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Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Firebombed school library rededicated

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Pictured at the rededication ceremo-ny for the Azrieli Library are, from left, Talmud Torah/Herzliah head of school Laurence Kutler, president Monica Mendel Bensoussan, David Azrieli, Stephanie Azrieli, Naomi Azrieli and Sharon Azrieli Perez.

MONTREAL — There is once again an Azrieli Library at Talmud Torah, replacing the one destroyed in 2004 by a hate-motivated arson.

The original library was located at the school’s St. Laurent campus, which was closed in 2011. The new Bibliothèque Azrieli Library is at Talmud Torah and Herzliah High School’s sole remaining campus in Snowdon.

Both libraries were named for philanthropist David Azrieli’s wife, Stephanie Azrieli, a former Talmud Torah librarian.

To mark the library’s Oct. 17 rededication, the Azrieli Foundation has set up a $100,000 endowment to equip it.

“We are deeply appreciative of the gift that the Azrieli family bestowed upon our school in its time of great need [the 2004 firebombing],” said school president Monica Mendel Bensoussan.

“Their generous contribution at that time enabled us to rebuild our library, the hub of our school and the centre for literacy where love of reading is fostered and encouraged.”

The Azrielis’ daughter, Naomi Azrieli, chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation, spoke about her family’s resolve nine years ago to rebuild the destroyed library.

“Libraries open up windows to the world,” she said. “They inspire exploration and achievements and are a special home away from home for every student.”

She paid tribute to her mother, who “instilled the simple pleasure, the solace, the challenge and comfort of a good book” in her children and in her students.

The new endowment fund will enable library to acquire the latest books and computers.

Another Azrieli daughter, opera singer Sharon Azrieli Perez, led the assembled in O Canada.

Talmud Torah principal Michelle Toledano shared the little-known fact that Robert Munsch’s latest children’s book, Seeing Red, was inspired by a Talmud Torah student’s comment to him when the author visited the St. Laurent school in 2004.

Six-year-old Arie Baazov told Munsch that he was the only redhead in the school, which fired the author’s imagination. Seeing Red, released earlier this year, is dedicated to “Arie Baazov, Montreal, Quebec.”

The fictional book is about a redheaded boy named Arie and his friend Alex (based on the real-life Alex Knafo). Alex wants to turn his dark hair red, but learns we all must accept ourselves and others as they are.

Baazov and Knafo, who are now in Grade 10 at Herzliah, accepted the English and French editions of the book, which were autographed by Munsch and illustrator Michael Martchenko, on behalf of the Azrieli Library.

Mendel Bensoussan also thanked the many other major donors after the firebombing.

“We were deeply moved then and continue to be grateful today to the numerous people, institutions and foundations that joined with us in 2004 to ensure that our library would be rebuilt,” she said, specifically citing the Beutel family, the TD Bank Group, Banque Nationale, and actor Russell Crowe.

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