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Jane Enkin Previews Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal, Tues. May 21 7:00 pm Opening Night Film and Reception- Winnipeg International Film Festival

Spiced with boyish repartee and liberally sprinkled with jokes, Chewdaism is a light-hearted documentary, a history of Jewish Montreal seen through its cuisine. Yidlife Crisis creators Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion are humble and appreciative, listening to stories, history and a taste of theory. Of course they enjoy treats as they go, counting “Eins Tzvei Drai nosh!”
Elman and Batalion, the film's directors, will be in Winnipeg to present the film and share bagels with the audience.
The film covers early Jewish immigration, secular Ashkanazi culture, Hasidic communities and their relationships to the people around them, Sephardi/Mizrachi culture, and finally “new Jewish” food with creative approaches to Israeli, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi traditions. Unlike the web series Yidlife Crisis, the film is almost entirely in English, with a few choice lines in Yiddish or French, all captioned. Also unlike the web series, this film is family friendly, not targeted at the over 18 audience. (Full disclosure: The music of my ensemble Tango Yona is part of the soundtrack, along with the work of several other Montreal Jewish bands.)
Elman and Batalion's guide for a historical walking tour of The Main, The Plateau and Mile End is Zev Moses, Executive Director of the Museum of Jewish Montreal. He is an engaging speaker and gives a clear overview of the Ashkenazi part of the story, pointing out long-lived Jewish businesses and the complex mix of 20th century Quebec's anti-semitism and philo-semitism. There are interviews as well, especially lively because they are held on site in restaurants, on the street, etc, including an enjoyable one with Mindy Pollak, Canada's first female Hasidic elected politician. She focuses on one of the overall themes of the film, bridge-building. The separations between religious and secular Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardi/Mizrachi Jews and Jewish Montrealers and non-Jewish communities are said to be mellowing at present. Today, for example, people of all backgrounds line up for sweets at the kosher bakery Cheskie's, where the pair taste some ravishing chocolate babka. This cozy, heimish feeling stands in stark contrast to the current political moves in the province of Quebec to enforce secular culture by banning “conspicuous religious symbols”.
The “great trifecta” of Montreal cuisine, we are told, includes poutine (not featured in this doc!), bagels, and Montreal smoked meat. For those who keep track of rivalries, the bagels portrayed with reverence in this film are from Fairmont Bakery (not Saint-Viateur), opened in 1919 and for decades baking and serving 24/7. The adored smoked meat sandwiches are devoured at Schwartz's Deli.
There's lots to appreciate in Chewdaism. You may find yourselves envying these foodie adventurers, and planning your next trip to Montreal.
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