Posts Tagged ‘Quebec’

Religious Freedom Fight Hits YouTube

January 24, 2014

This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.


A Sikh dentist treats a patient in Quebec (YouTube screenshot)

A Sikh dentist treats a patient in Quebec (YouTube screenshot)

Ari Grunzeweig says that although he is not a very political person, he does know right from wrong. For him, the right thing to do was to make a video opposing Bill 60, the proposed “Charter of Values” that would ban the wearing of religious symbols by public employees in the Canadian province of Quebec.

Grunzeweig, a professional video producer, knew he had to disseminate the video before hearings on the bill began in Quebec’s National Assembly on January 14. He made it just under the wire, posting “Quebecers Care” on January 13. To date, it has received over 15,000 views on YouTube, and traditional media has begun to pick it up, as well.

The minute-and-a-half-long video shows healthcare providers in a hospital setting — many of them wearing religious symbols and clothing items — going about their regular business caring for patients.

Click here to read more and watch the video.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Quebec Rav Will Kippa Going

December 6, 2013

This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.


What’s the hottest headwear in Montreal on these cold winter days? Surprisingly, it’s not woolen toques or fur hats. Lately, Quebecers wanting to make a fashionable, yet political, statement are wearing kippot covered in the Fleur-de-lis.

The kippot are the brainchild of a young Montreal rabbi who felt it was time for Jewish Quebecers to wear their opposition to Bill 60 not only on their sleeves, but  also on their heads.

The province’s ruling nationalist Parti Quebecois, led by Premier Pauline Marois, tabled Bill 60 in the National Assembly in early November. The proposed legislation, also known as the Charter of Quebec Values, would ban the display of religious symbols and the wearing of religious garb by public employees.

 “The best way to protest the charter is to wear religious symbols,” saysRabbi Yisroel Bernath. Known as “Montreal’s Hip Rabbi,” he is the spiritual director of Chabad Notre-Dame-de-Grace & Loyola Campus, and the Jewish chaplain at Concordia University.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

New Documentary Opens a Hermetically Closed World

October 29, 2013

This review was first published in The Times of Israel.

At Rebbe Schneerson’s grave

In photographic and film images, we almost always see Hasidic Jews in urban settings. We see them on the crowded streets of Brooklyn, or walking in the narrow alleyways of their crowded neighborhoods in Jerusalem. However, a new documentary feature film about Hasidic women and girls surprises by being set in bucolic Ste. Agathe, Quebec, a resort town north of Montreal.

Although “Shekinah: The Intimate Life of Hasidic Women” is about women in Hasidic Judaism, it also about the role played by a specific group of teenage girls at a Chabad seminary in this French Canadian town. Not all of Ste. Agathe’s residents are thrilled by the girls’ presence, as can be attested to by a history of anti-Semitic incidents in the picturesque locale. The film chronicles attempts by the Hasidim to counter these acts of hatred with outreach to the local population.

The filmmakers couldn’t be happier about the timing of its premiere this week in Montreal, as well as at the Crown Heights Film Festival in Brooklyn. Although they did not set out to make a political statement with the documentary, they are glad it is out in theaters at a time when there is strong support among the Quebec electorate for a proposed “Charter of Values,” which would ban the wearing and display of religious symbols in the public sphere.

“What we are trying to do with this film is open a door to a world that is closed,” says Montreal-based director Abbey Neidik. “There is a lot of hostility against the Hasidim in Quebec, and this film lets people see how Hasidim see the world.”

“There’s room for all ways. We need to not only tolerate diversity, but also embrace it,” says producer Irene Angelico, who is Neidik’s wife. “Even Jews have a million misconceptions about Hasidim,” she adds.

Filmed over four years, “Shekinah,” gives audiences a significant glimpse into the Hasidic way of life in general.  In particular, it sheds light on how Hasidic women (at least, from Chabad) understand their sexuality and roles in their marriage, family and community.

Click here to read more and watch the trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.