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Montreal Shira Choir Spotlight

Dimitri Fiskas

My name is Dimitri Fiskas.  I am visually impaired and autistic, but it does not stop me from doing anything and everything because I have a positive attitude towards life!!

I love listening to music, especially music from the 60’s and 70’s!  My mom always says sing newer songs, but I like the rhythm from those older eras. 

I love dancing and sometimes you will catch me playing on the piano. I learnt how to play by listening to the music. I joined the choir because of my love for music and meeting new friends.

Robert Lemieux

My name is Robert Lemieux.  I am 60 years old and I was born in Montreal.  I am a packer for a food company.  My hobbies include bowling, soccer and singing. I was adopted and I have a brother  sometimes I talk to my brother Vedder a lot I love my family I joined the choir to learn new songs and to make new friends and to sing with my wife being in the choir means learning new songs performing for people  and having  friends  as my family the choir is family to me.

Robert & Adina

We at the Montreal Shira Choir are proud of our diversity. We are also proud of our couple Robert and Adina for not only showing us the power of music but the power of love. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their commitment to each other and our choir is admirable. We are proud and honoured to have them in our midst.

Samuel Bendahan

My name is Samuel Bendahan, and my family and friends call me Sammy.  I was born in Montreal on April 21st.  I work at a packaging company, but since the pandemic I am not going to work because I am not allowed to be next to many people due to my medical condition.  I live with my mom and dad and my brother in CSL.  My hobbies include reading books and collecting objects and books from the Goosebumps collection.  I love to watch movies and hang around with my friends and family.  I joined the choir because I love to sing.  It is one of the ways I could express my emotions.  I also joined because I have many friends who attend the choir and asked me to join so that we can have time to see each other and sing together.  Singing brings happiness to the soul.

Ann-Marie St. Laurent

My name is Ann-Marie St. Laurent and I am 38 years old. I was born in Montreal, Quebec. I work at a retirement home. My hobbies are glee club, acting, singing and bowling. I have a brother and uncle here in Montreal and my immediate family lives in Toronto, Ontario. Lenore Vosberg invited me to join the choir and it was the best decision I’ve made. I feel a sense of belonging, I’ve made great friends and I can share my joy of singing with others. I thank everyone who made this wonderful opportunity possible.

Laurence Isaac Tenenbaum

My name is Laurence Isaac Tenenbaum and I am 45 years old.

I am a worker at the JEM workshop. My hobbies include painting, writing and playing bass guitar.

I was born in Montreal to a large, loving family and I came back home for good after my fiance died in Alberta. I was always struggling to make a living in Montreal when I met her online, and we just hit it off.  A few months later, I moved to Alberta to be with her but unfortunately six months later, she passed away. I was very depressed and moved back home in Montreal to be with my family. That's when I took a job at JEM, and the rest is history...

I joined the choir because I love to sing. I needed to get some music back into my life after I came back home from out west when my fiancee passed away.  My new work family made me aware of the Montreal Shira choir and I decided to join them last February.  It was going great until we stopped in person rehearsals and performances because of COVID-19. We reverted to rehearsing and meeting online. The choir went onward, boldly into the future, so that when this COVID-19 madness is over we can come back into the world and help to heal it with our music.

Rebecca Bensimon

Hi my name is Rebecca Bensimon and I’ve been a volunteer with the Montreal Shira Choir since it first started almost 2 and a half year ago!

It has been the most amazing journey watching this choir go from around 6-7 members to almost 35!

When Danny and Muriel first approached me to help out with the choir I had no idea how much of an impact and influence it would have on so many people, including myself. I have my Bachelor’s degree in psychology and I’m currently finishing a program to become a Special Care Counsellor. My long term goal career wise, is to be a clinical social worker and I intend on completing my masters degree in the near future.  Although the effects of COVID-19 have limited our ability to be together, I always look forward to our Tuesday zoom rehearsals because I know how much joy and happiness it brings to all our members especially during these unprecedented times.  The Montreal Shira Choir is a special group that I am so incredibly proud to be a part of and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us! 

Yosef D. Robinson

My name is Yosef D. Robinson and I was born in Montreal on June 14, 1982 so that makes me 38 right now. I am a freelance/independent scholar in the field of Jewish Studies and before the pandemic, I was a ba'al tefillah at Maimonides.

My hobbies include geography, social/natural sciences, travel/sightseeing, reading, Torah/Jewish studies, checking email/surfing the Web, watching TV (certain genres - e.g. news, documentaries, game shows), walking, biking, skiing and classical music.

My family and I are Modern Orthodox and we attend synagogue every Shabbat and holidays. My parents are both originally from the United States but moved to Montreal before both my sister and I were born. We have many relatives in the United States (including my sister and her family). My father has been a professor in Judaic Studies at Concordia University, while my mother taught Accounting at Concordia before her retirement in 2010. When I grew up, I attended Giant Steps (a school/program for children on the autism spectrum) until grade 4, as well as public schools through grade 3 (plus afternoon Hebrew school twice a week and some private Hebrew tutoring), Akiva School from grade 4 to grade 6, and Hebrew Academy for high school. In addition, I have one Bachelors degree (in Geography, from Rutgers University in New Jersey) and three Masters degrees (in Urban Planning from Ohio State University; and Environmental Impact Assessment and Judaic Studies, both from Concordia) under my belt.

Cantor Benlolo recruited me to join the choir when I was the Baal Kore on Shabbat mornings at Shaare Zedek Congregation, in the spring of 2019. The choir provides me with a good deal of camaraderie, not just with the other choir members but with those parents who attend along with their children, as well as with the people who are involved in running the choir.

Ayush Abeyratne

My name Ayush Abeyratne and I am 27 years old. I was born in Montreal. I graduated from Wager High School.  My hobbies include playing piano and playing games on my I phone. I live with my mom and dad in Cote St Luc and my older brother lives in Ottawa. I joined the choir because I love to sing songs and I feel good knowing that I belong to a choir.

Steven Zack

My name is Steven Zack and I am 58 years old. I was born in Montreal.

While I have done several types of jobs, most of the work I’ve done in the past two decades has involved research, so if I had to give myself a title it would be Researcher. Some of the things I’ve enjoyed most over the years have been music, both listening to it with my favourite being dance pop and euro dance as well as singing and dancing, particularly freestyle and free flow more than ballroom. I have also found over the years that dancing is by far the best exercise for losing weight over traditional exercise and cardio. I also do spend a goodly amount of time reading amateur stories on several sites.

Much of my growing up was done in the Cote-des-Neiges area, and while I have since lived in other parts of the city, I have always felt most comfortable here. My brothers and mother on the other hand felt the pull of the West Island and that is where they all live now and where the various family gatherings are held.

Brenda Stolow was a fellow member with me in the Cummings Senior Choir and had been raving about Cantor Daniel Benlolo’s choir first at Shaare Zedek Congregation and then at the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue and invited me to come check it out. I found I liked it, appreciated the welcome I got, and decided to stick around. Just mere months after joining the coronavirus hit resulting in most every activity and event being closed and I am very appreciative of the fact that the Cantor kept choir going all through this on ZOOM.

Below is a picture of Steven and the Mayor of Pierrefonds Jim Beis from a mid-December 2019 holiday party.

Alex Lulin

Je m'appelle Alex Lulin et je suis né à Montréal. Du lundi au mercredi je travaille dans l'entrepôt du Château où j'ouvre les boîtes (cartons ?) et je place les vêtements sur des supports. Le jeudi et le vendredi, je vais à l'école Fillion. J'aime beaucoup regarder les Simpsons, jouer aux jeux vidéo à l' ordinateur et avec mes cartes Pokemon. Je vis avec mes parents et j'ai un petit frère qui vient à la maison tous les vendredis soirs passer Shabbat avec nous. Ma mère m'a obligé à aller a la chorale il y a deux ans et maintenant grâce à la chorale, j'ai appris à chanter en anglais et en hébreu ! Muriel, Daniel, Rebecca et Rhonda sont des personnes importantes dans ma vie. J'aime beaucoup la musique et le chant et j'ai hâte que la chorale Shira recommence à donner des spectacles.

Joshua Benlolo

My name is Joshua Benlolo and I'm 31 years old. I was born in Montreal. I attended the Concordia Centre for the Arts in Human Development, Layton School and Hebrew Academy, Day program. My hobbies include singing, hiking, listen to movies and swimming. I am the second oldest of five children. We are 1 girl and 4 boys in our family. My sister is a doctor, the second oldest boy is studying to be a rabbi and the other two boys are in university. My dad, Emile Z’L passed away 10 years ago. And my mom, Toby is the heart and soul of our family. She makes sure that I do not just sit around all day but move and use my mind. I sometimes get her to let me use my iPad. One of the special things we do together is to put together a play list. She asks me the name of the author and name of the song and then we put together a playlist (sometimes I have too many great songs-100.... ) I joined the Montreal Shira Choir because One of my passion is to sing and so being in a choir gives me that pleasure -Singing and being with other people who share the same passion makes me happy. Of course, I love our choir head, Cantor Daniel Benlolo. I think he is the best!! P.S. He is my uncle.

Joshua singing with his uncle Cantor Daniel Benlolo

Jonathan Corin

My name is Jonathan Corin and I was born in Montreal. I attend Miriam Home and Services. My hobbies include music, singing, basketball and playing computer games. I love to hang out with my dog. He understands me and makes me feel more relaxed. I like to play basketball and my Dad bought for me and installed a basketball hoop in our driveway. My family and myself have a weekly Zoom meeting with my sister who is married. I also play billiards every day with my dad at night when he gets back from work. My mother holds a nightly reading, bingo and math classes with me. Overall, I am very busy throughout the week. I joined the Montreal Shira choir because I love to listen to music and sing. I am also a member of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue where we normally practiced before the pandemic closed the shul. As soon as I heard about the choir I joined. It has been quite an experience attending in the synagogue and now on Zoom. It feels that the choir is my family now. Cantor Benlolo keeps me attentive and focused. Muriel sends me all types of songs to learn so that I can sing them at the choir. So I like the choir a lot.

Lenore Vosberg

My name is Lenore Vosberg and I have been a volunteer with the Montreal Shira Choir since it was first established in 2019. I got involved after Cantor Danny Benlolo had performed with his nephew Joshua at a Benefit Concert for the Centre for the Arts in Human Development at Concordia University where I am the Director. Cantor Benlolo asked me to help him recruit choir members so that he could start a new choir in Montreal featuring adults with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities. This was shortly after he returned to Montreal from Ottawa where he started and lead the Tamir Neshama Choir for several years. I contacted people in the community, and we started the choir with about 10 members. The choir has grown considerably, and it is such a pleasure to see everyone thriving as they sing and learn new songs together. It is a wonderful experience for all. Thank you to Cantor Benlolo for his warmth and enthusiasm which enables each person to excel. We all look forward to being back in the community performing beautifully and bringing pleasure to audiences in Montreal.

Jonah Ben Davis Yanofsky

My name is Jonah Ben Davis Yanofsky and I am 22 years old. I was born in Montreal. I attend a program at L'Edifice Fillion and Concordia Centre for the Arts in Human Development and studio school. My hobbies include going to the country, ordering food from restaurants, playing crossword puzzles, hosting Krystle in my backyard, going to the recording studio, music and drama and visiting my grandmother. My family and I like to go to the country and have Evan and Noah visit us in our backyard. We like to check the status of the virus in the news and to also find out how many people got the vaccine. We like to swim in the outdoor blow up pool in the summer and attend services at the Temple. I joined the Shira choir because I like to sing. I am learning a new song called Just As I Am with the rest of my friends from the choir. The choir continued rehearsals online during the pandemic and that way I get to see all my choir friends every week. I get to sing Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens. I get to ask what kind of risk Cantor Benlolo is taking. I like that I got to do it before and even after the pandemic.

The picture was taken at my graduation from Summit School. The picture includes my mom, my dad and our dogs Lexi and Phoebe. My dad passed away in December.

Max Kasner

My Name is Max Kasner.  I am 25 years old and I was born in Montreal. Growing up, I attended Solomon Schechter Academy and completed my education at Summit School. I work at JEM Workshop. My Hobbies include spending time online, listening to Music, acting, singing, walking, and spending time with my family. I joined the choir to become a better singer and to add to my performing arts experience.  The Choir has become a very important part of my life !!! I’m grateful to everyone who works hard to keep the Choir even during the pandemic and I am looking forward to many more years with this incredible group !!!

Fri, February 3 2023 12 Shevat 5783