Remembering Rabbi Ron Aigen

I am not a religious person. Unless someone I love is celebrating some great life milestone, you will not find me in a synagogue. And yet, I had a deep affection for Rabbi Ron Aigen.

My family had deep roots in a traditional synagogue in Westmount dating back to the turn of the last century. Three generations of my family were married in those halls, generations of children were educated in the after-school programs and as a boy, my father even had a stint as president of the junior congregation. All that changed twenty years ago when my grandfather—the most observant and kindest member of my family – sitting devoutly in his pew in the sixth row, suffered a massive stroke on Yom Kippur.

The event shattered the remaining members of my family on a personal level, but perhaps more profoundly, the spiritual ties were severed that day. Faith shattered, our memberships lapsed, and my family cut ties with synagogue, and, for the most part, religion in its entirety.

Far away from any synagogue, in the Laurentians, by the lake on a dock at Howard Berger’s country house, my father met a man named Ron Aigen.  Maybe it was because Ron didn’t look like a typical Rabbi, or maybe it was because it was a comfortable, completely un-religious meeting through friends, but my dad opened up to Ron. By the end of that day, Ron had somehow uncovered that – unbeknownst to the rest of us –my father still knew his bar mitzvah haftorah.  And, astoundingly, Ron had convinced him to return to synagogue, just once, to perform said haftorah in memory of my late grandfather.

Later that year, tears in his eyes, my father took the bimah at the Reconstructionist synagogue and performed, in perfect cadence, the haftorah that had made his father so proud. That day marked the beginning of a healing journey in which my father found his way back to synagogue – and even onto the board of directors. He has performed the Rosh HaShannah haftorah portion – the longest of the year – many times since, in memory of his father, with Rabbi Ron beaming at him from the sidelines.

Rabbi Ron Aigen
Rabbi Ron Aigen

I never made my way back to synagogue the way my dad did. In fact, after a partner’s turn to religious extremism ended our relationship, I became downright opposed to anything synagogue related.  But Rabbi Ron never judged me for being less-than religious.

A few years ago, the phone rang in my home office. The caller ID said Dorshei Emet, and when I picked up the phone, the caller cheerfully announced that he wanted me to write the text for his synagogue’s website.

“But Ron,” I laughed, “why on earth would you hire me to write a synagogue’s website?  I am certainly not the most religious person you know.”

“No,” he said in his soft sweet way, “you are not.  But I’m not looking for the most devout Jew; I’m looking for a great writer.”

I took the job that day, and we collaborated for the next few months: me learning about the history of the Reconstructionist movement in Montreal, and him learning a thing or two about punctuation. In all that time, he never tried to preach or indoctrinate, and in him I found a healing force in my own life; a real-life reminder that religion didn’t have to be something to be feared. In his quiet way Rabbi Ron taught me that not everyone connected to a synagogue was trying to change me; and that I could find my own personal connection to Judaism that felt comfortable to me.

Years ago, on that dock, my father had asked Rabbi Ron: “how can I still believe, when the most devout, most giving, most spiritual man I knew, was stuck down by a stroke, of all places, in a synagogue?”  The Rabbi reflected, and replied, in words that have become legendary in my family:

“Where should he have had a stroke? In the street, by himself? Alone with your elderly, ill mother? No.”  Rabbi Ron shook his head. “If this, the most unfortunate of things, had to happen, let it have happened when he was surrounded by members of his community. Surrounded by people who cared, people who knew him, people who immediately saw there was a problem and rushed to help. That is all any of us can hope for – that if the worst should happen, he should be surrounded by love.”

Today, as I reflect upon Rabbi Ron’s death, I’ve been replaying my father’s question all those years ago. Only now, the question is “why should a beloved Rabbi, a devout and good person, a community man, a family man, a new grandfather on the cusp of retirement, be struck down, by a stroke of all places, in the hospital?”

I can only apply the advice that Rabbi Ron himself gave us, and wonder, if perhaps, he was destined to have a stroke, maybe G-d ensured that he fell in a place where he was surrounded by people who cared, people who knew him, people who immediately saw there was a problem and rushed to help. And that, if the worst should happen, he should be surrounded by love.

Rest in peace, Rabbi Ron.

CJA13 Campaign Video

Props to the incredible marketing team at Federation CJA. I’ve seen this video at least 40 times, and it still gives me chills.
Very proud to be working with such a creative and dedicated group of people.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, check out the 2013 campaign video:

If you’re interested in learning more about Federation CJA, click here.

Tips for Choosing the Right Affiliate Program

This article was originally published on the Income Access Affiliate Marketing Blog under the title Tips for Choosing the Right Affiliate Program.

Revenue and profitability for an affiliate is heavily influenced by the affiliate programs with which you choose to partner. Top performing affiliates understand this correlation, and carefully weigh their business needs against an operator’s program before committing money and effort to promoting a brand.

Tip 1: Choose a Strong Brand
An overwhelming majority of affiliates join an affiliate program based on a brand’s reputation. The Income Access survey found that 88% of affiliates cited reputational factors as the most important factor in their decision to join a program. There are two influential factors that determine the strength of an iGaming brand: (1) the player-facing brand the affiliate program promotes and (2) the affiliate-facing side – the affiliate program itself. Savvy affiliates tend to evaluate each of these before entering into a business relationship with an operator through its affiliate program.

Tip 2: Choose a Brand that Fits your Business Model
The decision to actively promote an affiliate program should hinge on whether that program can meet the unique needs of your business model. The Income Access affiliate survey found that super-affiliates look for three criteria before choosing to promote a program: (1) reliable tracking software, (2) competitive commission structures, and (3) promotional materials.

Tip 3: Robust Tracking Software
As an affiliate, you rely on software to track your referrals, calculate your commissions, and provide transparent reporting that you can use to monitor campaign performance. So before actively promoting a program and investing in your relationship with a brand, it’s important that you ensure their affiliate software supports all these functions.

Affiliate marketing is all about tracking referrals from one party to another, so you want to ensure that software powering a program can provide tracking reports that meet your business needs. The Income Access survey found that higher earning affiliates were much more likely to compare reporting metrics across campaigns. Advanced tracking metrics can help increase earnings because affiliates can compare, analyze and better understand changes in campaign performance.

You should also ensure that the software includes the marketing tools that will help you both save time and optimise your campaigns. For instance, if you use PPC advertising, it will be important that the software is capable of tracking and reporting on players referred, deposits, revenues generated by each Adwords ad and which types of players are coming through on which keywords.

Tip 4: Competitive Commission Structures
To be competitive, commissions need to be lucrative and suited to specific products/promotions. For instance, while the Income Access survey found that over 90% of affiliates work often with revenue share, about 32% of affiliates used cost per action (CPA) and cost per click (CPC) commission structures. This is because many affiliates require a hybrid commission structure to support their business model.

Just as different incentive structures work better for promoting different products, every affiliate has their own promotional methods. Getting the most out your relationship with an affiliate program requires that commission structures are compatible with your business model and promotional needs.

Tip 5: Promotional Support
There are two sides to promotional support that an affiliate requires: creatives and the software tools to manage those creatives. In addition to new promotions, an affiliate program should provide up-to-date creatives. These will support you in effectively publicizing new player promotions, and regularly changing creatives will help combat the effects of banner-blindness.

Similarly, you should look into whether the software includes tools to help you geo-target users with relevant creative. For example, showing users from different countries banners that are in different languages, or feature different promotions is a great way to build your own brand’s reputation as a source of relevant information. That, in turn, helps with conversion rates.

When you join an affiliate program, you are entering into a business relationship that will have a direct impact on your earnings. Evaluating the brand and the resources it offers will allow you to choose the right affiliate program to partner with. After all, a brand that is in-tune with an affiliate’s own brand will complement that affiliate’s business and enforce the rapport of trust that affiliates build with their players, ensuring long-term profitability.

Breast Cancer Research: Donate

On Sunday, October 4th, 2009, I will be participating in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure, Canada’s largest single day, volunteer-led fundraising event dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research, and education and awareness programs.

My paternal grandmother, Gladys, was diagnosed with breast cancer the same month my mother discovered she was pregnant with me in 1979. At the time, it was considered unlikely that she would be around long enough to see her first grandchild born. But, armed with a tremendous will to live, she underwent a radical mastectomy, and embarked on a series of clinical trials, most notably for a then little-known drug called Tamoxifen.

With Grandma Gladys, circa 1985
Lesley and Grandma Gladys, circa 1985

At the time, I was a baby, and too little to understand the significance of the Tamoxifen trials, and the effect and hope it was having – not just on my grandmother, but on thousands of women. I would later learn that it was this drug, and the subsequent clinical trial, that helped to keep her alive throughout my childhood.

Now, nearly 30 years after breast cancer first rocked my family, it is still a nationwide crisis. In 2009, an estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, with one in nine women expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
While my grandmother was never cancer free, she fought the disease, and lived post-diagnosis for 17 courageous years. When she passed away in 1996, she left us all feeling lucky to have known her, and more determined than ever to keep fighting.

This year, I will be running the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure in Glady’s memory.

Help us continue to fight this disease, and to find the course of treatment that will finally eradicate breast cancer. My goal is to raise $1,700 : One hundred dollars for each of the years my grandmother courageously fought the disease. To contribute, click here to visit my donation page.

No donation amount is too small – every little bit helps.

Breaking up on Facebook

After three years together, and a year and a half of co-habitation, my significant other and I split up. Consequently, I’ve taken some time to heal, away from the internet, this blog, and most significantly, the glaring eyes of the Facebook comminuty.

This was my first breakup in a Facebook era, and I didn’t realize the whole new level it brought to navigating post-relationship etiquette…. and trauma!

What do you do with all the albums?
Anyone on facebook has at least one obnoxious album of them being lovey-dovey with their significant other. Maybe it was that trip you took together last year. Or that wedding, or whatever. After the breakup, it suddenly goes from adorable, to abhorable.

Do you just delete them all, as my friend did when he and his girlfriend split last month? Within a week, every trace of their existence together had vanished from his profile.

A girlfriend of mine chose to leave all the photos of her ex, but un-tagged herself. “So that if guys are interested and check out my pictures, they don’t come across me nuzzling with my ex.”

My feeling is that everyone has exes, and while I admit I did de-tag some of the more lovey shots, I think that was more for myself than for any future potential suitor. After all, at 29, everyone has exes, and anyone new in my life needs to acknowledge that I’ve not spent the last decade in a convent.

“In” a relationship
When we got together, and he asked me to “be in a relationship” on facebook, I thought it was cute. Three years later, I’m linked to this man, and de-tagging him as my significant other is broadcast across the network. C’mon Facebook, where’s the sympathy for the recently broken-up! What do you do in this sittuation?

Do you slash your status and just mark yourself as single (which is reported, via news feed, to everyone on your list, complete with a broken heart and the phrase “Lesley is no longer in a relationship” – seriously, could they be more dramatic?) or just remove your relationship status altogether? I opted for the latter. I still got an onslought of emails asking what happened.

The first outing
Getting single on Facebook is like that first real outing – It’s like going out with friends for the first time since a major split, as I did last week. My first outing was to a birthday with friends. 23 people asked some variation on the question “Hey, where’s your man?” TWENTY-THREE in one night!!!

While I cringed the first few times, by the end of the night I was totally desensitized, and was even able to joke “No worries, you’re the (insert #) person to ask that in the past hour!” The truth is, it wasn’t that traumatic at all – it was downright liberating!!!

Just do it!
Getting single on Facebook is like that first night out – it’s best to just get it out in the open – and get it over with. That way, you can move on.

I guess this is my last place to “out myself” – I’m single world!

Hey, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Signing off,

Liberated Lesley 😉

Blackberry: Pearl vs. Curve

I acquired my first Smartphone – a Blackberry Pearl – 2 years ago, in an encounter that went something like this:

My dad: I just got something called a Blackberry Pearl.
Me: Wow, that’s awesome.
My dad: It’s missing ½ the keys.
Me: I’m sure you get used to it pretty quickly.
My dad: I already ordered one with a full keyboard.
Me: What about the Pearl, then?
My dad: I guess this is your lucky day.

Since that fateful day, I’ve been a dedicated Pearl user. It took me about a week to get used to the functionality – after all, it was my first Smartphone. I’d always been a Motorola cell phone user before that. It’s a touch-type system, and it takes some getting used to. I’d say it took me 2 weeks to really get a hang of the keys. But before long, I had become a staunch Pearl advocate. It’s got a lot going for it – after all, it has all the functionality of a full sized Blackberry, but it’s the size of a small cell phone. The best of both worlds.

Over the next two years, I continued to love my Pearl. When my rollerball broke and Rogers agreed to give me a new phone, I asked for the same model. When I got drunk and left my Pearl in a taxi cab, I once again, replaced it with the same model. Little things changed – My black Pearl was exchanged for a red one. I tried a few different protective covers. But the phone model itself remained consistent. I became one of those people who raved about their Blackberry model. “There isn’t anything better than the Pearl,” I’d say. “It’s small and convenient, but has all the functionality you could ever want.” And, it was true.

When my birthday came around in January, my dad surprised me with something completely unexpected: A new Blackberry Curve. “But Dad,” I said, “There isn’t anything wrong with my Pearl!”
“True,” he replied, “but you’re a writer, and I thought you’d enjoy having a full keyboard.” That stopped me in my tracks. It’s true – in all my years embracing the Pearl, I’d never really felt comfortable writing a blog post on it.

For two weeks, the Curve box sat unopened on my kitchen table. I made excuses about why I hadn’t opened it. I needed to buy a protective cover first. Then I needed to have time to transfer my data. But really, I just couldn’t let go of my Pearl. If you’re not into Smartphones, you may think I’m nuts, but anyone who’s got one knows how attached you can become to it. My friends refer to it, quite aptly, as the crackberry.

Last week, after much hemming and hawing, I finally made the switch from Pearl to Curve. I figure I at least have to compare the two before I can make an informed decision. Despite having a full keyboard, I can’t say that I find the Curve any easier to use. The keys are tiny, and at this point, I still type faster on the double-lettered Pearl keyboard. But, like anything else, I think this may just be a matter of time. I’m certainly enjoying the larger screen, but that also means the device itself is larger, and chunkier. It’s easier to find at the bottom of my purse, but doesn’t fit –as the Pearl did- in a lot of pockets.

So, I’m still in the process of figuring out which one I prefer. What’s your favorite Smartphone?

To be (skinny) or not to be (and buy new clothes) – that is the (post-holiday) question.

The million dollar question faced by most of us at some point during the year (most prominently after holiday seasons) goes something like this:

“Do I lose 5 lbs, or buy a new wardrobe?”

 

While the “gut” instinct tends to favor the latter option, one’s pocket book and common sense collaborate to encourage weight loss.

 

I’m not talking about a huge change – I’m simply talking about the 5 lbs that stand between you and the button on your favorite jeans.

 

The funny thing is, that little bit of holiday flab was probably acquired by drinking more frequently than usual, spending too much time relaxing in a sedentary fashion while snacking, followed by festive dinners with 9 courses – all things that you generally can’t do in your “real” life anyway.

 

And yet, the thought of restricting yourself in any way is downright painful:

“You mean, I’m going to have to make dinner, and I can’t just pick up two burgers, onion rings and a poutine on the way home?”

“You want me to WALK the dog?”

“What do you mean I have to go back to work and can’t spend all day eating?”

“Why can’t I have a case of beer with lunch and the entire bottle of wine with dinner?”

 

Maybe the thought of losing weight after holidays is so painful because it’s really a reminder that the vacation is over, and all the stresses and obligations of real life: Family, work, finances, etc… – are about to kick back in. That little flab around your midsection is your body’s way of spelling relaxation, and giving that up is downright painful.

 

So, I haven’t decided which way I’m going yet, but as summer draws to a close and the fall season sets in, the days in which I can wear my forgiving flowing skirts are running out. And while I can squeeze into my favorite jeans, I sure as hell can’t sit down in them! 😉

Getting the skinny on the skinny pant

First published in The Suburban September 26, 2007.
Click here to read the article directly from the Suburban.

Montreal has long been considered one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Next to New York City, I would be hard-pressed to find a more culturally diverse fashion nexus in North America. Each season, Montreal’s mainstream stores and high-end boutiques carry the latest and most dynamic trends that the fashion world has to offer.

But high fashion and daily wearability are often mutually exclusive.

Just because we have access to the latest styles does not mean that we should be running out and adding items to our wardrobes each season.

Being in fashion is about observing the most recent trends and only taking the bits and pieces that suit your personal style.

Let’s look at a dandelion of the fashion industry — an atrocious weed of a trend that keeps popping up again every few seasons —the skinny pant.

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The skinny pant first made its mainstream appearance in wardrobes across North America in the ’60s.

Unlike the flare style that was all the rage in the ’90s — designed to flare out at the knee, balancing out the thigh and giving the illusion of a slimmer top half — the skinny pant hugs the leg right down to the ankle. Most of us do not have legs that can stand such scrutiny, but more about that later. Continue reading “Getting the skinny on the skinny pant”

Step Into Fatherhood

First published in The Suburban June 13, 2007.
Click here to read the article directly from the Suburban.

Jimmy Altman and Lauren Silverman share dinner in his Dollard des Ormeaux home and discuss the details of Silverman’s upcoming wedding and chatting about the importance of family. It’s a scene played out by many fathers and daughters, except in this case, Altman is Silverman’s step-father.

Brought together 12 years ago, the two represent members of a growing group — the blended family. Both Altman and Silverman’s mother, Anita Vatch, had two children from previous relationships.

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“About one third of all marriages in Canada end in divorce” says Dr. Anne-Marie Ambert in her study, Divorce: Facts, Figures and Consequences.

“About 75 percent and 65 percent, respectively, of divorced men and women remarry.”

And according to a 1987 Statistic Canada report, 96,200 couples had their divorces finalized. During the past 20 years since then, nearly 70 percent have re-married, giving birth to blended families. Continue reading “Step Into Fatherhood”

ANTM Round Up

It’s Jaslene!

It was a crazy ANTM final, with the crown going to the Latina spitfire Jaslene. After Renee was ousted on the first half of the show for “looking too old”, it came down to Jaslene and Russian mail order bride Natasha.
Was it fair to drag Renee all the way into the final round just to tell her- yet again- that she looks over the hill at twenty? If they had a problem with her look, they should have cut her early. After all, that’s not exactly something she can work on, like her runway walk. My ANTM crew was shocked to see her ousted, especially since she only looks old because of the 40-year-old-housewife haircut they gave her on the show.
While Natasha was sweet, I can’t imagine them hiring a cover girl model that has so much trouble with her English. Though her bubbly outlook is refreshing, there’s just something a bit off about Natasha.
So, it’s Jaslene, the Illinois native who’s “never been nowhere except the hood and around the corner” is America’s Next top Model. The story is particularly heartwarming because Jaslene tried out- and was cut- last year, before re-grouping, doing some soul searching (and therapy) and coming back to conquer the competition.

ANTM Wrap Up

Tonight is the highly anticipated season finally of America’s next top model. Will it be Natasha, Jaslene or Renee?
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Will we finally get to meet Natasha’s svengalli husband? Will Renee kill someone before season’s end? Will Jaslene finally get to go somewhere other than the hood and around the corner? Will the girls at my weekly ANTM party throw things at the television when Tyra speaks? These and other questions will be answered in tomorrow’s Bishin Mission: ANTM wrap-up.

Displaced Swimmers

Marianopolis Master’s Swim Team Faces Displacement.
First published in Westmount Life Magazine

The members of the Marianopolis Master’s swim team are busy this month. In addition to their schedules as professionals, parents and athletes, they are currently canvassing every pool in the Montreal area, trying to find a new home. No one knows where the quarter-century old swim team will end up, but one thing is for certain: June third the doors of Marianopolis college close and the building and its sports complex will be sold. As of press time, there are 25 team members all suited up with no place to swim. Continue reading “Displaced Swimmers”

The Pain of Shopping for Bathing Suits

Although some people find wearing a bathing suit difficult, the pain actually begins in the store. My mother was recently bemoaning the harsh lighting and unforgiving three-way mirrors in the changing rooms to her friend.

“If those store owners had any feelings, they would supply us with Kleenex”, she sighed. “Kleenex!?” Her friend Maggie grunted, “They should offer us grief counselors!”

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. But the truth is, no one – least of all you – is wowed by your un-suntanned and un-waxed body, as you squeeze yourself into the size you hope to be by summer. Even if you can tuck your underwear into the bathing suit without creating too much of a bulge, the fleece socks you’re still wearing are guaranteed to make sure you look ridiculous. Also, you’re a bit faint from sucking in your stomach since the purchasing usually takes place in the grey months before summer, when you are still carrying some winter weight.

Men, there is nothing you can say to your women. My sister’s sweet boyfriend made the mistake of telling her she was beautiful when she emerged sniffling from a changing room at a women’s designer clothing store. She replied by removing a flip-flop from a nearby sales rack and throwing it at his head. Continue reading “The Pain of Shopping for Bathing Suits”

Celebrity Round Up

Fed Ex is being shipped After All & Scrutiny rules New Reality TV CW lineup.

It is this column’s mission to make you realize that celebrities are just normal people. They’re just as flawed, imperfect, and capable of making stupid decisions as the rest of us. They just have more money and better stylists. Wouldn’t you look super hot if you rolled out of bed into a professional make-up artist’s chair and had Vidal Sassoon himself doing your hair for work? Enough!

We can still enjoy their red carpet dresses and their seemingly endless casual flings, but it’s time to do away with the idol like warship- Even Tom Cruise is just a guy named Thomas Mapother from Syracuse. You get the point? Continue reading “Celebrity Round Up”

Fleetwood Mac | The Dance | Concert Film Review

Thirty-plus years later, Fleetwood Mac proves you can never break the Chain.

After years of internal fighting and estrangement, Fleetwood Mac’s members reunited for a series of concert dates, culminating in a performance at Warner Brother’s Studio in Burbank California that would become The Dance. Available in both audio and video format, The Dance proved to be the last collaboration put out by the band before member Christine McVie’s retirement, and encapsulates the classic band as mature adults, revisiting the past with an eye towards the future. Continue reading “Fleetwood Mac | The Dance | Concert Film Review”

WatchMojo Top 10: Protest Songs

Music is born out of the soul of a person who needs to finally be heard. Slavery, Vietnam and the Great Depression are all movements that inspired protest music. Host Lesley Bishin walks you through the movements and the songs that were created in her segment “Protest Songs” for the Mojo Supreme Network:
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CLICK HERE TO VIEW “PROTEST SONGS” VIDEO

Seinfeld, Season 7 – Definitely Sponge Worthy

First published in Afterword Magazine

Seinfeld’s Seventh Season was released on DVD November 21, 2006. This season may very well contain the best compilation of Seinfeld episodes. Having found their beat, but not having run out of ideas, this marks a high point in the life of a series which set the bar meteorically high.Season 7 consists of 24 original episodes, all re-mastered with high definition sound and picture quality, and an additional 13 hours of bonus material and features. Originally filmed in 1995, the English DVD is available with Spanish, English, French and Portuguese subtitles. Many of the episodes were directed by Andy Ackerman, who went on to direct Everybody Loves Raymond and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Continue reading “Seinfeld, Season 7 – Definitely Sponge Worthy”