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Israel gives historic menorah to ICAO

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Israeli Consul General Joel Lion, left, Harry Bloomfield, Evelyn Bloomfield-Schachter and ICAO representative Fang Liu stand in front of the brass menorah. [Janice Arnold photo]

MONTREAL — A six-foot brass menorah that one of Romania’s most prominent Jewish leaders shipped out of the country before World War II, and which survived the Blitz in London will find a permanent home at a United Nations building in Montreal.

Israeli Consul General Joel Lion announced at a Yom Ha’atzmaut reception held at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that the menorah has been donated to that UN agency and will be displayed there as a gift of the State of Israel.

The huge edifice on University Street is decorated throughout with objects from many of its 191 member countries, but this will be the first from Israel, Lion said.

The menorah belonged to Lazar Margulies, a wealthy and influential textile industrialist in Bucharest, who settled in Montreal during the war with his wife Selma and the orphaned niece and two nephews they raised as their own children.

The children of their niece, Neri Bloomfield, Evelyn Bloomfield-Schachter and Harry Bloomfield, were on hand for the official presentation to ICAO director of administration Fang Liu.

Margulies, who was born in 1876, was a leading Zionist in prewar Europe and a delegate at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. He was a personal friend of Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel’s first president, and of Theodor Herzl,

Margulies was a respected figure in Romania, and was appointed in 1932 to the government’s new Economic Council, the only Jew among its 25 members.

However, when official anti-Semitism started to intensify, he sold the business and went to England in 1938. The family’s house was bombed by the Luftwaffe, but the solid seven-branched candelabra was undamaged.

Soon after, the family immigrated to Montreal – bringing the menorah with them.

Margulies and his wife continued their Zionist activism here, and when the Israeli consulate opened on Pine Avenue in Montreal in 1949 – the first in Canada – they gave the menorah to the first consul general, their friend Avraham Harman, later president of the Hebrew University. Margulies died in 1962.

The menorah remained on display in the consulate in its many locations over the past 65 years right up to the current one in Westmount Square.

Bloomfield and his sisters readily agreed to Lion’s suggestion that the menorah – the symbol of Israel over the millennia – should be seen in ICAO and would be a fitting gift before his departure from Montreal this summer. In addition to his duties as consul general to Quebec and the Maritimes, Lion has been Israel’s permanent representative to ICAO for the past three years.

Bloomfield, a lawyer with international clients and former honorary consul for Belize and Liberia, is well acquainted with the agency.

“To see the official symbol of the State of Israel in a UN building gives us great pride,” he said.

Lion said the menorah will be displayed with a plaque about the Margulies story on one side and the Israeli flag on the other.

Diplomats from more than 40 countries attended the Yom Ha’atzmaut reception celebrating Israel’s 66th year of independence. Many other dignitaries included new Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, whose responsibilities include diversity and inclusiveness; Coalition Avenir Québec house leader François Bonnardel; former Parti Québécois premier Bernard Landry, as well as executive committee member Lionel Perez, representing Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

While economic and cultural ties between the province and Israel continue to grow, Lion said his wish is to see Quebec open an office in Israel as Ontario has done in Tel Aviv.

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