Sunday, August 25, 2013

Becoming a Friend of Hutchison


With Mindy Pollack, 24, the 1st Hassidic woman running  for City Council. She is running as part of Projet Montreal for the Claude Ryan District of Outremont. Mindy has initiated her community relations position when she
co-founded the social group Friends of Hutchison Street

Hassidish neighbors walk past the Outremont
information booth.

Have you ever stopped to smell the roses, start a conversation on bicycle-grown tomatoes while the City's 1st Hassidish female political candidate serves up the best Rugelach in town? That's a glimpse of my delightful and out-of-the-box afternoon spent at SenseLab's Three Mile Meal public culinary street fair last Friday. SenseLab is Concordia University's “laboratory for thought in motion,” composed of creatives and intellectuals working together to explore the active passage between research and creation. This event's goal was to encourage neighbors to get to know each other through artistic and social means, especially in a part town where the Hassidic community has encountered its share of discrimination and strife over the years.

The Kosher Cheskie's 3 Mile Meal Food Stand in Outremont,
located on Bernard Street between Hutchison and Durocher.



















The weekend event ran from August 23rd until the 25th, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, and was held in three different parts of town, namely Outremont, Mile End and Park Extension. In each booth, a new kind of food was served and a mobile art piece was displayed. As a kosher foodie, my mandate was to experience the Outremont kosher booth where Mindy Pollack, Montreal's first ever Hassidish female political candidate, as well as the co-founder of the Friends of Hutchison committee was offering Cheskie Rugelach and nash (yiddish for treats) to walkers.

Three Mile Meal was initiated by Concordia University's SenseLab founder Erin Manning,  Concordia film studies and studio art professor who holds a PhD in Philosophy and who also happens to be an Outremont resident. Erin has recently been touched by misunderstandings that have occurred in front of her home between Hassidic neighbors and other residents. With this event, Erin's goal was to foster open lines of communication between neighbors via the three different booths.

It was really nice to see children and adults from different ethnic groups taking part in this uplifting and community building event. Soon after, I realized how much fun one can have simply hanging around sitting on a street bench, conversing with new friends, watching children from religious and non-religious backgrounds devour Rugelach,  and ride whimsical trikes or bicycles.

Hassidic boys having a blast riding an artistic bicycle that has growing vegetables in it.

I'll never forget the day back in 2010 when I witnessed first-hand Celine Forget, a past City Councillor of Outremont, obsessively taking countless photos of little Belz girls playing in the park behind the Belz Community school or getting onto school buses. Celine is known as Outremont's anti-semitic serial photographer and bully who has made it her mission to passively-aggressively harass Hassidic citizen's through legislative and various other tactics (I.e.: Celine Forget trying to Sabotage Purim, (Maya Johnson, CTV ReportsWorld's Collide for Outremont's Hassidic Population).

Mindy Pollack had enough of this type of aggression, resulting in her co-initiating with Leila Marshi, of Palestinian background, The Friends of Hutchison group. A believer of mutual respect, she is running for council on behalf of Projet Montreal, with a vision that fosters peaceful relations through dialogue to resolve differences between the Hassidic and fellow residents. 

Last spring, SenseLab received a $2.95-million Canadian government grant, the Insight Grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. A small portion of those funds will be allocated to beautifying Outremont religious families' yards next spring.

A lesson to be learned from all this is that when you seek conflict, you get conflict. When you seek to understand the other, you build. In life, we can either surround ourselves with builders or destroyers. Last Friday, I surrounded myself with my new friends of Hutchison, builders of a better Outremont, and a better tomorrow.