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‘You don’t have to be a Jew to be a mensch,’ author posits

October, 2010

The word “menschen” is the plural of mensch: a Yiddish word that means a sensible, mature, responsible person.

Last month, the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors had its fair share of menschen gathered for the launch of Honourable Menschen II, the brainchild of author Doreen Glazer.

Glazer retired 12 years ago from a career in adult education and started taking arts and crafts courses at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors. She got to know other members of the centre – many older than herself and some of them older than 100. She was fascinated to see how, despite their venerable age, these people were so productive. She worried that if their life stories were not recorded, no one would know how valuable their contribution had been.

Sun Youth’s Sid Stevens and Father John Emmet Walsh are featured in a book by Doreen Glazer

The saying goes: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. And so she appointed herself to develop a book featuring members of the Jewish community. The cards were laid out. All she needed was a title.

She had what she describes as a “light bulb moment” and came up with Honourable Menschen.

“I think God gave me the title,” she said at the book launch.

In 2006, she formed a committee to select candidates. The first three people featured were part of the arts and crafts courses at the Cummings Centre. The committee met regularly, suggesting candidates and doing extensive research. What came out of it was a collection of interviews and tributes. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the book was reprinted. The reprint sold out.

Honourable Menschen is a non-profit project; everyone involved volunteers. The money raised through sales of the books go to the Honourable Menschen Fund at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors. The fund allows Glazer, 68, and her accomplices to work on the next project.

“One book pays for the next one,” Glazer said. Work for Honourable Menschen II ran from December 2008 to June 2010. For this second iteration of the book, 17 honourable menschen were selected.

Among the group is Sid Stevens, executive vice-president and co-founder of Sun Youth Organization.

Doreen Glazer Photos: Nicolas Carpentier

Father John Emmet Walsh is also featured. Questioned about the selection of a non-Jew for the first time, Glazer said: “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a mensch!” Walsh was pleased with his inclusion: “The tribute of being honoured as a mensch is certainly, in the Jewish community, a high honour. But to be introduced as a Roman-Catholic priest into that kind of category and to be able to share with so many people that I know who are receiving it is even more gratifying.

“Rabbi Allan Langner (another honourable menschen) and I go way back. In fact, I was one of the speakers at his 50th anniversary as a rabbi recently and so, when you’re in that kind of a group of people and understand the respect they have for the other people who have been recognized, it’s 17 times the honour.”

Walsh recently retired, but continues a radio show on CJAD on Sundays from 6pm to 7pm.

Honourable Menschen II can be purchased at the Cummings boutique, 5700 Westbury, for $20. Glazer can be reached at



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