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Matthew Ostrove and Italian Jewish student he met at the conference

Ostrove with European Jewish Students at the conference.


By Rhonda Spivak

Matthew Ostrove, a young Winnipeg entrepreneur, who is seeking the nomination to be the candidate for the Liberal Party in Tuxedo, recently returned from participating in a conference of the European Centre for Jewish Students [ECJS] that took place in New York on May 6-10.

In an interview, Ostrove said he learned of the conference from a friend of his from Belgium on facebook. "The ECJS, based in Brussels, Belgium, is the umbrella group for many Jewish Student unions and associations in Europe. It provides students with opportunities to develop their awareness of Judaism and to socialize with other Jews."

The website of the ECJS   says that “Our mission is to bring the Jewish students of Europe together, encourage students to be proud Jews, financially assist Jewish unions or groups, and create an impressive and powerful Jewish presence on European campuses. We also aim to encourage pro-Israel attitudes and activities amongst Jewish students and to provide students with the essential tools required to combat the widespread anti-Semitism in Europe.”

Ostrove said that he and a friend from Montreal, Maurice Bijo and a “few other Montrealers” were the only Canadians who attended the  conference and “shabbaton” which had hundreds of participants. Ostrove told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he  had the opportunity to  talk to a lot of  European Jewish students, ages 18-35, about the their concerns, including anti-Semitism.

“Participants of the conference from Europe were mostly talking about the rise of Radical Islam, especially people from the Netherlands, England, Hungary and France. They were concerned about what their political leaders are doing, and  about the future problem if not contained.”
Ostrove,  added, “ I spoke with some students who live in France who  said that anti- Semitism is growing and they are some are looking to move from France within 5 years if the country is threatened by Radical Islam. This was there first trip outside of Europe and in the future they will look to come to Canada.”

Ostrove said he suggested that they consider moving to Winnipeg if they  decide to leave France.

Ostrove also noted, “One woman form Hungary I spoke with says she fears speaking out because of the government they [recently] elected and may move to Canada with her family if they are given the chance.”

In April 2010, the far-right took more parliamentary seats in Hungary’s national elections than at any time since the Second World War. Hungary's largest Jewish organization warned that the vote was "the first occasion that a movement [Jobbik] pursuing openly anti-Semitic policies " has taken a step to power since the Nazi era.

One of the sessions that Ostrove said was very moving was a talk given by Sari Singer entitled “Healing the wounds of Terror.”

“ Sari Singer, who survived an attack in Israel, spoke about her experience and what prompted her to start her non-profit organization about uniting people who have been in terrorist attacks in Israel offering them comfort.”

The weekend shabbaton was “jamm packed” with Judaic themed sessions, and also included prayer services.
“It included a visit to the Ohel, the gravesite of the great Lubavitch Rebbi in Brooklyn which was extremely touching and spiritual,” Ostrove said. The gravesite is reportedly the most visited gravesite of any Jewish leader in America.

“ During the conference, we also visited the Simon Wiesenthal  Centre for Tolerance, where we watched a  great film called Against  The Tide, about  the spread of violence and  how words can quickly turn into violence.”

Ostrove, who was in New York for the first time,  said there was also time in the schedule of the conference for him to see the “sites” of New York, “ including  “Ground Zero, The Empire States Building, Wall Street, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and The Homeland Security Building,5th Avenue, Greenwich Village , Soho and of course Time Square.  We also went on boat cruises around the island with a scenic view of the beautiful city at night.”

Ostrove also went on his own to “visit Crown Heights  to meet Zvi Altein, brother of my dear friend Shmuly Altein in my search for my new favourite artist Matisyahu to get an autograph but he was not to be found.  Next time Matisyahu, next time!”

Ostrove noted that some of the conference participants didn’t know where Winnipeg was:

“Some people from Europe did not know where I was from so I used the same strategy that I previously used in Thailand promoting our little bear, Winnie the Pooh using my Blackberry.  On a side note, I think we should replace the bison on our license plate with a drawing of the bear because when has anyone met a friendly bison and the Europeans agreed!”

All in all, Ostrove said that “Seeing New York with ECJS was an amazing experience for me spiritually, and it was so great meeting like minded Jews from around the world and forging friendships that will last a lifetime!”

The next adventure for ECJS is a trip to Spain in July.  Ostrove said that anyone can join ECJS Canada on Facebook to find out more. “Visit their homepage at to find out more about them and trips they are planning.”

On another note, Ostrove, who sells Natural Formula shampoo made in Israel, said that “My roommate [at the conference] Juhuda Law is now my Natural Formula rep in Vienna after using “Go Straight” Natural Formula Shampoo.”

For more on Natural Formula, see the previous article in the Winnipeg Jewish Review, entitled “Have You Brought Out your Sexy.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.