MONTREAL – Preparations for Passover may be underway at the Chabad NDG community centre, but there is a lot to worry about this year.
They have to raise $1 million by the end of May if they want to stay in their location.
“When the news came in, it was just, okay what do we do now? Do we go look for another place, do we downsize, what do we do?” Rabbi Bernath told Global News.
The Chabad is a tenant of property developer Robert Blatt, who owns St. Columba Church.
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Blatt intends on tearing the church down, but save the parish hall to build townhouses.
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However, his proposal was squashed when 225 residents signed a register to force a referendum on the issue and council decided not to move ahead.
The Chabad, which occupies the parish hall next to the old church, has been given an ultimatum: come up with the money to buy the building or move out.
“Right now, we have about $500,000 and we have small community donations coming in,” said Rabbi Bernath.
Blatt refused to be interviewed, but said he was looking after the longterm interest of the community centre.
He also refused to comment on what his new plans are for the former church.
Tensions grew when NDG councillor Jeremy Searle made comments about Jewish guilt at a council meeting on April 4.
“The only arguments I have heard in favour of this project this evening appear to be over-used Jewish guilt argument, which of course a form of reverse racism,” he had said.
Searle stands by his comments.
“I recognize those comments were somewhat over the top,” said Searle.
“But at the same time, they pale in comparison of a Rabbi, who, without foundation, accused an entire community of antisemitism.”
The rabbi doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t really know where his words are coming from,” said Bernath.
“[I don’t know] why he decided that when I got up at the borough council and said that we’ve been harassed that means I was saying antisemitism. I never said that.”
With Passover just around the corner, what would help make amends for the Rabbi, is to be able to stay at his current location and put all this behind.
“My grandmother used to always say: that a nice bowl of chicken soup does a lot people good,” said Rabbi Bernath.
“I would love to sit down with Mr. Searle for a nice bowl of soup and have a conversation and I would love if he could apologize to me, as a representative of the NDG Jewish community, to the NDG Jewish community and to the Jewish community at large.”