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Feeding the Needy in Montreal: B’nai Brith and MADA Unite for Passover Food Drive

Mike Cohen

MONTREAL – Last week, a dozen B’nai Brith Canada volunteers enthusiastically headed to the MADA Community Centre warehouse to pick and pack more than 2,000 food baskets.

It marked the beginning of what both organizations hope will become a long-term partnership.

MADA is a volunteer-based organization that evolved from a small neighbourhood community centre to Montreal’s premier group that fights poverty and assists people in need, providing them with the basic necessities of life while preserving their dignity and helping them to become self-sufficient .

The new partnership will help ensure that about 2,000 baskets (containing nearly 6,000 meals) are delivered so that no needy family goes hungry this Passover.

“Both B’nai Brith and MADA share a mutual goal of feeding the needy and this collaboration will enhance each organization’s ability to service our patrons while allowing them to focus on their strengths,” said Harvey Levine, B’nai Brith Quebec Regional Director.

B’nai Brith has nurtured and funded the Passover Food Basket program in Montreal for over 50 years. MADA, meanwhile, is recognized for its effectiveness in reaching and servicing over 18,000 clients, volunteers and supporters and using their expertise to dollars into food.

While MADA already provides 86,000 food baskets throughout the year and over 2,500 community holiday dinners for Passover, B’nai Brith’s Passover and Rosh Hashanah Food Basket programs are now being implemented to respond to a very particular need in the community.

Left to right at the food basket depot are: Terry Roth, Diane Antonelli, Joanne Black, Merv Middling, Joanne Cutler, Jack Ornstein, Robert Libman, Ted Greenfield, Harvey Levine, Jerry Tarasofsky and MADA President Pesach Nussbaum.

Senior B’nai Brith Canada leaders Eric Bissell and Ted Greenfield played key roles in solidifying this partnership.

“I was reactivated in B’nai Brith about 18 years ago when I was asked to chair the annual golf tournament, which was the fundraiser for food baskets,” Bissell recalled. “I am really happy that we are doing this. People helping people is what B’nai Brith has been doing in Canada since 1875. Food baskets certainly fits the bill.”

Bissell credits noted Montreal Jewish businessman Amos Sochaczevski for bringing B’nai Brith and MADA together.

“Amos thought MADA was a good match because of its background in food and the logistics of distributing to the needy,” he said. “Certainly the possibility of organizing a golf tournament [in Montreal] next year is tempting.”

B’nai Brith has already launched its B’nai Brith Charity Golf Classic in Toronto, with its 2nd annual iteration taking place on June 12 at the Lebovic Golf Course.

Bissell, meanwhile, heaped praise on Greenfield for his hard work on the food basket program.

“Ted is just a great guy and a super volunteer,” he said. “And Harvey Levine and his assistant Janna Minicovich are really pitching in, doing a great job. It really takes lost of hard work to get rolling. We are off to a good start and I hope that we have set the wheels in motion for this to be an annual event for the two holidays.  There is no greater need and we have to get it done.”

Greenfield says that food baskets have always represented a very important part of B’nai Brith’s mandate of helping the community.

Robert Libman and Harvey Levine pack some baskets.

“This is an essential program for B’nai Brith in Montreal,” he said. “The collaboration of B’nai Brith and MADA will surely strengthen the program. B’nai Brith is responsible for funding it, which has been in our DNA for about 60 years. We have the necessary experience while MADA has a proven record of supplying food to the needy in our community. Its ability in the areas of commitment, know-how, physical resources and manpower by way of a huge volunteer base can only assure our tremendous success in the execution of this program. The credibility of both organizations will encourage the community to financially support this important endeavour and volunteer to assure that those who need it will receive their baskets at Passover and Rosh Hashanah.”

Greenfield has been involved in the Passover Food Basket program since he joined B’nai Brith Maple Leaf Lodge in 1958. “This is where the program was born and has evolved over the years,” he said. “When you witness the recipients of the food receiving their baskets, it brings home the reality of those living on the edge and of the true mitzvah it is to be involved.”

Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, the executive director of MADA, is also very proud of his organization’s community seders. “No one should be alone on holidays,” he said

With 1,300 chickens, 1,500 pounds of fish, thousands of pounds of vegetables and one massive community effort, MADA will host nine seders on both Passover nights across the city.

Charitable donations can be made online or by calling 514-733-5377 ext. 126. All proceeds will go directly to the purchase of food. 

Mike Cohen is B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec news bureau chief, a veteran writer and municipal politician. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mikecohencsl