Hasidic Jew helps build bridges
Montreal Coun. Mindy Pollak has an interesting story to tell a Calgary audience.
A story, she feels, is as pertinent to them as it was to her when she lived through it.
The story is about how two women — Pollak, a Hasidic Jew and Leila Marshy, a Palestinian — broke down walls of prejudice to revitalize a neighbourhood in Montreal and transform a community.
The Friends of Hutchison promotes dialogue between ultra-Orthodox Jews and francophones.
Pollak, a Montreal borough councillor and the first Hasidic woman elected to public office in North America, will be at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre on Monday at 7:30 p.m. to talk about creating community relationships.
“The talk is about building bridges and telling people how I managed to do that in Outremont. Just sharing my story and what I lived through and seeing what lessons we can take out of it and seeing how they can be applied to other neighbourhoods,” says Pollak.
Pollak, a Montreal native, was a Projet Montreal candidate in last year’s municipal election. She and Marshy co-founded Friends of Hutchison when a referendum was held to block renovation plans for a synagogue on the street.
“Reality is often very different than perception,” says Pollak. “As human beings, we shouldn’t let little differences between our- selves — whether they be big or little, ideologies, religion — come between us and stop us from getting to know the other person and building a relationship with someone, getting to know someone without putting all that stuff in front of us as a stumbling block.
“My faith is part of who I am of course. But it’s not something I put in front of me to keep people away or I cannot let people approach me.”
Pollak says that is something she has experienced over the years as non Jews were hesitant to engage her.
“So for me, even though my religion is part of who I am, it’s not something that prevents me from getting to know people and working together with people and building relationships in the neighbourhood and working together toward common goals.”
Pollak says she was brought up with values of family, friendliness and being good neighbours. Values other people are brought up with as well.
“That a 24-year-old woman with no specialized training or credentials could help transform a neighbourhood reminds us that each one of us can make a difference, if we are only willing to try,” says Rabbi Yisroel Miller of the House of Jacob — Mikveh Israel in Calgary.
“Mindy Pollak and Leila Marshy came from totally different worlds, yet they worked together as a team to create a true sense of community. We in Calgary can surely do the same, if we reach out to one another with love and respect. That two women accomplished what so many men could not, makes you wonder, might world peace be within reach if we just put women in charge of all the member states of the (United Nations)?”