York grad remembers his experience as chaplain to 9/11 firefighters

Rabbi Aaron Melman [BA ’96] will never forget walking through the ashes at the World Trade Center a decade ago, knowing they weren’t only the buildings’ remains, wrote Illinois’s Northbrook Star Sept. 2, in a story about an upcoming talk by the York grad on Sept. 11.

Melman, who today serves Congregation Beth Shalom Temple in Northbrook, also is the chaplain of the Northbrook Fire Department. But he was a student chaplain for the New York Fire Department on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan.

Melman is originally from Toronto where he attended York University and received his bachelor of arts degree in Judaic studies. He graduated from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2002.

“Every year, I remember what happened there. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. But it’s also given me a greater appreciation for humanity and the good people can do for each other under horrific conditions.”

That’s part of the reason Melman became the Northbrook Fire Department chaplain. “It’s a love I found, working with the fire service, and something that I want to continue,” Melman said.

  • York student Jameela Pereira spoke about her memories of 9/11 at the age of 11, in a story by The Canadian Press on Sept. 4.

    Among the repeating televised images of the attacks, she recalled seeing footage of Muslims saying "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great." Pereira, who grew up in the Muslim faith, was puzzled.

    "I couldn’t understand why this travesty and people jumping outside of windows was equated to this celebration they were having. It was just so confusing.

    "It wasn’t until my mom explained it to me. She really sat me down and was like, ‘When one person dies it’s a tragedy. Thousands of people are dying right now. And it’s because of this, not really war, but this dynamic between the Muslim groups and the American government.’

    "It was weird to see," she added. "I think that was the first time that my eyes were really open to the fact that the whole world doesn’t just get along like they do in Canada. It’s a totally different ball game, and that’s the first time I really understood that." 

Time for NHL to step up for tough guys, says York prof

Paul Dennis, who teaches in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences in the Faculty of Health, said it’s time to bring the issue of mental illness among athletes, particularly men, out of the closet, in an interview in the Toronto Star Sept. 3 about the fallout from former NHL player Wade Belak’s death by sucide. "I thought it was great last year when (Olympic speed skater/cyclist) Clara Hughes disclosed her depression," said Dennis. "Well, I know there are guys who presumably have gone through the exact same thing. Why don’t they come out and talk about it? Why don’t they set the example? Why don’t we as leaders in the field in coaching and teaching and development, why don’t we encourage them to do that? That’d be the first step.

"I honestly think they’re afraid to. I think they’re worried that they’d be viewed differently. This is not supposed to be what successful athletes experience."

Dennis said the league and NHL Players Association need to examine players who are filling these roles to assess the damage being caused, but also show them that they matter. "Part of the plan would be each team has at least one tough guy and if you include their minor-league teams, even more, so let’s bring them all together. Let’s have a retreat, nobody has to know about it and let’s talk about it."

Dennis said players seldom sought him out to talk about personal issues. He said most of the work was performance related. "What these players don’t understand is an issue that they have psychologically impacts on their performance," he said. "They think as long as I’m physically fit, my V02 Max is where it should be, my percentage body fat is where it should be, I’ll be okay. And that’s not the case. That’s only one aspect of performance. The psychological aspect to me is the most important."

Dennis believes the NHL has the will to tackle the problem. "Something tells me this isn’t going to pass," he said. "I think something’s going to be done about this. I hope it’s not going to be a go-through-the-motions…summit. I hope they will step up to the plate. "These tough guys are there for their teammates all their career. The rest of us have to be there for them in their time of need."

Communication is essential as the markets gyrate

With a painful sense of déjà vu, managers and the people who report to them are bracing for the workplace consequences of recurring economic and market turmoil, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 3.

It is important to get employees involved in the efforts needed to make it through a downturn, said Ronald Burke, professor emeritus of organizational studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. That means asking for help in cutting expenses and finding waste. There are many ways to trim costs short of laying off staff, which should be the last resort, he said.

Burke said it is also crucial that managers keep an eye out for employees who could end up truly in distress if the economy worsenspeople whose spouse has lost a job, or those with severe financial problems. "[Managers] should keep their antenna out for people who might need more attention in terms of counselling or support," he said.

The middle-class copyright war

Creators are facing a powerful lobby at whose behest Bill C-32 added education to a list of purposes where work copying would not infringe copyrightthe existing ones include private study and criticismwithout defining the term, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 3. The educational institutions and libraries support the exemption. Creators groups, meanwhile, spent the summer trying to sway MPs: They foresee a dark scenario in which Canadian schools and universities do not pay for any course materials because they can always snatch a free copy from somewhere.

Some observers think this is alarmist because the exemption is an instance of "fair dealing" that is not intended to circumvent copyright law.

"It’s good guys versus good guys by and large," says Caitlin Fisher, Canada Research Chair of Digital Culture at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts] in Toronto. "Writers and artists should feel they have allies in the universities…. It is not the case that a whole generation just wants to steal ideas. There has to be some way of moving forward."

Schools on tricky path with faith

[A] political fuss [about equity education] has revived questions about taxpayers funding Catholic schools, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 5.

"If the Catholic school system takes public money, its equity policy should follow government guidelines," said York University Professor William Westfall [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], who specializes in the history of religion in Canada. "Religion is an important part of many cultures, so we have to embrace it as well, not just the superficial parts like dance and food," he said. "We’re at a moment of great tension, trying to decide what should be included (in curriculum) and what should not."

Before York grad could get his film into TIFF, he had to get it by his dad

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, [York grad] Vinay Virmani [BA Hons. ’08] would lie awake thinking about Breakaway, the movie he co-wrote and stars in, wrote the National Post Sept. 3. Then he would hear one of the film’s producers shuffling around in the kitchen.

That’s how many pivotal discussions would begin, in the living room or kitchen of their Oakville home, over a bowl of cereal. "I’d get up at two in the morning," his father, Ajay Virmani, recalls. "I’d say, ‘We should change this scene. What do you think?’ Then we’d debate it for two hours."

"The great thing about our relationship," Vinay, 26, says, "is that when we talk about work, we don’t talk about it as a father and son. We talk about it as two people who started this company together."

Unlike the father in the film, Ajay encouraged his children to chase their dreams. "My whole philosophy in life," Ajay, 55, explains, "is if you want to be successful at something, you have to have passion for it. So follow your dreams and be stubborn enough that your dreams come true." Then he adds, for the sake of practicality: "If you’re going to be successful in the entertainment business, make sure you know how to count your money."

He sits in a leather armchair with his ankle crossed over his knee, his BlackBerry in one hand, his glasses in the other. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, Vinay is reclined in an adjacent seat. He chuckles at his father’s remark. He did take his advice. He got his bachelor’s degree in business from York University before studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York. This is his debut role.

All Canadian submarines now out of commission

The navy’s last operational submarine is now sidelined until 2016, leaving the service without an underwater capability and potentially throwing into question the future of the submarine fleet, wrote Postmedia News Sept. 4.

The submarine program, which has already cost around $900 million, has been plagued with various maintenance issues that have prevented the boats from being available for operations on a regular basis.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick [a research associate at the York Centre for International & Security Studies] said the latest news on the four submarines is yet another blow to the program.

“All the arguments the navy made for having submarines 10 or 15 years ago are still fundamentally valid, but they haven’t been actually able to provide the politicians with specific concrete examples because the subs are not available all that much,” explained Shadwick, a York University professor [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. “That makes the subs a lot more vulnerable to budget cutters in the department and outside of it.”

He said the future survival of the submarine force could be put in jeopardy if the problems continue.

York grad’s Rednersville Road Art Tour showcases creativity

Susan Moshynski [BA ’76] – daughter of Eugene Moshynski (or ‘Mo’), who has been a commercial artist, painter and political cartoonist since he arrived in Canada from Poland in 1950helped put the art tour on the road four years ago, wrote The Belleville Intelligencer Sept. 6 in a story about Prince Edward County’s Rednersville Road Art Tour.

"I have been painting nearly all my life but four years ago when we started this tour I started painting a lot," said the Prince Edward County native who graduated with a fine arts degree from York University in Toronto. "It’s been really busy so far this morning (Saturday) as up to 90 people stopped by the studio in just a couple of hours."

Moshynski’s art features brightly coloured scenes of Prince Edward County and Europe rendered mostly in a realistic style, as well as a collection of her political cartoons. She also designed this year’s tour brochure.

Borders of academic honesty being strained

University students break the rules for a host of reasonssome make a bad decision under pressure at 3am, others insist they were just helping a classmate. But at some Canadian schools, an alarming number of the accused share one characteristic: they came from abroad to study here, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 3.

Niraj Maharaj encounters [a language difficulty] explanation often in his role as student rights & support services coordinator at the York Federation of Students, despite York University’s mandatory English proficiency test for students educated in another language. "A number of students have mentioned that the test doesn’t really register what a university-level essay would look like," focusing instead on basic grammar and sentence structure, Maharaj said.

Osgoode grad runs for NDP in Niagara

Wayne Redekop [LLB ’75], a trial lawyer and father of three who was educated at…Osgoode Hall Law School…was the mayor of Fort Erie from 1997 until 2006, wrote the Niagara Falls Review Sept. 5.

He said the three most important issues that he’ll be campaigning on will be the state of hospital services in Niagara, removing the HST from electricity and home-heating bills, and job creation.

On the health-care front, Redekop wants to reopen the emergency department at Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie.

"Our party is committed to doing that and there’s absolutely no question that if we’re elected, then that’s what we’ll do," Redekop said. "If it should be that I only happen to get elected, then I’m going to push for that."

Redekop said his experience as Fort Erie mayor and as a Niagara Region councillor set him apart from the rest of field. "I’ve got a lot of experience that would suggest I’m the best candidate, and certainly I’ve no doubt that I would be the one who is most effective in fighting for the people of Niagara," Redekop said.

Canada increasingly seen as site for international arbitration

Just how well respected Canada is as a location for international arbitration was illustrated in a recent Global Dispute Resolution report conducted by Taylor Wessing, wrote Canadian Lawyer in its September 2011 issue. The report ranked Canada third behind Switzerland and Australia in a list of 21 countries as a place for arbitration.

Canadian universities are also doing their part to maintain Canada’s place on the world arbitration stage. This year, a team of law students from the University of Ottawa won the 18th annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot held in Vienna. The victory marked the second time a Canadian university has won the Vis award, the first being Osgoode Hall Law School in 2004.