Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chanukah With the Liberal Caucus

Last night on December 7th, Ellen Scheinberg and Brooky Robins attended a Chaunkah party at the Legislature Building hosted by the Ontario Liberal Caucus. This was the first time they have held this type of event and it was a splendid affair. Monte Kwinter (MPP,York Centre) and Dr. Eric Hoskins (MPP, St. Paul's) the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, co-hosted the reception.

Monte Kwinter

There was a large group in attendance that included senior UJA Federation lay people such as Elizabeth Wolfe (Chair, UJA Federation) and David Spiro (Chair, Committee of Public Affairs for UJA), all of the CJC staff, some UJA Federation staff and many other community leaders. There were also major philanthropists there as well such as Joe Lebovic.

A number of the Liberal MPPs, besides Kwinter and Hoskins, attended as well. We had the opportunity to chat with Michael Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence), David Zimmer (Willowdale), Tony Ruprecht (Davenport) and Linda Jeffrey (Bampton-Sprindale), the Minister of Natural Resources. Everyone was very friendly and and in good spirits. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Linda, since she came across as being very open and willing to reveal some of the interesting challenges she was confronting today.

The Chanukah ceremony began with a brief opening speech by Dr. Hoskins, followed by an address by Monte Kwinter. Monte introduced Rabbi Goldfarb from Holy Blossom Temple, who recited the prayers for the lighting of the menorah. The honour of turning the lightbulbs on the electric menorah that they had was given to Premier Dalton McGuinty. He did a commendable job pronouncing "chag Sameach" and seemed to enjoy this role. 

Premier McGuinty Greeting the Crowd

After the ceremony, the crowd continued to mingle and enjoy the wine and hors d'oeuvres that were available. Everything was delicious, however the Legislature could truly benefit from my bubbie's latke recipe. Their latkes were a little too moist in the middle and lacked the crispyness that most of us appreciate. Given that this is their first year hosting a Chanukah event, I suspect that they will address this concern and refine their recipe, so that those who sample their latkes will be taken back to the Kensington Market era and the delicacies that were enjoyed in restaurants like United Bakers and Goldenbergs.

On the whole, I would rate this Chanukah party very high and felt it was a very successful reception. The Liberals have been very committed to supporting Jewish initiatives and voicing their objections against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propoganda and actions within the province. In turn, Monte Kwinter has made great efforts to promote education about the Holocaust, by taking part in the Yom HaShoa event and briging that important issue into the Legislature each year. They should certainly be commended for their responsiveness to these issues and support.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Russian Veterans Initiative

The Archives is currently working on a project that involves interviewing approximately 20 Jewish veterans who served in the Russian military during the Second World War. They are all living in Toronto at this time and many were given medals for their bravery.

Len Pearl is responsible for conducting the video interviews. He is relying on state of the art technology, employing a green screen background and HD footage. The interviews will be used in the future for programming and exhibitions implemented by the OJA along with the Canadian Jewish Museum that will be constructed within the next few years.
Grigoriy Genin giving a lecture to a
group of soldiers in 1945 outside the
village of Kefermarkt, Austria.
OJA, Accession #2010-11/11.
In addition, the OJA has been acquiring photographs, documents and artifacts from the veterans and scanning items in cases where the individual is not comfortable donating their treasures. As a result, we have acquired wonderful photographs of their lives in Russia before the war, medals, certificates, honours and other items. Since this group was not very well documented by the OJA in the past, this project will help document the many important stories and adventures of these heroic veterans, ensuring that the interviews and records are well preserved for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.