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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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JPPS-Bialik celebrates a century of education

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JPPS-Bialik performers strut their stuff at the school’s centennial concert gala.

MONTREAL — The mood was buoyant at the Jewish People and Peretz School (JPPS)-Bialik centennial gala the evening before the Parti-Québécois government was trounced at the polls.

Not only was the sold-out crowd hopeful about the next day, but Montreal’s first Jewish day school was a century old, and this was just cause to celebrate, to kvell, to look toward the future

 What better way than to have the 57th gala concert fittingly pay homage not only to the past, but also to the present and the school years yet to come?

In that context, the theme was L’dor V’dor – From Generation to Generation.

A hallway at Bialik High School next to the Helen & Sam Steinberg Auditorium was lined with archival material from years gone by.

It also paid attention to the roots of the gala, whose first organizing body was the school’s Concert Society. Many of its former chairs were in the audience and saw their photos flashed across a giant on-stage screen. Alumni also came in from out of town.

As was noted by school leaders Arnold Cohen and Merle Frankel, it was the late, tireless community volunteer Clara Balinsky whose 1957 school committee first thought of a concert as a way to help families without sufficient means to pay the full school fees. For years, the gala took place at Place des Arts before moving to the west end.

That is why volunteering “is not a choice. It’s a responsibility,” Cohen said.

“Clara felt we could do it,” Frankel said, “and the spirit that saw the need for it is still there.”

In fact, most involved with the gala are volunteers, and there was spirit to spare. The show, directed with aplomb by Anisa Cameron and emceed with just the right touch of irreverence by graduates Daniel Harroch (’06) and Kevin Shustack (’08), who co-wrote it with Cameron, celebrated the 100 years of music that coincided with JPPS-Bialik’s own history, details of which were interspersed with the musical numbers, all accompanied by a tight little band led by Nick Burgess.

The results crackled with so much energy and real talent from the ranks of its alumnae to the future class of 2015, that it had the audience on its feet and cheering. Among them was veteran performer and JPPS-Bialik alumna Lisa Rubin, the new executive director of the Segal Centre.

The music included 1940s swing music, U2, The Beatles, and even Jewish standards like Oifin Pripitchik, a nod to the Yiddish soul and sensibility that still resonates within the institution’s walls.

That element of the JPPS-Bialik legacy – the importance of Jewish education and continuity – was noted by gala co-chairs Gilla Geiger Grover and Mona Segal Strasser, as well as by president Jamie Ross.

“It’s great to look out and see this room filled,” Ross told the assembled.

The evening also featured a live auction and in the program book, co-chaired by Sandy Surkis Dalfen and Mindy Goldberg Wilansky, Ross said that the school does not take “lightly the responsibility in placing your child’s education in our hands.”

The goal, as it has been for a century, is to have students reach their full potentials and “be the best that they can be,” he wrote

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