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Courtesy Mindy Pollak, right, at an Outremont council meeting. Courtesy Mindy Pollak, center right, behind Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante at a press conference during the political campaign.
They were there to attend the monthly session of the local governing body. Before the meeting officially began, the atmosphere in the large, high-ceilinged room was more charged than usual.
With people seated, the mayor and four councilors entered the room. Get The Times of Israel's Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up As the politicians made their appearance, Mindy Pollak stood out from the group due to her relatively young age and conservative attire.
Pollak, 29, seemed in her element. Before claiming her seat at the front of the chamber to the left of the mayor, she showed the aplomb of a seasoned politician.
Reflecting her warm, friendly manner, Pollak made a point to greet individual residents, engaging them effortlessly in French or English. Among those in the audience was her mother, Elka, who attends all of the monthly meetings. Pollak is negotiating unchartered territory for someone of her background.
To her knowledge, no other Hasidic woman outside Israel has ever entered the political arena as she has. Her closest counterpart is Rachel Freierwho became the first Hasidic woman elected to public office in the United States when she won the race for New York civil court judge in Re-elected last November for her second term as a councilor in the Montreal borough of Outremont, Pollak is an astute, highly respected politician.
When the Projet Montreal party asked her to be a candidate in the election, she wrestled with the decision. The novelty of an extremely religious, young, single Jewish woman running for political office in a secular environment rubbed some people the wrong way.
Others dismissed her prospects for winning. A Hasidic mecca Montreal is home to one of the largest Hasidic communities outside Israel, much of it concentrated in the largely residential, predominantly francophone borough of Outremont. Nearly a quarter of its 25, residents are Yiddish-speaking ultra-devout Jews.
This juxtaposition sometimes makes for an uneasy co-existence. The rebbe of the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty, center. A small group of activists, some with anti-Semitic tendencies, have taken issue with aspects of the Hasidic religious, insular lifestyle.
Local politics and controversial bylaws arguably aimed at the fast-growing Hasidic community have exacerbated relations. A political career is born Born in Montreal, Pollak is the second-youngest of five siblings. For many years, her British-raised mother and Montreal-born father owned a bridal-wear salon.
Pollak first became active in the community in while working as a beautician. Opposition to a proposed synagogue expansion led to a referendum on the project. During a fractious campaign, an unlikely local supporter of Hasidic residents emerged.
Mindy Pollak outside with a group of children. She and Pollak founded a grassroots neighborhood organization and became good friends.
Pollak faced multiple challenges, especially as it was her first election campaign. She overcame misconceptions many voters had about religious Jews.
Closer to home, in her own deeply traditional Hasidic community, some strongly opposed the idea of a woman entering the political fray.
Mindy Pollak with constituents in a school gym. Ultimately, so did certain rabbis from her Vishnitzer sect who said if there was no other viable option to help the beleaguered Hasidic community, then a female candidate was acceptable as there was no clear prohibition against such an initiative.The final episode starts with the death of Kim Jong Il and the rise of the new leader of North Korea — his son, Kim Jong Un, taking power at the age of How C-store Retailers Are Celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday.
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