NEWSLETTER – November 2006

Reisa Teitelbaum, President
Steven Slimovitch & Allen Mendelsohn, Editor(s)

Message from the President

Reisa Teitelbaum

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. International Human Rights Day is marked every year on December 10th.

It’s interesting that Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, which begins on December 15th, is a holiday which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of the Jewish religion.

The Society, at its Annual Human Rights lecture, presents a Human Rights Award to an individual who has demonstrated a sustained contribution to, or has been influential in the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  This is a significant award, as it represents the very core of the Society’s mission.

Cette année, le prix sera donné à M. Fo Niemi, co-fondateur et depuis 1983, directeur général du Centre de recherche-action sur les relations raciales (CRARR), un organisme sans but lucratif de recherche, d’action sociale et de défense des droits sur les questions relatives aux relations raciales. Fo Niemi has been recognized by Montreal’s Aboriginal (Indigenous Bar Association), Black (Montreal Association of Black Business and Professional People), Chinese (Chinese Neighbourhood Society), Indian (National Association of Canadians from India), and Muslim (Muslim Council of Montreal) groups for his civil rights work. He was the recipient of the Quebec Justice Award in 1995 and the Queen’s Commemorative Silver Jubilee Medal in 2002.

Mr. Niemi has done great work for the furthering of the rights of racial and ethnic minorities in Quebec. He has fought continually, serving on umpteen committees and overseeing numerous investigations into the violations of the rights of minorities. He is one of Canada’s leading anti-racism advocates.

J’espère vous voir tous le 12 décembre 2006.


Reisa Teitelbaum

THE FATE OF JEWISH LAWYERS AFTER 1933 – A Review of the Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture

Allen Mendelsohn

On October 16, the Society was pleased to welcome Dr. Norbert Westenberger, Vice-President of the German Bar Association. Dr. Westenberger was in Montreal on the occasion of the exhibition entitled “Lawyers without Rights” which was on display in Montreal at the Université de Québec. The exhibition centered on the glorious phase of Jewish jurists in Germany and documents their collapse and extermination in the Holocaust.

Reisa Teitelbaum began the evening with a few kind words about Henry Steinberg, who she described as being known for his “humour and jewishness.” Irwin Cotler then took to the podium to deliver an impassioned speech about the lessons of Nuremberg, on the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg judgments. He said we should learn the lessons of the past to prevent another Rwanda, for example. He implored people to act, concluding by saying “qui s’excuse, s’accuse.”

Dr. Westenberger spoke eloquently about the exhibition and Jewish lawyers. In 1933, half of German lawyers were Jewish. When the Nazis came to power, the lawyers knew they had to go somewhere but they knew not where. On top of that, most Jewish lawyers had their licenses revoked and could not practice, and non-Jewish lawyers did not help their colleagues.

The exhibition tells personal tales about Jewish lawyers and their families around this time. Theirs are stories of persecution and even death. Dr. Westenberger felt the role of the exhibition was to give dignity to these people and their stories, and that it should provide a message that society should be ruled by law – which is something all lawyers can agree on.

A spirited question period followed. There was much debate on the point Dr. Westenberger made about current German Jewish lawyers who just call themselves German lawyers without regard to their religion. This seemed to upset some of those in attendance.

For more about the exhibition as reported by the Canadian Jewish News, please click here.

Upcoming Events

December 12, 2006 (Please note the new date) – Annual Human Rights Lecture
Guest/Honoree: Fo Niemi, co-founder of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations
Topic: Where have all the advocates gone? The lonesome quest for racial justice in Quebec

February 13, 2007 – Annual Students Dinner
Three lawyer panel on Directors’ Liability, especially the SCC Wise case

Society Humour

Avista Management v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance
U.S. Dist. Ct. Mid. Dist. Fla. (June 6, 2006)

Rock, Paper, Scissors – I Win!  In a case where a hotel investment firm sued an insurance company for allegedly not paying an insurance claim fast enough after Hurricane Charley, attorneys for the parties seemed at odds with each other from the get-go. When it came down to where to depose a witness, the attorneys would do no better. Not being able to select a location between themselves, the court was asked to intervene. U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell was not amused. After chastising the attorneys for not being able to agree on even the most simplest of things, Judge Presnell issued his written ruling:

“[T]he Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the [Courthouse]. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of ‘rock, paper, scissors.’ The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006.”

** The two lawyers met on June 7, 2006, a day later, and agreed to the location for the deposition, making the game unnecessary. For fear of being held in contempt of court, defense counsel filed a motion asking the judge to call the game off. Plaintiff’s counsel joined in the motion. The judge vacated his previous ruling with the following, “With civility restored (at least for now), it is ordered that the motion is granted.”



  • Steven Slimovitch on the occasion of his son’s Bar Mitzvah

  • Board member Elliot Lifson on his being named Chairman of the Board of the Chambre de Commerce de Montréal

  • Julien Gratton, student at the Université de Montréal, on winning the Lord Reading Scholarship for excellence in Constitutional Law

  • Irwin Rudick on the birth of his grandson Aiden James


  • Fishman Flanz Meland Paquin for its sponsorship of the October 16th 2006 dinner meeting

  • Our sponsors of the Young Bar Cocktail, RSM Richter and Me Neil Oberman of Michelin & Associates

  • Mara Greenstone and Heather Michelin on the success of the Young Bar cocktail


Condolences to Frank Schlesinger and his family on the loss of his father Stanley