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Andrew Burashko is disappointed that many people under the age of 30 have not given classical music a chance. That’s why his upcoming concerts at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre theatre are designed to stimulate the senses, minds and imaginations of music lovers of all ages.
The classical pianist’s concert, Sound and Colour, will offer viewers a multi-sensory experience: Burashko’s solo performance of Scriabin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 11, will be accented by “lighting that corresponds to Scriabin’s synesthetic correlation of colour to music.”
Burashko has been immersed in music since childhood. Born into a musical family in Moscow, he came to Toronto via Israel in 1973. He continued his practice and study of classical piano in Canada and his mentors quickly recognized his abilities. This led to opportunities to work with some of the finest music coaches in North America, including Mariana Geringas, Leon Fleisher and Sella Davidovich.
Burashko was just 17 when he premiered with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andrew Davis. Soon after, he was invited to play with orchestras across Canada and to collaborate with esteemed conductors such as Peter Oundjian, Jukka Pekka Saraste and Pinchas Zukerman.
However, Burashko sought a wider range of possibilities. “I grew up in love with all kinds of music: jazz, theatre, dance, popular,” he says. “When I started The Art of Time Ensemble (in 1997), it was with the intention of bringing new audiences to classical music.”
One might also say that Burashko sought to convey broader variations on the classical concert through dynamic forms of presentation.
“I wanted to explore where classical music intersects with other art forms,” he says. “How was classical music inspired by literature, theatre, dance and other types of music?”
Questions of this sort led Burashko to boundary-erasing projects and collaborations. For example, in February, The Art of Time Ensemble’s concert, A Singer Must Die, offered concertgoers a foray into Leonard Cohen’s poetry and songs. The project entailed collaborations with top-notch arrangers – such as Gavin Bryars, Robert Carli, Jonathan Goldsmith and Andrew Staniland – esteemed singers – including Steven Page, Sara Harmer, Tom Wilson and Sarah Slean – and respected writers like Michael Redhill, Christopher Dewdney, Barbara Gowdy and former governor general Adrienne Clarkson.
Sound and Colour, Burashko’s newest project, will pursue an alternate musical investigation, offering attendees a synesthetic experience. Each of Scriabin’s preludes “will be bathed in an immersive light and colour experience,” created by lighting designer Kevin Lamotte.
Burashko explains that according to some researchers, certain sounds evoke shapes and colours. “It is not uncommon for musicians to perceive colours when they create music,” he says. This kind of experience is called synesthesia.
Burashko became interested in this phenomenon when he discovered the work of neurologist Richard Cytowic, author of The Man Who Tasted Colour. Burashko also has long been interested in performing The Preludes. The upcoming concert permits him to merge his interests and aspirations in a novel and provocative way. The show will be complemented by a lecture from Cytowic.
If it seems as though this program borrows from rock concerts’ special effects, that is somewhat true. Burashko says that Sound and Colour is a further foray into integrating words, music and visual art, to create groundbreaking concert experiences.
Art of Time Ensemble’s Sound and Colour will be playing at the Harbourfront Centre theatre from March 22 to 24. harbourfrontcentre.com.
The first commando to hit the ground during Israel’s audacious hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976 says the new movie about the operation comes close to depicting its lightning speed, but misrepresents Israelis as brutal thieves of Palestinian land.
Retired Major General Doron Almog was the IDF commander who landed on the Ugandan airfield and led the charge to the control tower.
“As I see it, this is the story from the terrorists’ perspective,” he said at a special screening of 7 Days in Entebbe, which was hosted by Jewish National Fund Montreal on March 19.
“On Nov. 29, 1947, the day the United Nations partitioned Palestine, my parents, who were born in Palestine, danced in the streets, as did the other 600,000 Jews there. They welcomed two states. My parents’ generation stretched out their hand for peace with the Palestinians, but they refused,” he said.
7 Days in Entebbe, which opened in theatres on March 16, is directed by Brazilian José Padilha, who said that the movie was “inspired” by actual events.
But the tone is set with the introduction, which says that the Palestinians took up arms to get “their” land back and that left-wing groups around the world joined them.
They call themselves “freedom fighters,” while the Israelis call them “terrorists,” viewers are told.
However, the depiction of the behind-the-scenes conflict and soul-searching among the Israeli cabinet does ring true to Almog. Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Defence Minister Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff Motta Gur grapple over whether Israel should abandon its policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
Doron Almog, left, poses for a photo with Arlazar Eliashiv, an Israeli-born Jewish educator, at an event in Montreal on March 19. (Janice Arnold photo)
The tension becomes excruciating as Operation Thunderbolt is given the green light, despite lingering doubts.
That equivocation meant that the IDF had only 24 hours to prepare, Almog said. The military brass hesitated to assign him to such a dangerous mission, as his brother had been killed in the Yom Kippur War and his family was already bereaved.
But Almog said his parents insisted he go for the sake of the nation’s survival.
Almog said that the terrorists made a mistake in releasing the non-Israeli passengers on the Air France flight three days earlier, as Israel was able to gain intelligence from them. That was not otherwise possible with Entebbe located 4,000 kilometres away from Israel, in the heart of Africa.
My parents’ generation stretched out their hand for peace with the Palestinians, but they refused.
– Doron Almog
The whole operation was over in less two minutes, Almog said. Four hostages died and over 100 were freed. All the terrorists were killed and one Israeli soldier, Yonatan Netanyahu, the current prime minister’s brother, lost his life, as well.
Entebbe veterans and former hostages still meet near Netanyahu’s grave on the anniversary, he said.
“One thing the film doesn’t show is that gasoline was leaking from the Mercedes, because of the bumpy, low-altitude flight,” said Almog. “We used chewing gum to stop it.” That limo, disguised as the one used by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, was a key element of the surprise attack.
Almog’s 34-year military career, which was filled with numerous other daring missions, made him a national hero. But he downplays it all compared to the cause to which he has been devoted since he retired in 2003 – helping Israelis with intellectual disabilities.
7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE - Official Trailer [HD] - In Theaters March 2018 - YouTube
His and his wife Didi’s lives change irrevocably when their second son, Eran, was born with autism and developmental delays so extreme that he never uttered a word in his short life.
They founded the residential and rehabilitation village ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran in 2003, which is billed as a “paradise” for the most severely disabled. His son lived there until his death at age 23 in 2007.
Almog said his goal has been to eliminate the shame and denial that is exceptionally strong in Israeli society. Traditionally, families have placed disabled children in institutions, often outside the country, and never spoken about them, he said.
One of his most respected commanders, Gen. Yigal Allon, sent his daughter to Scotland and visited her once a year, Almog said. Likewise, Prime Minister Golda Meir had a granddaughter with Down syndrome, whose existence was never mentioned, he said.
“It’s as if they don’t fit the heroic image of the sabra who defends the country or can win a Nobel Prize,” he said.
“Although he never even called me abba, Eran was my greatest teacher.… He taught me that the highest decoration you can be awarded is the title of human being, and we all deserve love.”
In 2016, Almog was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian honour, for lifetime achievement and contribution to Israeli society. He cherishes the prize as much as the raft of decorations he received for military heroism.
Every winter, my wife Karyn and I spend a few weeks in the other land of our people – Florida. We are fortunate to have friends and family who are snowbirds, so finding accommodations is not an issue.
Southern Florida is a universe unto itself. A mixture of American Jews from staunchly liberal states, such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont, sprinkled with Canadians, mostly Ontarians and Quebecers, all mixing somewhat uneasily with Floridians who were proudly born there and are even more proudly conservative.
The debate surrounding Donald Trump constantly hangs in the humid air. After all, the real White House (Mar-a-Lago) is located a stone’s throw from where we spend the majority of our time.
Last year was difficult. Americans were just waking up to the nightmare they wrought on themselves by electing a dangerous, misogynist, racist and sexist man as president. Yet despite these evident truths, Floridians – and, yes, even a good number of Florida’s resident Jews – embraced this evil with a gusto that shocked, and continues to shock, the world.
The pool in the complex we stay in resembled a battlefield after the election. On one side were the Americans from the more liberal northern states and the few Canadians still grieving hard over the ascendancy of Trump. On the other side were a very vocal minority of Jews who love their guns, hold some bigoted views and are big Trump supporters.
All this made for some very uncomfortable times. Cold stares, fierce arguments and broken friendships ensued. No one could be moved from his or her political perch. I was thoroughly flabbergasted – I simply couldn’t fathom how anyone, especially Jews who understood victimization and racism better than most, could make common cause with this man. Nonetheless, there it was and it depressed the hell out of me.
This year, the atmosphere was much different. We arrived in Florida two days after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is only minutes away from where we were staying.
Seventeen people were savagely gunned down by what appears to have been a mentally unstable student. Their murders were made much easier by the fact that the shooter was able to obtain an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
This weapon costs under $1,000 and can be purchased at virtually any age, with no real background check. The bullets from the AR-15 travel at speeds in excess of 975 metres per second.
According to one trauma team doctor, “The bullets fired by an AR-15 … travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than – and imparting more than three times the energy of – a typical 9 mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.”
As a result of the shooting, the scene at the pool had changed dramatically. All the talk was about the school rampage, rather than politics. And for the first time, it seemed as though both Republicans and Democrats were of one mind – even gun owners proclaimed the necessity of banning AR-15s.
And yet, it took the children to lead the way. It was the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the shooting who are responsible for pressuring Florida lawmakers into passing new gun control measures. They have indeed become the conscience of the American people.
Sadly, some politicians have still hung tenaciously to their Second Amendment right to bear firearms, including AR-15s. But something has changed in America. You could feel it in the air in southern Florida. American politicians will have to change, or change will happen to them.
May the memories of the victims be forever a blessing.
Ready to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday? Canadian Jews should mark this occasion in three ways.
First, let’s party. Israel’s a miracle that symbolizes Jewish renewal and Western liberal democracy at their best. Second, let’s toast Canadian Jewry’s deep friendship with Israel. And finally, let’s renew our Zionist commitment by taking Zionism personally again.
Simply celebrating Israel is extra difficult in this day and age. It’s bad enough that our enemies have politicized Israel to the extent that too many Jews cannot even stand Israel, let alone celebrate it. Beyond that, too many of us take Israel’s existence for granted. In the early 1960s, few North American Jews visited the country – and many forgot the miracle of 1948. Fears of losing Israel before the Six-Day War shook that generation out of its complacency. Why not use a happy birthday to shake us out of ours?
Zionism isn’t just about Jewish self-defence, but about Jewish ideals
Canadian Jewry is not American Jewry. It’s ironic, or perhaps quintessentially Jewish, that, by any indicator – per capita visits, philanthropy, or sheer love of the Jewish state – Canadian Jews are usually more enthusiastic about Israel than American Jews. Yet, Americans in general are more enthusiastic about Israel than Canadians.
Perhaps America’s support for Israel makes American Jews complacent, and free to be more critical. Perhaps Canadian wariness about Israel makes Canadian Jews rally around the blue-and-white flag. But what it really comes down to is Jewish identity and Jewish pride.
In general, Canadian Jews are more Jewishly literate, observant and sophisticated than their American counterparts. Thus, Canadian Jewry confirms that the more committed you are to Judaism and the Jewish people, the more pro-Israel you are. That insight should shape our ideological and educational strategies.
Former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion taught us that Zionism wasn’t just a revolution to create a new Jewish state – it created a new kind of Jew. Zionism wasn’t just fighting anti-Semitism, it was fighting assimilation by organizing a romantic nationalist revival in our ancient homeland.
In that spirit, Prof. Irwin Cotler, the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and former justice minister and attorney general of Canada, calls Jews the “original aboriginal people.” As one of the Jewish people’s great advocates, Cotler affirms our clear rights to the Land of Israel, without ignoring the rights of the Palestinian people. In the selection of his writings I chose to publish in my new book, The Zionist Ideas, Cotler explains why we should all embrace Zionist ideals.
“Today, Zionism doesn’t just protect us from that which is inconceivable yet possible – it opens up all kinds of new possibilities. We are … one people, with a common heritage and with a common destiny, and with values that underpin that common heritage and destiny, wherever we are,” Cotler writes.
“We should always remember that this is the people that has ‘the rule of law’ as our heritage, that has the notion of Jewish humanitarian law as our doctrine, that has ‘tzedek, tzedek, tirdof’ – ‘justice, justice, shall you pursue’ – as a moral imperative, that has ‘shalom, shalom!’ – ‘peace, peace!’ – as our abiding hope, as our abiding dream, as our abiding will.”
Zionism isn’t just about Jewish self-defence, but about Jewish ideals. It’s not just about politically defending Jews over there, but helping us find Jewish meaning over here. And that’s Zionism not just with a Canadian accent, but a Jewish sensibility.
Shellie Zhang never knew the history of the building at 285 Spadina Ave. in downtown Toronto. A Rexall pharmacy recently opened on the main floor, but the rest is the same eyesore it’s been for years: decrepit brown bricks and a distinct lack of windows disconnect it from the intersection of Dundas and Spadina, the heart of the city’s bustling Chinatown.
“It’s always been very dark, very mysterious,” Zhang says. “I just assumed it was empty office space that couldn’t be rented out.”
In fact, the building began as Toronto’s first Yiddish performance space, a 700-seat venue called the Standard Theatre, which was constructed by the city’s nascent Jewish community in 1921. It was converted into a movie theatre called The Strand in 1934, then became the Victory Burlesque in 1961, where it hosted shows by the likes of Iggy Pop and Rush. In 1975, it was transformed into the Golden Harvest cinema, which was known for showing kung fu movies and became a popular gathering point for Chinese immigrants.
But Zhang knew none of that when she was contacted by Evelyn Tauben, who curates Fentster, an exhibition space that inhabits the front window of a storefront that belongs to Makom, a progressive Jewish organization in downtown Toronto.
Tauben wanted to collaborate with an artist of Chinese heritage to create an exhibit on the history of the city’s Kensington Market area, both from a Jewish and Chinese perspective. The Myseum project, a decentralized municipal art museum, was looking for works on the theme of Arrivals + Departures – a perfect fit.
EVELYN TAUBEN PHOTO
In researching Chinese artists, Tauben found Zhang, a Chinese-Canadian who was born in Beijing and moved to Canada when she was nine. Zhang’s past works have explored archival materials and the Chinese-Canadian identity.
“Beyond that, I was taken with her bold, clean aesthetic and how she tackles complex themes about cultural transmission, the immigrant experience and commodification using pared-down, but striking, imagery,” Tauben told The CJN via email.
Zhang estimates that she spent around 40 hours digging through old files in the Ontario Jewish Archives, as well as the provincial and municipal archives, searching digitized texts and flipping through stacks of newspapers, memos and government documents, looking for connections between the two 20th-century immigrant communities.
Once she learned about the history of 285 Spadina Ave. – a building she’d passed countless times and never thought twice about – she decided to pursue it with her art.
“Even though these two organizations were separated by time, I love that they shared this space,” she says.
“It was a building that was literally, brick by brick, built by the community.”
Inspired by the two theatres’ marquees, Zhang set about recreating them in neon and placing them side by side, reflecting two versions of the neighbourhood’s past.
The resulting work, titled A Place for Wholesome Amusement, contrasts the two signs in ghostly, hollowed-out frames. The Yiddish sign was part of the art nouveau movement, with intricate details and curves, almost resembling a Torah scroll with its bulbous top and bottom; while the Golden Harvest sign recalls a more functional 1970s design, with a stately heft, warm gradient and quieter flourishes within the rectangular skeleton.
Zhang has long been fascinated by commercial signage and its effects on mainstream society. Corporate marketing has subtly shaped our cultural aesthetic for decades, and the designs of the 20th century established many styles we still recognize today.
But despite this recognition, time moves on, and the city itself has evolved to the point where many residents would never recognize the relics of its past. Ultimately, Zhang says, that is the point of her work – to remind passersby of the rich tapestry that made Toronto what it is.
“The city has changed so, so much,” she says. “I want people to know the history of the land and the city that we live in, and cherish those things as valuable.”
Last time, we looked examples of how half a millennium of illustrated haggadot have become a barometer of life of Jews in the Old World and the New. Today, we continue our survey and look at a most surprising controversy over the revered Maxwell House haggadah!
If you have a LOT of time to spare, you can browse through the over 800 (!) vintage haggadot that have been scanned and uploaded to HebrewBooks.org. For the most part, these are not artistic gems. Most consist of the Hebrew text, some commentary and perhaps a translation into Yiddish, German, French, Ladino, Arabic, Polish, Dutch, Hungarian or English. But they also present an important window into what our grandparents – and their grandparents – held in their hands when they gathered around seder table. Here are two of my favourites, one sublime, one bizarre.
If you want gorgeous, there’s the newly published book Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces by University of Toronto Art historian Adam Cohen. Unfortunately, his book does not have a detailed website. However, you can enjoy an hour-long lecture by Professor Cohen which has been archived online. I was particularly struck by two Haggadot from 1920s Germany which illustrate the “highs and lows of world events, as Prof. Cohen puts it. In the Steinhardt Hagada, the artist illustrates the pain of the Israelites as a product of his experience as a German soldier in the First World War. On the other hand, Otto Geismar’s Haggadah uses a few simple lines to tell the Exodus in what to me looks almost whimsical. (Register for free at WebYeshiva.org and you can download Prof. Cohen’s video.)
Saul Raskin Haggadah (1941)
For insights into how the seder has been observed in Sephardic homes, take a look at the Sephardi Connection site. For example, among North-African Sephardim, after Mah Nishtana is recited, the seder leader would leave the room and come back with a walking stick and the afikoman in a cloth on his shoulder. The children would ask: “Where are you coming from?” And he would proceed to tell the story of his exodus from Egypt. On the other hand, the haggadah adds, “Note: stealing the afikoman is an Ashkenazi tradition.” When the Sephardi seder concludes, “some take the haroseth and put it in five places (khamsah) at the entrance of the house (near the mezuzah, on the door posts, etc.) for good luck.”
Then there’s the haggadah that’s not really a haggadah – except in the mind of author Terry Heyman who imagined what you would use if your daddy were President of the United States. The result: THE KUSHNER FAMILY PASSOVER HAGGADAH.
It seems their seder uses familiar objects but the symbolism differs.
PARSLEY: The parsley on our Seder plate reminds us of spring and the earth’s natural bounty, which does not need cumbersome government regulations. We dip the parsley into salt water representing the bitterness of liberal tears. Then eat.
HAROSET: A yummy salad of apple, nuts and cinnamon which shows off Ivanka’s cooking skills and her relatable desire to be a sweet and caring mother to her children. #familytime
WELCOMING ELIJAH: We set aside a special cup of wine for the prophet Elijah. Legend says Elijah will return to earth to lead the way for peace. Unfortunately, we are unable to open our door to welcome Elijah as tradition dictates due to the protesting crowds outside.
The Story of the Maxwell House Haggadah - YouTube
I was surprised to see how much controversy can be stirred up by one haggadah. I’m not referring to haggadot that promoted a controversial, contemporary theme. The one just promoted coffee. The Maxwell House Passover Haggadah is not illuminated. And it doesn’t have a remarkable commentary. But many people reserve warm memories for the Maxwell House Passover Haggadah. According to Maxwell House press release has distributed nearly 40 million copies of its blue and white Haggadah since the 1930s making it “the United States’ longest-running promotion by a major brand.”
Although many people remember that haggadah fondly, Andrew Silow-Caroll is not convinced. He asks, Did Maxwell House kill the American Passover Seder? “Who knows how many Jewish children, numbly and obediently flipping through the pages of the blue and white Maxwell House, came to regard the seder as a stultifying arcane ritual, a regimented recitation of thees and thous, an endurance test as lacking in levity as leaven? Is it only a coincidence that in the 70 years since Maxwell House began distributing tens of thousands of haggadot as promotional items, the intermarriage rate among Jews has soared?”
Prof. A. Hochman, MIND-READER Haggadah
On the hand, we haveRabbi Scott Rosenberg of Temple Reyim of Newton, Mass. Who comes to the defence of the venerable haggadah. He says says that we owe it a great deal. “As a product of the Great Depression, it reminds us of some of the hardships we faced as an American Jewish community struggling to survive difficult economic times. If it were not for the generosity of Maxwell House, many families during the 30’s and 40’s would not have had haggadot. This classic should be part of every synagogue library.”
Philipe Tomlinson, the mayor of the Montreal borough of Outremont, said he will create a committee, composed half of Hasidic residents, tasked with coming up with solutions to the conflict between the Orthodox Jewish community and some other residents.
Tomlinson, a member of Projet Montréal who became mayor after last November’s municipal elections, is trying to ease tensions after a small number of residents wore yellow patches to protest the proliferation of school buses used by the Hasidic community.
He believes dialogue is the answer.
“Whether or not their intention was to be hurtful, it was offensive and unacceptable to wear the yellow squares in our political dialogue, or anywhere else,” Tomlinson said in video posted on Facebook, titled, Let’s work on what unites us and we will diminish what divides us.
He stressed that those who showed up at a March 5 borough council meeting wearing the yellow pieces of fabric pinned to their clothing represent “a small group that has decided once again to contest the Hasidic way of life in Outremont.… This time their actions have gone too far.”
The “good neighbours” committee he proposes will include a round table where each side can gain an understanding of the other group’s needs and concerns, particularly relating to municipal regulations.
The recommendations the committee makes will be “based on expert opinion and consensus,” he said. “We will put an end to these tensions in the next months or years.”
Tomlinson said the “high intensity and friction” that has characterized complaints against the Hasidim have gone on for too long and that he regrets the international media attention the yellow-patch incident attracted.
“We are much bigger and better than that. We live in one of the best areas, best neighbourhoods in the world. We are in a very privileged situation,” he said.
Outremont resident Ginette Chartre testifies at a borough council meeting wearing a yellow badge on March 5 in Montreal. (Outremont Montréal/webtv.coop screenshot)
One of the issues that should unite residents, he continued, is that Outremont is home to a growing number of young families. Twenty-three per cent of the population is under 14 years of age, noted Tomlinson, an Outremont resident for 13 years who has two young children.
Tomlinson believes things will change now that Projet Montréal has a majority on the borough council. The party holds four of the five seats, including the one held by Mindy Pollak, a Hasidic Jew who is currently serving her second term in office.
The tone of the current borough administration is much more conciliatory than the previous one. Pollak was the only Projet Montréal member on council at that time and is the only incumbent who was re-elected. Previously, there were three independents, including then-borough mayor Marie Cinq-Mars, who had been in that office since 2007, and one who ran under the Equipe Denis Coderre banner.
Dialogue with some people is a total waste of time.
– Alex Werzberger
Longtime Outremont Hasidic community leader Alex Werzberger welcomed Tomlinson’s initiative, but is skeptical about how effective it will be in changing the minds of those who he believes want to see the Jews leave the borough.
“This is more than a goodwill gesture,” Werzberger said. “The new administration is much more friendly to the Jews, much less antagonistic.
“Having said that, dialogue with some people is a total waste of time.… The committee will help those who want to listen, but the hard core (critics of the Hasidim) just doesn’t care.”
The protesters who wore the yellow patches denied that they were trying to evoke the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi era. Rather, they maintain the colour refers to that of the school buses that they claim have become too numerous on residential streets, causing congestion, noise and pollution year-round.
The growing Hasidic population now represents close to quarter of Outremont’s population.
The committee Tomlinson proposes is set to be officially launched at the April 9 borough council meeting.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Projet Montreal’s leader, has said that “the symbol chosen showed a great lack of sensitivity.”
We will put an end to these tensions in the next months or years.
– Outremont Mayor Philipe Tomlinson
The wearing of the yellow patches has been criticized as thoughtless, even by those who see the school buses as a problem.
Some residents have proposed three measures that might alleviate the problem: pick up the children at street corners, rather than at their doors; use one bus for several schools, rather than running numerous busses that aren’t filled to capacity; and opt for less noisy and polluting vehicles.
Werzberger thinks these suggestions are impractical.
“Our kids start school age three or four. You can’t have them waiting at a corner in the cold or rain. As for people’s quality of life, this is only an hour or so in the morning and evening,” he said.
“We are here to stay. We are 25 per cent now. In 10 years, we will be 35, or 40, or even 50 per cent. We’re growing every year. Almost every house sold in lower Outremont is to a Jew.”
The UBC Geography Students Association (GSA) recently cancelled a gala that was to take place in rental space owned by the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Hillel chapter, due to pressure from some of the faculty in the department of geography.
The faculty members explained that they insisted on boycotting the event because of what they called the “controversial” and “political” nature of Hillel, according to numerous reports.
The faculty members had not been publicly identified as of press time and could therefore not be located to clarify their position.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) accused them of boycotting the GSA gala, based on the perception that Hillel supports the state of Israel, which CIJA is calling discriminatory.
“Boycotting Jews or a Jewish organization simply because you object to the State of Israel’s policies is classic anti-Semitism,” Nico Slobinsky, CIJA’s director for the pacific region, said.
“It is hard to believe that there is such blatant anti-Semitism on a Canadian university campus in 2018. There should be zero tolerance for any expressions of discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism on campus and anywhere else in Canada.”
Samuel Heller, the assistant executive director of Hillel BC, told The CJN that, “The actions of these faculty members has resulted in a de facto boycott of the Jewish student centre on campus. To boycott Jews based on one’s political views about Israel is discriminatory and anti-Semitic. Their actions have led to the resignation of the lone Jewish student on the executive of the GSA, as he felt marginalized and discriminated against because of his Jewishness.”
Addressing the claim that Hillel is a controversial and political space, Heller said that, “Hillel doesn’t have any politics. What these faculty members really object to is Hillel’s support of Israel’s existence. We are a Jewish organization and Israel is a part of Jewish identity.… To demand that Jews disavow parts of our identity to placate faculty members is wrong and discriminatory.”
But not everyone accepts Heller’s characterization of Hillel as “having no politics.” The Progressive Jewish Alliance at UBC (PJA) released a statement on Facebook on March 16, saying: “While we recognize the right of the GSA to move the gala based on political considerations, we urge the GSA to recognize that Hillel is the physical Jewish space on campus, alongside having a political position. While we wait for a statement from the GSA, we would like to point out that the ramifications of their decision are alienating Jewish students on campus. Likewise, we encourage Hillel to consider how their political positions, such as an opposition to all boycotts of Israel, can alienate other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and students.”
The PJA is referring to Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership, which state that Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that: deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; or support the boycott of, divestment from or sanctions against the State of Israel.
What these faculty members really object to is Hillel’s support of Israel’s existence.
– Samuel Heller
In 2012, concerns about Hillel’s refusal to partner with Jewish organizations that support BDS led to the formation of Open Hillel, an organization that agitates for Hillel to end the Standards of Partnership.
Numerous controversies have broken out over Hillel boycotting groups or individuals in recent years. In one example, in March 2017, B’nai Keshet, a queer Jewish group at Ohio State University, co-sponsored a Purim fundraiser for LGBTQ refugees in the Columbus area.
Because Jewish Voices for Peace, an organization that supports BDS, was one of the sponsoring groups, OSU Hillel cut ties with B’nai Keshet, due to pressure from Hillel International, prompting students on numerous American campuses to hold “solidarity Shabbats” with the LGBTQ group.
In June, a letter calling for the end of the standards was signed by over 100 rabbis and submitted to Hillel.
The Progressive Jewish Alliance hopes that the controversy will not only provoke change in the GSA, but in Hillel, as well.
“We hope that both organizations take this opportunity to engage in genuine dialogue around the complexity of politics and place,” it concluded in a statement.
Philip Steenkamp, the vice-president of external relations at UBC, told The CJN that the university is “aware of concerns that have been expressed by CIJA” and “are looking into this matter and will follow due process to ensure it is appropriately addressed.”
L’universitaire et chercheuse montréalaise Olga Hazan vient de publier un livre remarquable et très érudit sur les haggadot sépharades, Stratégies figuratives dans l’art juif. Étude de trois haggadot sépharades du XIVe siècle (Éditions Les presses de l’Université de Montréal).
Olga Hazan est professeure associée à l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), où elle enseigne en histoire de l’art et en sciences des religions. Ses publications portent sur l’art de la Renaissance italienne, la figuration dans le judaïsme et l’islam, le discours sur l’art depuis la Renaissance et l’émergence de l’histoire de l’art comme discipline universitaire.
Elle a répondu à nos questions par courriel.
“Les trois haggadot présentées dans ce livre –la Haggadah de Sarajevo, la Haggadah d’or et la Haggadah Or. 2884– ont été transcrites et décorées au XIVe siècle, dans la péninsule Ibérique, en Aragon pour la première et en Catalogne pour les deux autres. Ces haggadot sépharades diffèrent des haggadot ashkénazes de cette époque, en ce qu’elles s’ouvrent sur un cycle imagé en pleine page où sont représentés des épisodes bibliques, alors que dans les haggadot ashkénazes, les éléments figuratifs se limitent aux pages liturgiques.”
Pourquoi Olga Hazan a-t-elle consacré une étude aussi exhaustive à ces trois haggadot?
“Dans le cadre de mes recherches sur la figuration entre judaïsme, christianisme et islam, l’étude des cycles imagés de ces haggadot s’avérait essentielle, car elle me permettait de rappeler que dans le judaïsme, notamment au XIVe siècle, le rituel religieux était soutenu par des représentations figuratives, ce que l’on a tendance à occulter de nos jours. Comme vous le savez, quand on parle de l’art juif, on évoque souvent sa dimension aniconique, c’est-à-dire sa propension à éviter la figuration humaine et surtout divine, par rapport à l’art chrétien. Dans cette perspective, je me suis attachée à exposer les stratégies figuratives à l’œuvre dans ces haggadot, en observant la manière dont les personnages s’inscrivent dans la structure de leurs cycles imagés. Ces personnages forment deux catégories: les protagonistes des récits bibliques, parmi lesquels on compte Adam, Noé, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph et Moïse, et les célébrants modernes représentés dans les scènes rituelles, parmi lesquels on compte des rabbins, des orants et de simples célébrants.”
En procédant à l’analyse des cycles imagés de ces trois haggadot, Olga Hazan s’emploie à montrer qu’ils se caractérisent par une cohérence évidente, à laquelle les auteurs, dans leur ensemble, accordent peu d’attention.
“Cette cohérence témoigne pourtant de la fonction même de la haggadah, qui se constitue en livre autonome entre le XIe et le XIIIe siècle, pour accompagner la célébration de Pessaḥ à domicile et en famille. Le recours à la figuration, dans ces cycles imagés, répond ainsi aux besoins d’un nouveau genre de mécènes, alors que s’effectue une transition entre la sphère publique de la synagogue et celle privée de leur domicile. En tant que commanditaires et destinataires de ces haggadot, ce sont ces célébrants modernes qui en justifient l’existence, puisque c’est à eux que s’adressent les principaux personnages représentés, pour les inviter à effectuer une traversée, du passé du récit biblique au présent de la célébration. Cette traversée, dans l’espace et le temps, leur permet ainsi de rendre hommage à Dieu pour le remercier de les avoir, tous et chacun, sauvés de l’esclavage en Égypte.”
Qu’a découvert Olga Hazan en observant les stratégies figuratives à l’œuvre dans ces trois haggadot sépharades ?
“Plutôt que de tenter, comme le font certains auteurs, de situer ces haggadot dans le cadre d’une histoire lacunaire de l’art juif, j’ai préféré, pour ma part, vu le nombre restreint de haggadot sépharades qui subsistent de nos jours et le fait qu’elles ne sont pas documentées, me consacrer à l’étude de leurs images. Tout en tenant compte du fait que l’iconographie de mes trois cycles imagés émane de sources nombreuses, issues du monde juif notamment, mais pas exclusivement, je me suis intéressée aux stratégies figuratives que l’on y voit à l’œuvre, dont les plus évidentes consistent à solliciter l’attention de leurs récepteurs, puis à la maintenir par divers moyens, incluant le recours à des motifs d’ancrage et de relai.”
Gamliel et ses élèves. La Haggadah de Sarajevo. Aragon, vers 1320-1335. (Musée National de Bosnie-Herzégovine, Sarajevo).
Tout au long du livre, Olga Hazan expose la façon dont opèrent ces stratégies, qui consistent à faire mouvoir, à travers l’espace et le temps, des personnages inscrits dans la structure particulière de chacun des trois cycles imagés à l’étude.
“Dans leur ensemble, ces stratégies favorisent la cohérence de ces cycles imagés et la complicité de leurs récepteurs. De manière plus particulière, elles leur confèrent une dimension théâtrale, surtout dans le cycle imagé de la Haggadah d’or, où Dieu intervient de manière évidente à six reprises –pour apostropher Adam puis Caïn, pour sauver Isaac, pour apparaître à Jacob, pour appeler Moïse au buisson ardent et pour occire les Égyptiens lors de la dixième plaie– sans pour autant que les auteurs ne se résolvent à l’admettre, ni même à le voir. ”
Tel qu’exposé dans l’ensemble de ce livre, les diverses stratégies à l’œuvre dans ces haggadot visent le récepteur autant par des moyens directs et concrets (lorsqu’il se voit désigné par un regard ou un geste), que par des moyens plus abstraits (comme la condensation des temps, l’évocation de thèmes liés au salut ou la représentation d’objets qui lui sont alternativement cachés et révélés), explique Olga Hazan.
“Ces stratégies, qui touchent donc autant les aspects visuels que thématiques des cycles imagés, créent ainsi: des croisements entre le texte, les images et le rituel, une continuité historique entre le passé du récit biblique et le présent de la célébration de la fête, et enfin une cohésion familiale ou sociale, sur la base de cette célébration.”
Pour Olga Hazan, “en définitive, l’efficacité de ces stratégies est directement liée à la fonction première de ces livres de prière, une fonction liturgique, dont témoigne la cohérence de chacun des trois cycles imagés à l’étude, conçus pour inciter leurs récepteurs à rendre hommage à Dieu pour le remercier de les avoir sauvés de l’esclavage en Égypte. Dieu, dont un consensus veut qu’il ne soit jamais représenté dans l’art juif, joue donc un rôle essentiel dans ces trois haggadot, où sa présence est évoquée de trois manières différentes: abstraite dans la Haggadah de Sarajevo, figurative dans la Haggadah d’or et implicite dans la Haggadah Or. 2884.”