed bond that has had a lifetime to strengthen. It’s up to you to turn the tables. For a relationship to be healthy, there needs to be trust, communication and boundaries.

Did you discuss the inappropriateness of her approaching her mother with such a personal problem? Did you communicate to her how it made you feel? You need to teach Michelle to trust that together you can work out your issues. As her husband-to-be, you’re entitled to verbalize your expectations and set boundaries. She needs to know that your loyalty to, and privacy with, each other must take priority. It’s the basic foundation for respecting the sanctity of your relationship.

Michelle has to know that she stepped over the line, but at the same time, you have to be patient while she works through this complicated relationship she has with her parents. You both have some serious work ahead, and you may benefit from some professional couples counselling. Only you can decide if you love her enough to help her through this.
Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Scapegoats through the ages and the Purim parallel

The concept of Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for "repairing the world", is an important mission. To prevent or resolve  social chaos wherever and whenever it presents itself should be the goal of all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion. In a piece for the Huffington Post Canada's religion blog, Toronto-raised Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troste, director of North American programs for Rabbis for Human Rights North America, traces the practice back to the time of Esther and the story of Purim.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Better Place works toward a better world for all

In these difficult economic times, vacationers are increasingly choosing "stay-cations" as an option to help save on the traditional costs of air travel and the like. This leads to an increased reliance on our cars for vacation travel. Making that choice, our four-wheelers still cost us a fair bit in gas and oil expenses, which in turn contributes to a greater release of toxins and pollutants into the Earth's atmosphere.

The CJN recently visited the Better Place education and demonstration center at Toronto's Evergreen Brick Works. Better Place is an American-Israeli company and a global provider of networked charge spots, battery switch stations and systems that will optimize the driving experience by helping reduce our dependence on oil and its petroleum byproducts.

Sunday Feb. 26 was the last day the Better Place Brick Works demonstration center was open to the public to promote "green power" and sustainable living by employing newly adopted EV (Electric Vehicle) car models. The Ontario government provided them with a one-year grant to help spread the "drive clean" message.

It was an eye-opening experience, as The CJN got to test drive an EV from Nissan. The car drove just as a Better Place educator explained it would – incredibly smooth and amazingly silent. Without gears and traditional vehicle mechanisms, the Nissan EV relies solely on the electric systems for propulsion. With but a gentle press on the accelerator, the car just about took off at high speed.

Ontario is working to reach its goal of having one car out of every 20 be an EV and on the road by the year 2020.

It will be an exciting feat and a miraculous innovative shift when we truly do, one day, leave the world of the combustion engine behind for hybrid cars and all manner of eco-friendly affordable alternatives.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canadian shines on The Voice Israel

We're well into the competition now on The Voice Israel (essentially the Hebrew arm of NBC's The Voice), and Canadian olah Kathleen Reiter, continues to impress the judges.

On the program's debut episode, Reiter soulfully covered Adele's Rolling in the Deep and in this clip, she brought her powerful vocal register to Katy Perry's monster hit I Kissed a Girl. The audience clearly liked it.

Recently, Viva Sarah Press, The CJN's Israel correspondent, conducted an in-depth interview with Reiter. If you happened to miss the article, you can read the full story here. Many people apparently agree Reiter is one we will hear more about in the weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

‘Thank you’ is mandatory

Dear Ella,

About six months ago my grandson Adam had a bar mitzvah. It was small and took place on a long weekend. Invitations were sent out, and I knew some people wouldn’t be attending, since they had already made other commitments for the holiday weekend.

Some of the invited were relatives, and knowing my relations, I knew they would still send a gift anyway. I told my son and daughter-in-law this, and asked that they make sure all the relatives who send a gift get thank you notes, not just the ones that attend. In all fairness, that’s the right thing to do.

“Oh yes, of course,” they both said. Well, here it is four months later, and I got a call from one of my relatives asking me if Adam received her gift. She went on to say, “I know the cheque was cashed, but I’m not sure if Adam knows it was from me, as I never received any acknowledgement.”

What should I do? Should I call my son and find out why nothing was mailed? I feel terrible and am quite upset. I’m ready to let them know how I feel, but I’m afraid of what the outcome will be if I open my mouth. I hope you can offer your opinion.


Dear Inconsiderate,

It’s unfortunate that you’ve been put in this position. You may feel this reflects badly on you and are concerned that people will think poorly of your family. As a grandmother, that’s the last thing you want. The fact is, it’s not your gift-giving relative that put you in this position, it’s Adam and his parents who need to shoulder the blame. It’s the job of the parents of the bar mitzvah boy to make sure this child understands and appreciates what it means to receive a gift.

Often in families there is so much happening with school and extra-curricular activities that there’s not enough time in a day to fit in mundane tasks such as writing personalized thank-you notes. What a horrible lesson to teach a child.

Thank-you notes should arrive at the home of the gift giver no later than three months after the event. Ideally, they should be written within two weeks and sent out immediately while the event is still fresh. If possible, they should be hand written and personalized with the giver’s name and type of gift. If it’s cash, it can say “Your generous gift will help with my education, my trip, my Xbox, whatever.” Just make it personal.

People have put their hard-earned, after-tax dollars into this gift, and it’s mandatory that they’re acknowledged in a timely and respectful manner.

Unfortunately, you’re the one who’s received the phone call, and it’s up to you to relay the message. You don’t need to preach. You just need to tell them exactly what was said. What they choose to do with that information is up to them. I might even ask Adam directly about the status of the thank-you cards, in front of his parents. If anyone argues or makes excuses, just say, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Once the message is communicated, you’ve done your job.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Drake and Deadmau5 among those vying for top honours

When the careers of celebrities take them all around the world, they often come to appreciate adoration from hometown fans most of all. Last month we applauded two artists for their Grammy Award nominations, Hip-Hop  & rap sensation Drake, and DJ/producer Deadmau5, each up for three award nods, to be presented Sunday on CBS.

Announced February 7th, a plethora of the Canadian music industry's top stars will be at Ottawa's ScotiaBank Place for the 2012 Juno Awards celebration. The ceremony, presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), will be hosted this year by the one and only William Shatner.

The beloved Canadian icon will serve as a bit of a departure from the show's traditional choice of hosts. For the past two years, Drake himself has emcee'd. Shatner, known best for his iconic roles as Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk and Boston Legal's Denny Crane, has proven he can hold his own in front of a live audience. We saw it when he was the keynote guest for Toronto's Fan Expo spotlights, he was a highlight during Canada's Tribute at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and most recently in his documentary The Captains.

Drake and Deadmau5 will compete against one another in two categories for the Junos: Juno Fan Choice Award and Artist of the Year. They will also compete in separate categories, Drake, in Album of the Year and Rap Recording of the Year for "Take Care" and Dedmau5 in the category of Dance Recording of the Year for "Aural Psynapse".

On April 1 check your local listings and watch the Juno's live on CTV to see who wins.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

John Baird tells PA to drop unilateral statehood bid

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are in Israel this week.

And they've been proclaiming Canada's everlasting friendship and support for Israel. Not surprising considering Canada's enhanced position vis-a-vis the Jewish state since the Stephen Harper government came to power.

But Baird also just told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to let go of the idea of declaring a unilateral state without negotiating with Israel.

According to a report in the Israel media, Baird had the following to say to Abbas and his PA cohort on Monday:

On Monday, the duo met with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior officials in Ramallah. During the meeting Baird expressed Canada's position that the unilateral PA statehood bid at the UN was “profoundly wrong.”

Baird also backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position, telling PA officials it was time to return to bilateral face-to-face negotiations with Israel, without any preconditions.
In related news, Canada also just increased economic sanctions on Iran. Read the full story on The CJN website here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spirituality vs. Religion at The House

For those who could not make it out to The House in Toronto last night, a bold topic was explored. Is religion killing Judaism? The guest speaker was Rabbi Michael Skobac, education director and senior counselor for Jews for Judaism.

The meat and potatoes of his answer was more a combination of responses on the two sub-topics of why people prefer spirituality over religion and why religion is seen as a crutch for those who need it.

"We don't always hear the music," Skobac said, and sometimes, "we hear the wrong music." The statment meant that religon is often viewed as a list of do's and don'ts, rules and laws, is bureaucratic and divides. So many people tend to look at religion in a negative context. Keep the sanctity of the sabbath, don't mix milk and meat - one a commandment, the other a dietary law – that are upheld by many yet prove difficult these days for those more assimilated to live by.

That last part about how religion divides was Skobac's own outlook on Judaism when he was a teenager. That outlook has obviously softened in the context of his rabbinical work. His most snackable tidbit from last night's discussion, in retrospect, was the Rabbi's twin analogies of comparing religion to reading a menu and spirituality to consuming the meal; Spirituality then being preferred over religion, as it's more filling than just reading what the belief system has to offer.

The final takeaway from the night's lesson was that, when taken on its own, religion may have a looming expiry date if it's only deemed applicable to those leaning on it to solve life's problems. The way I see it and with reflection on some of the lessons imparted by Rabbo Skobac, is that the solution to resolving various matters in one's personal life is to work on tikkun hamidot, meaning bettering your character traits while learning in tandem from the precepts of Torah.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canadians to root for at the Grammys

The 2012 award season is in full swing. The Golden Globes were presented last week, and on deck the Screen Actors Guild will offer up their top honours in Film and Television on January 29. The 54th annual Grammy Awards, then showcases the best in music Feb12, before the Oscars are handed out Feb 26.
Once again, as in year's past, Canada will be well represented at the Grammy's. In late November, Drake and DJ/producer Deadmau5 each received a trio of nominations. Hip-hop and rap sensation Drake, who is Jewish, is up for Best Rap Performance ("Moment 4 Life" with Niki Minaj) and best rap/sung collaboration (DJ Khaled's "I'm On One" and "What's My Name" with Rhianna). Known for DJing with a foam mouse-head upon his shoulders, Joel Thomas Zimmerman a.k.a. Deadmau5, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ont., and is also Jewish (at least according to, has toured and mashed-up tracks around the world. He’s nominated in the categories of best dance recording, best dance/electronica album, and best remixed recording.  

Toronto's Melanie Fiona and Montreal's DJ A-Trak, round out the known Canadians vying for the golden gramophone. You can watch the Grammys live on Feb. 12 8 p.m. on Global and CBS.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can't stay silent

Dear Ella,

I’m not sure how much longer I can stay quiet. My daughter is falling apart and I’m standing by watching helplessly.

Sandi and Allen seemed to have a healthy marriage. They both worked hard and had a good mix of independence and togetherness. It appeared to all that they had everything.

Throughout her pregnancy, Allen treated Sandi like a princess. She had a rough few months, and Allen ran around doing whatever she needed. Then Asher was born, and it was like Allen became a different person.

Sandi is up with the baby all night, and she does her best to clean the house, shop for groceries, do laundry, make meals, all while she is breastfeeding and caring for an often-screaming child. Allen comes home, puts his feet up, says he had a stressful day and asks, “What’s for dinner?”

I can see the physical and emotional toll this is taking on my daughter. She doesn’t complain, but last week she burst into tears and let it all out. Her husband was no longer being a partner. She felt like she was drowning in a sea of chores with no help.

I’ve always prided myself on not interfering in my children’s lives, but I’m worried about Sandi, and I can’t stay silent any longer. Any advice would be appreciated.

Time to Meddle

Dear Time to Meddle,

I’m not sure “meddle” is the right word. Perhaps “help” would be a better way to phrase it. Who better to help than someone who is doing it out of love and concern? But you have to be smart.

Sandi is probably exhausted and can’t think straight. She is caught up in a circle of chores and doesn’t have the time or energy to figure out how to fix this. This is where you come in.

Make a plan. Tell Sandi you want to have a talk with her. Tell her you will come over for the day and babysit with Asher while she sleeps, bathes and regroups. Once she’s refreshed, she’ll be more open to listen to suggestions.

Tell her your observations and give her some practical solutions. Allen doesn’t sound like a bad guy. He’s adjusting to a new life and unfamiliar emotions, too, but Sandi has given him the luxury of doing it in his own time.

Here are some suggestions for you to give to your daughter: 1. Get a housekeeper to clean once a week. With two incomes, that should be attainable. In between, learn to live in a messier house. 2. Make meals easier. Have sandwiches, eggs or cereal for dinner. If Allen wants beef stew, he can make it. 3. Give Allen a list of reasonable responsibilities. He can certainly do grocery shopping, take out the trash and take over a feeding or two in the evening. 4. Offer to babysit on occasion so Allen and Sandi can have a couple of hours to themselves. It will do wonders for them, and give them time to talk.

Allen has to realize that Sandi is not sitting home all day watching soap operas. Her job is just as hard as his is. Only she can show him the light. Bringing a new baby into a marriage is a huge adjustment on everyone’s part.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tzedakah through life saving missions

When communities around the world are hurting, Israel, Canada and the Canadian Jewish community are among those first to respond with organized aid missions.

Over the last 26 years, IDF (Israeli Defense Force) aid missions have sent 15 delegations to countries afflicted by various natural disasters. As you can see from the video below, IDF doctors in field hospitals dispense medical care to more than 2,300 people in affected areas, 220 of whom were saved from certain death according to the IDF.

Many of these missions have been tracked by our reporters of The Canadian Jewish News, who shine a light on the tikkun olam work performed by the IDF and Jewish individuals around the world.

For more, see the following recent related stories on