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Holocaust survivor shares story with Toronto students, reacts to deadly synagogue massacre – Toronto

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More than 700 students pack the auditorium at Upper Canada College to listen to Holocaust survivor 92-year old Dr. Vera Schiff tell her story in a calm, quiet voice.

“Hate and intolerance only brings disaster,” said Schiff, her family’s lone survivor.

“The only way to survive is to get along and respect one another.”

In 1942, Schiff’s family was deported to Theresienstadt, a ghetto and concentration camp, where she was assigned to work in the hospital. Her parents, sister and grandmother died there.

During history’s darkest chapter, she tells the packed auditorium, she found love. Schiff met her future husband Arthur. The days were long, but Schiff kept going for her mother.

“If everybody and everything let her down, I will live up to what she expected, what she hoped I would become,” she said.

Decades have passed since the Holocaust, but still the memories for Schiff and for the other survivors who take part in Holocaust Education Week are difficult and traumatic.

READ MORE: Jewish people, community allies answer call to #ShowUpForShabbat

But as Schiff explains, “If [the students] create a better world, then our efforts were invested.”

Jordan Weiss is among the students.

“We have to keep pushing even though we’ve had setbacks, such as the Pittsburgh shooting, we have to keep pushing keep fighting keep learning,” he said.

Another student, Phillip Kong, attended a trip UCC offers to students who want to further their Holocaust education.

READ MORE: Pittsburgh mom, children thank first responders following synagogue shooting

“We went to many death camps such as Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau… when you’re actually there, it’s a whole other experience,” he said.

The teacher who leads the trip, and interviewed Vera Schiff on Monday, is Rachel Metalin. She has completed extensive Holocaust education training in Poland.

“For students to learn about a tragedy that, is of course a Jewish tragedy, but it’s also a human tragedy, and when we can connect to the humanity of that it’s really the catalyst for change,” said Metalin.

She recalled a trip overseas and a moment with one particular student.


“He looked up at me with just a look of shock and sadness and innocence and said, ‘It all really happened didn’t it? They really did that to those people?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah it did,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Metalin noted if she can open just one student’s eyes to the dangers of anti-Semitism, then it is all worth it.

Just over a week ago, 11 Jews were killed while worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Law enforcement officials reported the gunman said he wanted to “kill all the Jews.” The suspect, Robert Bowers, has been indicted on 44 charges, including 11 counts of obstruction of the free exercise of religious belief and use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.


READ MORE:
Montreal Holocaust survivors tell their story on Holocaust Remembrance Day

“It is very disappointing, it is frustrating and it is also a certain degree of fear that no matter what you do you don’t seem to be able to get the message across that violence breeds violence,” said Schiff.

Yet, she insisted, it is because of the Holocaust and because of the Pittsburgh massacre that she must keep sharing her story with future generations.

“To take the kids step by step and teach them that hate (and) intolerance is a non-viable option,” she said.

There are events across the GTA this week as part of the Neuberger’s annual signature program, Holocaust Education Week, which has recognized as a “best practice” in the field by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. A big part of the program is first hand testimony by the remaining Holocaust survivors.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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