Forward Thinking

Mazel Tov, Montreal!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
youtube
Michael Applebaum

With his election last Friday, Michael Applebaum has become not only the first non-native French speaker in a century to hold the post. He is also the first-ever Jewish mayor of the second-largest French speaking country in the world.

“It’s definitely a proud day,” Leo Kolber, a businessman, philanthropist, former Canadian senator and lifelong Montrealer, said about Applebaum’s swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 19.

Applebaum, 49, was chosen by a two-vote margin by city councilors after he ran as an independent calling for transparency in government, following the resignation of former mayor Gérald Tremblay. Tremblay resigned earlier this month as a result of revelations made by the Charbonneau Commission exposing widespread corruption among Montreal officials, contractors and members of organized crime.

As Montreal mayor, Applebaum must step down as borough mayor of Cote des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace, one if the city’s most heavily populated boroughs, and one with a high concentration of Jewish residents. His interim post will last only until municipal elections scheduled for November 3, 2013. Applebaum has stated that he will not seek re-election.

“I see very clearly what people are saying on the street,” Applebaum told The Montreal Gazette. “I am very much a goal-oriented person and I think we have an opportunity,” Applebaum said. “I personally have an opportunity to really make a difference.”

Critically, in a province in which language-based cultural identity permeates politics, Applebaum is bilingual, although he admits that his French is a bit rusty and that he speaks with an accent. “People may criticize me for my French. I will make errors, but I’m very proud to be able to speak and work in the French language. I’m going to do the best I can,” he said.

“What is interesting to me about this story is that Mr. Applebaum is being widely hailed as making history as the first non-francophone mayor of Montreal to hold the position in a hundred years. He also happens to be a Jew,” Rebecca Margolis,author of an award-winning book on Yiddish culture in Montreal remarked. “In Quebec’s current political climate, language trumps religion as the ultimate marker of identity.”

“The fact that Michael Applebaum is Jewish and anglophone…demonstrates the huge gap between the lovely, warm, mutually-respectful day-to-day realities of life in Montreal, and the xenophobic, divisive, demagogic religious, cultural, and linguistic bigotry of the separatist Parti Québécois,, McGill University history professor Gil Troy said in addressing the same issue in stronger terms.

Along the same lines, Kolber expressed doubts as to whether Applebaum would have won a regular election (rather than a vote among city councilors), given “the make-up of the city.”

But what matters right now, says Kolber, who has personally met the new mayor, is that “he’s a nice man and he works hard.” With Applebaum having his work cut out for him, Kolber is adopting a wait-and-see attitude. “Let’s see what happens,” he said.

For Beverly Akerman, a freelance writer and author who has lived her entire life in Montreal, transparency trumps religion. “What we need is someone who can raise the shades on the dark rooms of municipal politics, let in some light, the ultimate disinfectant,” she said. “I prefer an honest, competent mayor of any faith over a mayor whose only distinction is Judaism, any day. I’m sure most Montrealers feel the same.

Troy agrees. “As with all such milestones, I look forward to the day when we can simply welcome a Mayor Applebaum for what Montreal most needs in a mayor, an honest, efficient, effective leader, rather than focusing on where he prays, who his people are, or which of the two ‘official languages’ he speaks,” he said.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: michael applebaum, montreal, mayor, jewish, english, canadian, quebec

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.