Archive for February 2019

Episode 11: Lynda Kraar A Masterpiece of a Woman

I've never met another woman like Lynda Kraar. We've been friends for many years, albeit with some hiatuses along the road (similar to that of many good friends), but when we have a reunion of sorts, little has changed. The moment she and I connect, my dear Lynda, 59,  mother of two, lets me know with the warmth of a mother bear, how much she loves me, missed me and begins to make plans for us as we move forward, again.

I first met Lynda at United Jewish Appeal. She and I raised some shit there including writing a regular newsletter. One edition was titled, 'the morale in this place stinks'. Nobody said a word about it. I fell for her right away because she had that certain bravado that one only sees in people who are struggling to make good, of which she was, being a second generation Holocaust Survivor. 

As you'll hear in the eleventh episode of Hatradio! Lynda's parents didn't speak to one another. They were 'bro'gis' as we say in Yiddish (really deeply pissed at one another), and little Lynda, at four or five years old would yell at them to stop fighting. But they didn't and she learned how to live with that. Mostly, this only child, developed a way to move forward in life including picking up the guitar at eight years old and learning how to play it despite the fact her little fingers could not reach around the neck.

Today, Lynda performs around New Jersey, here in Toronto and wherever the wind will take her. And she is kick-ass on the axe, owns a dozen of them, and she sings heartfelt songs of her own composition that makes you wonder about who you love and how much. And she plays the oud and has attended oud camp. Listen to what she has to say about the renaissance of music. The woman is well versed in music, most aspects of it.

My dear Lynda has been married three times and loved em' all. Her final marriage, so far, was to Jewish community worker rock-star, Marty Kraar, who passed away at 69, when Lyn was 51. They were soulmates. Nuts about each other. He whipped her into shape and showed her how to love well because, in her own words, "I was terrible at being a wife".  Listen to Lynda talk about mourning for Marty. 

Lynda has raised millions of dollars. She surrounds herself with friends and frequently will let you know about new and old ones. I love the way she states their names as if I know them. Lynda Kraar, is a refreshing and unique human being. I've never met anyone like her and likely never will. She is a masterpiece of a woman. Enjoy her. I have.

Hatradio! The show that schmoozes. 

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Episode 10: Bernie Farber - Open a Mouth

Bernie Farber is a well known human rights activist, a writer and Jewish leader. He has courageously challenged white supremacists and worked along side Native Canadians through his partnership with philanthropist, Michael Dan. Bernie's motivation to: chair Ve'ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian & Relief Committee, teach local police ways and means of dealing with hate crimes, work at Canadian Jewish Congress from 1984-2011, and ultimately become its CEO, and so much more, stems from a lessons in life he was taught by his father Max RIP, a Holocaust survivor and only remaining Jew from his village. His Dad, who owned a food store minutes away from Parliament in Ottawa, told Bernie, if he wanted to change things in this world, fix it, he'd have to "open a mouth". Open a mouth Bernie did.

His opinions and thoughts about fighting anti-Semitism can be read in articles he's penned for The New York Times, Toronto Star, Huffington Post, NOW Magazine, Canadian Jewish News and many more publications. He has acted as an expert witness in cases against Holocaust deniers and led the Paloma Foundation, an organization that worked with youth and homeless shelters and ran for the Liberal party in 2011 . Bernie's accomplishments go on and on. 

Listen to episode 10 of Hatradio! and learn about Bernie's awesome recipe for chicken. Hear about his friendship and work with Larry Tenenbaum and former Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin. Hear Bernie sing a song about peace originally sung by Joan Baez. Discover the hit-list Bernie was on and how he was ultimately saved by a CSIS mole. And be privy to his feelings about his beautiful wife, kids and family, some of whom perished in the Holocaust. "Open a Mouth" is one of those podcasts you don't want to miss. It's about one of Canada's leading Jewish leaders who just never keeps quiet. 

Hatradio!  The show that schmoozes. 








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I was sitting in a club, about ten years ago, where my friend David, was playing guitar with a fellow musician, Lynda, whom he had recently met. Lynda's friend came along, Joan, and over the loud rhythmic noises emanating from the stage, she and I struck up a conversation. It was difficult to hear her - "what", i kept saying -  but I was able to catch her very dry vermouth-like humor, recognize Joan's smarts and the way she kind of forced me to respond with wise quips.

And I liked her tattoos.

I had never really schmoozed with a woman like that. We ultimately fell in love and dated for seven years. That's my shelf life, and pretty much her's for relationships. But that's not the point really. What is? Well it's the fact I'd met someone who is a 'warrior'. And we became friends.

Joan Ruzsa is focused. She is tunnel-vision focus so much so that if a boulder or a person gets in her way she goes around them, or through them. Joan is unbend-able, until she decides she wants to bend. Seven years of therapy school, ultimately graduating as a therapist helped her with that. But mostly, this 46 year-old purveyor of truth is the only person I had ever met whom I wanted to write a script about. I never did but that's not because her light has faded in my eyes. No, not at all, but simply because I come up with a zillion ideas and only implement one or two of them.

What would the script be about? It would include an entire scene with dim lighting showing Joan on the phone in her office at Rittenhouse (where she is the CEO), a non-profit mandated to help guys on the 'inside' - in jail, and educate the public on the cruel reality of incarceration and the possibility of alternative forms of justice. She would be talking with a 'lifer' in a penitentiary somewhere in Ontario. She would be counselling him on how to deal with his depression, or ways and means she could help gather documentation to use for his next trial, or what to say to his mom when she calls him again and cries the entire phone call.

Joan is an activist. She is the same decent, loving, curious, funny, serious person I met at that club whom I could barely here, who fights the fight with bare fists and does so graciously, with class and charisma. She climbs walls in her spare time and is now learning how to use her bread maker and make vegan donuts. Joan is bubbling over with growth and she gives an enormous shit about our world and the most vulnerable.

Have a listen, and learn, and grow yourself. There is much to see here, much to hear. Joan Ruzsa, on Hatradio! the show that schmoozes. 

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Aaron Bensoussan was born into a most prestigious Moroccan family with roots going back to Maimonides, a 12th century leading Jewish sage.  At the tender age of 14 years old, his parents sent him to New York City to learn, with the possibility of becoming a rabbi. There he was exposed to an Ashkanazi (Eastern European) way of life and a dramatically different culture. The young man had to get used to his new freedoms, the ways of Americans and a different menu which included the previously unknown "and strange' cereal called porridge for breakfast versus his back-home morning meal of croissants and cafe au lait. Things had changed for young Aaron, a lot!

After hearing the great Ashkenazi singer, Yossele Rosenblatt, Aaron fell in love with chazanute, Eastern European Jewish cantorial song.  With the odds stacked against him, Aaron was accepted into Jewish schools of higher learning where he studied under world-class  composers and cantors. One of his greatest mentors and teachers was the great David Koussevitzky.  Aaron graduated and over time this unique cantor accepted synagogue gigs in New York and later on in Toronto. 

One Shabbat morning Aaron fused together the kvetch (the cry) of Ashkenazi music with that of Sephardic liturgical music creating a refreshingly new Jewish cantorial motif.  He was worried he’d be fired but in fact the congregants loved it.  Aaron’s career was established and it skyrocketed. He was asked to sing around the world with many of the greats in places like  Australia, Israel and behind the Iron Curtain.

Today Aaron Benssousan is a composer, a teacher, a student of Talmud, a spouse and a father. His work is appreciated across the planet with today's cantorial stars in concerts and services. Aaron uses his gift of singing for much good and an extension of his kindness. 

Listen to the interview and learn about this most talented and soulful man and  the many musical and personal challenges he has overcome. HAT RADIO! The Show that Schmoozes.

To learn more about Aaron click on his website:




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