Saturday, 1 August 2015

Back to Camp for Terry "Aislin" Mosher as Kanawana gets set to honour master cartoonist

Terry “Aislin” Mosher, the main editorial cartoonist for the Montreal Gazette, has received many well deserved honours in his lifetime. On Saturday August 8 he will go back to Camp Kanawana in the Laurentians for the first time in more than 60 years. There he will accept the 2015 YMCA Kanawana “Pip” Award. 

Terry Mosher
Mosher will be the eighth person to receive the award, established to recognize the contributions of distinguished Kanawana alumni.  He was a camper there in 1952 and 1953.

“Obviously I’m very pleased about all this, particularly given that my five grandchildren will be there for the presentation, all of whom have either attended, do presently attend or will attend Camp Kanawana,” Mosher share with me. “Kanawana was very important to me given that I remember the layout of the camp surprisingly well – and I haven’t been back since 1954! I am told that it has hardly changed. So, I am anxious to tour the camp next Saturday with organizer Andrew Caddell.”

Previous recipients of the award included Richard “Itche” Kerr, a Montréal volunteer working with the physically challenged; Richard Patten, former Ontario MPP and cabinet minister; Stuart McLean, broadcaster and author; Bruce Netherwood, YMCA leader and author; John Cleghorn, former CEO of the Royal Bank; ; the late Sam Lazarus, NGO volunteer, along with the Lazarus family, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Kanawana in Sam’s memory; and Jeniene Philips Birks, a former broadcaster and community volunteer with the Oral School for the Deaf.  
James and Pip on Parliament Hill.

The “Pip” Award is given annually to a former camper, counsellor or supervisor at Camp YMCA Kanawana who best exemplifies the values of selflessness and contribution to the community. The award is a memorial to Philip “Pip” Caddell (1913‐2004), Second World War officer, executive and Montreal community volunteer, and his grandson, James Caddell (1973‐2005),  UN Peacekeeper, McGill graduate, NGO Worker and federal public servant. Both attended YMCA Kanawana – “Pip” as a camper in 1928 and James as a camper and counsellor in the 1980s and 1990s. The “Pip” Award Committee is composed of Kanawana alumni who were friends and family of “Pip” and James. 

“In his professional life, Terry Mosher has always taken seriously the journalist’s credo to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’” said award sponsor Andrew Caddell,  who grew up on Benny Farm in NDG and in Montreal West. “The purpose of this award is to recognize people who have taken the values they learned at Kanawana and applied them to the larger world. Terry Mosher has been a caring community volunteer who has dedicated himself to the disadvantaged. The ‘Pip’ Award Committee felt Terry Mosher’s volunteer work and professional accomplishments made him a very deserving recipient.”

Caddell calls  Mosher a great role model within the community as a director of the Old Brewery Mission as well as his remarkable career as one of Canada’s most respected cartoonists. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received an honorary Doctor of Letters from McGill University, two National Newspaper Awards and five individual prizes from the International Salon of Caricature. He was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and the Canadian Cartoonist's Hall of Fame.  “I am delighted to have reached the point in my life where I can give back in my own way,” Mosher says. “However, the most satisfying way to do so, I have discovered, is anonymously. So, enough said."

Mosher lived in a lot of places growing up.  “As a youth, I attended fourteen different schools in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City,” he says. “From the time I was seven until I was fourteen, we lived in Montreal in the upper part of a coach house  -a converted garage, really-  in an alleyway between Lincoln Avenue and Saint Luc (what is now called de Maisonneuve) between Fort and Chomedey. Being several blocks from the old Forum, those were the happiest years of my young urban life. John Little, the painter, was our downstairs neighbour, and I have included a sketch he did of our funky little building at the time.That’s me directing the neighbourhood hockey game below from the upstairs right-hand window. My parents, Jack and Norma (in respective windows) always tried to get me out of the city for a period of time during summers and sent me to a series of camps, Kanawana being my favourite. I attended Victoria School, King's School and Westmount Junior High during that period. I moved back to Montreal from Quebec City when I was twenty-two, and, despite periods of time abroad, I have been here ever since.”

Pip  was one  the leaders on the committee that built the Montreal West Arena and pool. “Like many of the greatest generation, my father did not seek the limelight for the things he did,” Andrew says. “ His grandson, James was very much that sort of person, and he wanted to have an award at camp that recognized those attributes of his grandfather.  So, not long before he died, we agreed the ‘Pip’ award should recognize people who are exceptional, but who make their contributions in the spirit of Non Nobis Solum.   When James died, it made sense to make the award in both their memories.”

James was a former Canadian Forces peacekeeper with a taste for adventure who did a tour of duty in Bosnia and performed tsunami-relief work in India. Ten years ago he was overcome by altitude sickness in Bolivia and died. He was only 32. His tremendous life story is told beautifully in this article. 

YMCA Kanawana has been contributing to the well‐being and success of hundreds of youth ages 7 to 20 for over 120 years. Children are invited to take part in a safe and unique outdoor experience while learning about the environment and sustainable development.   Established in 1894, YMCA Kanawana was the first summer residential camp in Quebec. It is accredited by the Association des camp du Québec and is a founding member of the Association. For more information, visit

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz leaving Baily Shul for prestigious post in New York City

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, who has served for 19 years as spiritual leader of Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Congregation on Baily Road, will be leaving Montreal towards the end of the fall for a prestigious position in New York City.

As a friend, congregant and huge admirer of Rabbi Steinmetz, I write this story with a heavy heart. He is one in a million, one of the nicest and most compassionate individuals you will ever meet. During his nearly two decades here, he has made his mark not only at TBDJ but in the community at large. He assumed many leadership posts in the community and was never afraid to speak up on controversial issues. Articulate as they come, his sermons were always “must listen to” experiences. He came here with his wife Lisa Schwartz from New York. Together they raised their four children and adopted Montreal as their home. It was unthinkable that he would ever leave. Like many others, I joined TBDJ specifically because of Rabbi Steinmetz.
Rabbi Steinmetz

In everyone’s life there comes a challenge you cannot pass up. That is what happened to Rabbi Steinmetz when was offered the position of senior Rabbi of Kehilath Jeshurun, a distinguished and historic synagogue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He will be succeeding one of the great leaders of the North American rabbinate, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. “This appointment is both a great privilege and a great responsibility, and offers me the possibility of beginning a meaningful new chapter in my career,” he wrote to congregants.

Rabbi Steinmetz joined TBDJ in September 1996. Prior to that, he served congregations in Mount Vernon, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey.He received his ordination from Yeshiva University, where he was a fellow of the elite Gruss Kollel Elyon. He has a M.A. in Jewish Philosophy from the Bernard Revel Graduate School, and a M.A. in Education from Adelphi University. He has completed Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) and Meorot Rabbinic fellowships. His articles have appeared in the Canadian Jewish News, The Gazette, The Suburban, the  Toronto Star and La Presse, as well as the The Jerusalem Post and the Forward and many other publications.. He also has an online blog of articles “The Happiness Warrior,” which is frequently updated.

Rabbi Steinmetz is the Past President of the Montreal Board of Rabbis, Past President of the Rabbinical Council of Canada, and past Vice President of the Quebec Region of the Canadian Jewish Congress, a has been a member of the executive of Quebec Israel Committee (QIC) and Hillel-Jewish Students Center of Montreal. 

“TBDJ has been an exceptional home for Lisa, myself and our family, and it has been a wonderful place to be a Rabbi,” he said.  “Deciding to leave was difficult, not just on a personal level, but on a professional level, because our synagogue is now so strong and dynamic. We have an exceptional president and lay leadership team, dedicated staff, and the nicest members in all of Canada. To leave all this was difficult; and to leave a comfortable home is risky, and we know it. But as someone once said ‘in the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took.’ For us, it was time to take on the challenge of a new shlichut, a new mission.”

 TBDJ president Judah Aspler said the very difficult task of finding a successor for Rabbi Steinmetz has already begun. “ Rabbi Steinmetz will be with us through the holidays, and we’ll soon share more detail regarding the exact date of transition and various ‘farewell activities’ that will be scheduled,” he said. “With regards to the future of TBDJ, it is bright. We are in a great position to maintain our growth, and will do our utmost not to miss a beat in terms of programming, services, and the strengthening of our institution and community. This includes the immediate initiation of a search process for our next Rabbi. We have already begun the formation of a search committee, along with defining the goals and parameters of our search.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Neil Patrick Harris adds true star power to Just For Laughs galas

I caught the first of four Just For Laughs galas Monday night at the Place des Arts, hosted by superstar Neil Patrick Harris. He was essentially the ringmaster for what was called Circus Awesomeaus. Once again the folks at JFL came up with a pretty novel way to close out another successful celebration of comedy.
The star of the show, NPH.

Harris has hosted 10 televised awards shows over the past few years. Only a few months ago he was front and centre in Hollywood at the Academy Awards. Fast forward to Montreal, a city where he has shot a number of movies, and he did not disappoint as the common thread for a variety show which included a singing clown, a sword swallower, a magician/illusionist, an acrobat, a “little person” stand up comic and a female comic who would be better suited for the Nasty Show.

Local comic Ryan Willner opened things up with a great cross promotion for sponsor Air Canada.  Two spectators, Phillip and Carolina, were upgraded from their balcony seats to front row centre. They each got $250 AC gift cards and a chance to go back stage after the show. Following a short highlight reel of previous gala shows, Puddles the Clown made his way into the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, walked down a few rows and introduced Neil Patrick Harris.  This was one of those “feel good” moments as the capacity crowd of some 3,000 rose to their feet and gave him a loud and lengthy standing ovation. Since this was being taped for airing on a future CBC broadcast,  it made for a great TV moment.

“Montreal is my favorite city in all of Canada,” he said, “and I’ve been to Edmonton.”

Harris spoke about how exciting this past year has been for him. “I played a flamboyant transgender punk rocker in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, then I did something rash and I hosted the Oscars…then I got married,” he said.

Harris made several jokes related  to his sexual orientation, first praising Canada for marking the 10th anniversary since legislation was adopted legalizing same sex marriage. The United States only followed suit recently.  “America’s future is looking more like Canada’s past,” he said.

A funny bit had Harris promising to read the minds  of some audience members. Two pretty women came on stage with a large case. Inside were sealed envelopes.  His first question was to a man near the front, asking if they had ever met before. The man said “no.” Harris then showcased a small board with the word “no,” on it. He then asked a woman in the crowd who her favorite actor ever was. Her response was Red Skelton. Harris promptly displayed the photo of a baby. “Red Skelton at nine months old,” he quipped.

This might not have been up there with his performances at the Tonys or the Oscars, but I got the feeling that just about everyone in the room was so excited to see him live and in person he could just as well have sat there playing solitaire. 

Sammy J and Randy were the first acts to perform. Sammy (Sam McMillan) is an Australian musical comedian and writer who embraces a variety of media in his comedy, including the use of video and self-composed music. Randy is a purple puppet voiced by  Heath McIvor. They were quite funny.

Harris then brought someone out in a wheelchair, outfitted in a straightjacket. It was sword swallower and self confessed professional weird person Brett Loudermilk, who made everyone feel just a little bit uncomfortable.

Next came the true hit of the night – little person Brad Williams,  whom I would go back and see solo any day of the week.  A California native, he started doing stand-up at age 19 and has been touring ever since. He has appeared on numerous TV shows including Legit, Deadbeat, Dave Attell’s Comedy Underground, Sam and Cat, Live at Gotham, the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mind Of Mencia, and Pitboss. The late Robin Williams called him “Prozac with a head.” Brad’s ability to make humorous observations on disability, relationships, sex, and race are winning over audiences and proving that anyone can overcome their shortcomings. He joked about walking into a children’s hospital. A young kid ran up to him and said, “don’t worry, they will fix you.” One of his funniest lines was about the looks he gets at the grocery store when he buys Lucky Charms cereal (known  for their leprechauns).

Magician/illusionist Ed Alonzo got some giggles with his bit – swallowing a balloon, followed by some funny sound effects and then having it come out of his rear end. According to what I read on the web, Harris referred to Alonzo as his “best friend” during a 2008 interview on the Craig Ferguson Show. Harris asked for volunteers, as he was told by Alonzo to saw a woman in half. One lady obliged. When the deed was done, her upper torso was transported off stage to which Harris asked “What am I supposed to do with the bottom half of a woman?”   

Someone introduced only as Beardyman came on stage. He created some impressive sound effects with his mouth, from music to a baby talking. Harris then came forward with a fish bowl. Inside people made up the titles for some songs such as “My second boyfriend left me,” to “How did my daughter get lice again?” The bearded man turned these words into pretty good songs.

Acrobat Hugo Desmarais was not only impressive in his aerial cage, but when he seemed to have finished his act he signalled to Harris to come forward and together they flew through the air- a pretty impressive, but risky move for the very successful and wealthy Harris. One bad move and his career would have been mush. Referring to the handsome Desmarais, Harris shouted out, “I love my husband David! I love my husband David!”

What would a circus be like without a juggler. Nicolas Fontaine fulfilled that role

I am not sure anyone in the audience was ready for profanity laced Bridget Everett, a singer, comedian, actor and writer who performs regularly in New York City.   A plus size woman wearing an outfit which showed a lot of her anatomy, she went into the audience and actually convinced some men and women to repeat some very racy language.  Check her out in the new Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck

As the show drew to a close, Harris finally consented to give Puddles  The Clown the stage. Puddles belted out a pretty good rendition of the theme song from Titanic. As he concluded, a makeshift boat with the name “Titanic” written on the side containing Harris and  the evening’s performers appeared on stage. No question about it. This ended things off on a high.
The Titanic finale.

There are still some tickets left for the Tuesday, July 28 shows. Go to to do so.