Eating kosher at Wonderland
I am writing with regards to the article, “Wonderland won’t renew kosher vendor’s contract,” (June 4).
I was the first to operate a kosher hot dog cart at Canada’s Wonderland, beginning in 1996. The concession stand was a great success and served a great many customers. The kosher hot dog cart was in operation for only two seasons, due to the exorbitantly high sales percentage, 50 per cent, demanded by Wonderland’s management. Being required to forward such a large percentage meant the continued operation of the cart would not have been a sound business decision. We most regretfully were forced to discontinue the cart’s operation.
Today, to the best of my knowledge, there are three points of sale at Wonderland offering religiously certified Halal foods adhering to Muslim dietary law and none being offered to people of the Jewish faith other than one offering salads.
It is my belief that considering our large and robust Jewish population, Wonderland’s management could have indeed permitted at least one concession to operate and offer the sale of kosher hot dogs. It is completely erroneous that such an endeavour would not prove profitable. I am willing to bring my own specially designed kosher hot dog cart to the park and commit to its full financial success, though not if I’d be required to relinquish 50 per cent of sale profits.
I must mention that I possess over 25 years’ experience in kosher fast food. It is my belief that our Jewish community deserves the right to purchase kosher food at Wonderland and be able to enjoy the full park experience just as others do. Incidentally, people of the Muslim faith will similarly be able to enjoy the kosher food, and the park will indeed enjoy even further profits.
The ethics of paying donors
Rabbi Jay Kelman (“Want more organ donors? Pay them,” June 4) suggests that paying for organ donations is harmonious with the best of Jewish values.
To see that this emotive issue is not as ethically simple as he claims, we need only look at how well it works in places where it is practised. Paid donors are often poor, illiterate, and in low-paying jobs. They donate not out of any sense of altruism, but to escape debt.
For most, selling an organ does not bring the anticipated benefits. Donation often leads to a decline in overall health. Many fall back into debt, because their ability to work has been impacted. Family relationships are stressed. Informed consent is farcical, risks are not properly explained or understood, and donors come under pressure from family and creditors to make the “right” autonomous decision.
Organs are not commodities or assets to be traded. Organ donation is a gift. It is perhaps the nearest to that great Jewish value of chesed shel emet that an individual can advance to another living person, for the gift of life is a debt that can never be repaid.
Jews in the merchant marine
I am drawing up a record of honour of those Jews who served in the United Kingdom, Australian, New Zealand, South African and Canadian merchant navies in World War II.
If any of your Canadian readers have any information, as well as photos and stories, please email me at martin.sugarman@
Martin Sugarman, archivist of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women of the UK- AJEX Museum
Charity begins at home
It is heartening to read about Mordechai Ben-Dat’s newly formed grassroots group, (“Putting affordable Jewish education back on the agenda,” June 4).
Ironically, two weeks earlier, a prominent community member was lauded for giving $10 million to the First Nations (“Honouring a gitte neshamah,” May 21).
I hope this donor, and others with similar financial clout, read Ben-Dat’s article and will be motivated to help strengthen the Jewish day school system in Toronto. There is no question that without a strong Jewish educational system in place, the Jewish community won’t be around in a few generations to help other communities, such as the First Nations, at all.
Looking at schools’ quality
Mordechai Ben-Dat poignantly warns of the dire consequences of declining enrolment in Jewish day school and exhorts the community to “[re-imagine] the entire structure of funding affordable Jewish education”(“Putting affordable Jewish education back on the agenda,” June 4). His focus on affordability of Jewish day school and its relationship to declining enrolment is understandable. That prevailing wisdom is probably entirely accurate in Ontario and elsewhere.
In the distinct society that is Quebec and Montreal, however, anecdotal experience buttressed by data says it is not the whole story or even the most crucial part.
With day school tuition substantially less than half the cost of the more elite private schools burgeoning with more and more Jewish students whose families can well afford the financial cost of Jewish day school, it is specious to blame declining enrolment in Montreal on affordability. The high cost about which many families who could afford full day school tuition are concerned is the perceived (and I would argue, mostly real) sacrifice in quality – the quality of general studies, perhaps; the quality of pedagogy that hasn’t evolved with the rapid pace of change in technology, in society and in neurological development; the quality of the Jewish component itself, the very reason that some families might choose the day school in the first place, including studies that fail far too often to inspire and engage increasingly savvy, sophisticated and inquisitive adolescents; and finally, the quality of Jewish and civic values being exemplified and imbued (contrasted with the discipline and respectfulness in some of the non-Jewish private schools.)
Ask rabbis from any denomination how satisfied and confident they are that our Jewish schools effectively and meaningfully model Jewish values, and graduate Jews who are committed and passionate about being Jewish in ways that secure their Jewish futures.
Now, as Ben-Dat says, re-imagine Montreal Jewish day schools of improving quality, schools built with continued government subsidies not available elsewhere and with donor and community funds being redirected from building projects to teachers and content. Re-imagine the funds flowing in from full paying families who have choices and who have abandoned the day school because their needs aren’t being met. Re-imagine what the additional funds could do to improve quality further, compensate deserving teachers more fairly and provide more subsidies to those who can’t afford the cost. Now imagine making that a reality.
David J. Shapiro