Last night (Sunday, November 17, 2019), I was a featured media guest at the Migdal-Ohr . Tower of Light (https://migdalohr.org & http://migdalohrcanada.com) fundraiser dinner, at the Sephardic Kehila Centre, honouring the life and legacy of the recently deceased Claude Bitton commemorating the Hilula of Rabbi Raphael Baruch Toledano zt”l. Rabbi Dovid Grossman Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek aka ‘the Disco Rabbi’, is the founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr educational institutions a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel.
The event venue – for the grand fundraising dinner for Migdal Ohr in Canada – was the Sephardic Kehila Centre. This building offers guests a spiritually uplifting experience, due in part to its phenomenal design and brilliant décor, which is a timeless Middle Eastern motif. The Sepahric Kehila Centre hosts grand events, galas and religious presentations, by world renowned Rabbi’s and dignitaries, as featured presenters. This highly esteemed building is arrayed with a beautiful pink exterior of what appears today be limestone and gorgeous marble flooring.
Prior to the dinner there was a candle lighting ceremony, which was inaugurated by the event Chair (Daniel Assouline, 2019, Campaign Chair, Migdal Ohr Canada) and President of Migdal Ohr Canada, Marc Kakon, in the atrium of the Sephardic Kehila Centre. Many dignitaries, in attendance, also lit tea light candles in memorial of HaTzadik (the righteous) Baruch Toledano of great esteem and blessed memory.
Drinks were available and served up, upon request, by capable bar staff. Beverage options included: orange juice, cranberry juice and a mixture blend of the two juices in glass pitchers. Glen Fiddich 12 year old Single Malt Whiskey was served, as well as top of the line Gin and Patron, which is an Agave (cactus product) Liqueur, with optional pairing of various sodas, including Coca Cola, Sprite, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and President’s Choice Club Soda.
Master Chef Anthony Andrade of Ely’s Fine Foods was responsible for the preparation and serving of the hors d’oeuvres and dinner, which included a scrumptious dessert. Many Sous Chefs were busily preparing just prior to the opening of the event, in the spacious and clean kitchen at the Sephardic Kehila Centre, on the West Side of Bathurst Street, a block North of Steeles Avenue, in the Town of Thornhill, in the City of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.
The hors d’oeuvres were served in the foyer. There must have been at least seven or more items served as hors d’oeuvres. Sushi was served on wide trays, sashimi in transparent cones, imitation crab cakes in a light and fluffy tempura batter with sweet dipping sauce in the ceramic serving spoon, Moroccan cigars (beef in a fried phyllo pastry shell), chicken breast on small skewers coated with a sweet mustard sauce, as well as other delectable items.
Dinner was served in the grand hall of the Sephardic Kehila Centre, which like the sanctuary, also has a tall ceiling. Tables were arrayed with beautiful floral centerpieces and candles lit up the table.
Dinner options included: poached salmon topped with a steamed vegetable medley, all housed atop a red pepper, coated with a light and zesty sauce and paired with asparagus wrapped with a red pepper bow, or beef short-rib atop a ‘rich boozy jus‘, with long baby potatoes and asparagus.
There was a professional Master of Ceremonies that initiated the commencement of the dinner and welcome guest presenters, as well as proclaimed the showing of various videos, about the work of Migdal Ohr, in Israel and the slideshow of Claude Bitton, benefactor, community advocate and Jewish legend.
There was also a candle lighting auction that fetched a high anonymous bid of $12,000. The opportunity to light full size candles that were beautifully encased in lanterns was gifted to the Bitton and Moyal families, by an anonymous donor.
The Sephardic Jewish community of Toronto revered Claude Bitton, similar to Tzadikim, like Aaron the Kohen, brother of Moses, who loved peace and pursued peace, so much so that it is solely written about Aaron the Kohen: “Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron—a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah” (Pirkei Avot 1:12). Such was Claude Bitton. Many friends in attendance who spoke at the podium and during the mingling parts of the evening spoke at length of the kindness and openness of Claude Bitton.
Prosper Lugassy spoke at the podium, before all gathered in attendance at the honorary dinner, about how Claude Bitton would carry a bottle of wine in a case, with his sons accompanying him with a bottle of wine to be poured, on special occasions at the Sephardic Kollel, at weddings and other simchas in the Jewish community. Candy was also carried along to be shared with children, in attendance at the shul and at bar mitzvahs, as well as other special events.
Drinking wine, being joyful and celebrating life with a positive mindset is so important that:
It was taught: R’ Yehuda b. Beteira says. ” While the Temple is standing, there
is no joy unless there is meat, as it says (Deuteronomy. 27) ‘And you shall sacrifice
peace-offerings and eat them there, and you will be joyful before the Lord,
your God’. Now that the Temple is not standing, there is no joy without wine, as
it says (Psalms 104) ‘ And wine will rejoice the heart of man.'” (http://adderabbi.blogspot.com/2005/03/meat-and-wine-talmudic-reading-of.html).
Further it is written by King Solomon: “Go, eat your bread joyfully and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your deeds” (Kohelet 9:7).
It was said of Claude Bitton that he was the first to greet everyone at an event and that he was always of good spirit. He was kind to all people, regardless of their social standing and irrelevant of their spiritual or educational level. This behaviour is in accordance with Pirkei Avot 4:15 where it is written: “Rabbi Matya the son of Charash would say: Be the first to greet every man. Be a tail to lions, rather than a head to foxes” (Pirkei Avot 4:15).
Claude Bitton was surely a well like man in the Jewish community, in accordance with the admonition of Pirkei Avot: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. (Pirkei Avot 2). Claude Bitton upheld the requirements of the entire Torah, based on Pirkei Avot: 4:13 where it is written: “Rabbi Shimon would say: There are three crowns—the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of sovereignty—but the crown of good name surmounts them all” (Pirkei Avot 4:13). Of Hillel it is quoted: “”He would also say: One whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom endures. But one whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom does not endure”. “He would also say: One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G‑d. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to G‑d” (Pirkei Avot 1:10). Rabbi Ishmael would say: “Be yielding to a leader, affable to the black-haired, and receive every man with joy” (Pirkei Avot 1:12).
“Rabbi (Judah HaNassi) would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind” (Pirkei Avot 2:1). Finally it is written in Pirkei Avot “There are four types of people: One who says, “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine” is a boor. One who says “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” — this is a median characteristic; others say that this is the character of Sodom. One who says, “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours” is a chassid [pious person]. And one who says “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine is wicked” (Pirkei Avot 5:10).
Claude Bitton is a culmination of all that has hereinbefore been referenced in Pirkei Avot. Rabbi Grossman, who was present at this dinner also seems to embrace similar ideals, and to emanate the attitude of being non-judgemental and seems to give others the benefit of the doubt; even if there is a doubt that there could possibly be any benefit for doing so. This foundational principle of Migdal Ohr: Help a Jew – No Judgements! sets Migdal Ohr above many other global initiatives.
Migdal Ohr provides social, community and housing services to many disenfranchised people in Israel. Many students have graduated high school, as a direct result of the community supports of Migdal Ohr educational organization. Many prisoners are now attending weekly Torah classes as a result of Migdal Ohr. Numerous former club goers got married and have established families as a result of the programs and services of Migdal Ohr.
The incomparable internationally acclaimed musical sensation, Gad Elbaz was a featured celebrity guest, at the Migdal Ohr honorary dinner, at the Sephardic Kehila Centre fundraiser grand honorary dinner. Gad Elbaz was kind enough to pose for a photo opportunity with me, Zack Steel, a favorite fan, along with other fans seeking a shared photograph with Gad Elbaz. Gad said kind and sweet words about Claude Bitton and about Claude’s son Adam Bitton, as well as supportive words about Migdal HaEmek and Migdal Ohr, prior to singing beautiful songs to a captivated audience at this most auspicious occasion.
I would like to humbly suggest that you too should support, with all your heart and soul, this inspiration and beneficial organization Migdal Ohr (https://migdalohr.org & http://migdalohrcanada.com),which promotes and ensures Jewish continuity.