Tuesday, 22 May 2012

CJPAC "Action Party" was the place to be in Montreal

It was quite the scene last Thursday night at the Arsenal in the now very trendy Griffintown area as CJPAC (the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committtee) held its fourth annual Action Party. More  than 800 people from the Jewish and pro-Israel community jammed the large hall  to enjoy an open bar, deejay music by Total Events, live entertainment, sumptuous appetizers and desserts from caterer Danielle Bitton and most importantly one-on-one access to politicians and their advisers  from all stripes.  

The event was planned many months ago, with every intention of having  representatives from all levels of government. This included the governing Quebec Liberals. What would the odds be of the National Assembly actually sitting for a rare Thursday evening session to adopt special legislation to deal with student unrest? “We lost 15 MNAs from this,” one of the organizers lamented.

Justin Trudeau and Montreal real estate queen Anita BenabouRozenblat.
New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair was there with a number of his MPs. The charismatic Tyrone Benskine told me how much  he has enjoyed his first year in politics. “The next election may be three and a half years from now, but we are already working hard to prove to Canadians that we deserve to be the next government,” he shared. Mulcair was spotted having a little chat with easily the most sought after man in the room, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, who sounded most definite that he will not seek the party leadership this time around.  Interim party leader Bob Rae, with his charming wife Arlene, on the other hand was clearly a man with his eyes on becoming the permanent head of the Grits with many of his handlers working the room. John Walsh, the national president of the Federal Conservative Party, was shaking hands and sending a message that the Tories still hope to cash in on some seats next time around. Municipally, Montreal Executive Committee boss Michael Applebaum represented the mayor, with a few members of council on hand as well.
Glenn Nashen and I chat with Tyrone Benskine
 “It’s amazing to watch so many people who might otherwise avoid politics break through that barrier,” said Kim Heilpern, one of the ACTION Party chairs. “Bringing the community and politicians together for a fabulous party with great food, music and drinks is a great way to show that becoming politically active can be both easy and fun.”

Now in its fourth year, the party once again broke previous records for attendance by both community members and politicians, welcomed two busloads of attendees from Ottawa, and has become a cornerstone of CJPAC’s work in Montreal,  helping to define the organization.

 “CJPAC’s work in Quebec and around the country focuses on Jewish and pro-Israel political engagement, especially among young people,” said Mark Waldman, CJPAC’s executive director. “If our community is going to be heard and have an impact, it will be because average Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians participate in the democratic process; young people are especially open to this message.”

Founded seven years ago, CJPAC is a unique national, grassroots, independent organization. With an office in Montreal, lead by Quebec Regional Director Steeve Azoulay, CJPAC hosts multiple events throughout the year helping activate Jewish and pro-Israel Quebecers in the political process. Having worked for Canadian Jewish Congress for 11 years – an organization which only recently was abolished after nearly a century of existence – I am thoroughly impressed with the work of CJPAC. I remain a steadfast supporter of B’nai Brith Canada, for which I serve as the Quebec bureau chief for their Jewish Tribune Newspaper. CJPAC, of course, is quite different. Created from scratch, CJPAC has made political activism trendy. Never has that been so evident than at the Action Party. There were people of all ages on hand. It was indeed “the place” to be and even individuals who had other things on their agenda that night made it a point of being present and being seen, even if it was for just a short time.

Nashen and I with Saulie Zajdel
The Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals) were indeed out in force and I met many twenty something guys and gals soaking up the atmosphere.  Besides the politicians I already mentioned, others in attendance  included from the governing Tories Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, Federal Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for Americas and Consular Affairs Diane Ablonczy,  Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs  Deepak Obhrai, Rick Dykstra,  Sheryl Gallant and Cheryl Gallant. Representing the NDP were Pat Martin,  Isabelle Morin,  Mathieu Ravignat,  Pierre Nantel, Jamie Nicholls, Françoise Boivin,  Mylène Freeman, and Jonathan Genest-Jourdain. With Irwin Cotler out of town to see his daughter graduate from university with distinction, his able chief of staff Howard Liebman was on hand. Neil Drabkin, chief of staff to Federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, was spotted arriving late in the evening. Saulie Zajdel, who ran for the  Tories in Mount Royal in the last election, was working the floor. Joining Applebaum from Montreal were councillors Peter McQueen and  Andrée Champoux.  My council colleagues  from Côte Saint-Luc included  Dida Berku, Glenn  J.Nashen, Ruth Kovac, Steven Erdelyi and Mitchell Brownstein.  Bonnie Feigenbaum and Michael Goldwax represented Hampstead council while Herbert Brownstein was there from Dollard des Ormeaux, accompanied by his son Ryan Ryder Brownstein – now doing some producing for CJAD Radio with an eye on joining his dad on council in 2013.
A big round of applause for the organizing committee.  Co-chairs Heilpern,  Avi Krispine- 
Jonathan Abecassis  and Julien Newman. Their committee consisted of Montreal movers and shakers Adam Daifallah, Aimee Schnitzer, Alexandre Borduas, Bonnie King, Bram Paperman, Bruno Brami, David Desbaillets, Dominic Mailloux, Eric Prud’Homme, Eva Derhy, Evan Paperman, Gilbert Tordjman, Gillian Eliahoo, Hugo Tremblay, Ian Quint, Janna Boloton. Jason Zuckerman, Jeff Bernstein, Lauren Tatner, Laurence Barchichat, Marc Poisson, Marie-Claire Laflamme-Sanders, Maximilien Roy, Monique Assouline, Natasha Albilia, Noam Schnitzer, Olivier Duchesneau, Orlli Kessel, Rina Scrim, Stephanie Ohnona, Todd Lipstein and Zeynab Diallo plus a cast from Ottawa.

See Glenn J. Nashen's blog about the event.


  1. Great Event ! Congrats to all those who put a great venue together



  2. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    Nice article, but why spoil it with a photo of Saulie Zajdel?