MONTREAL - Guy Bouthillier, a past Montreal president of the St. Jean Baptiste Society, is a student of Jewish mysticism.
Guy Bouthillier, centre, past president of the St. Jean Baptiste Society, converses with his teacher Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz, left, and friend Aaron Pollack.
The obvious answer is outreach, to break down barriers, to discover a new world, and when you discover a new world, you are newborn," Bouthillier
For a year, Bouthillier has been attending classes Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m., studying Tanya, the fundamental work of Chabad philosophy, with Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz, the centre's director.
has plunged into it with enthusiasm.
was the guest speaker at Chabad of Westmount's 10th anniversary celebration, a cocktail reception in honour of its main benefactor and landlord, Murray Dalfen.
Bouthillier, who was president of the sovereignist, ultra-nationalist St. Jean Baptiste Society (SJBS) from 1997 to 2003, was introduced to the Chabad centre by Aaron Pollack, a friend of his since they were together at McGill University law school 50 years ago.
affectionately calls him "Aaronchik."
made a historic overture to ethnic groups, but especially the Jewish community, for reconciliation.
initiated at an annual commemoration on June 5, the date the legislature of Lower Canada passed a law in 1832 confirming full political rights for Jews.
This happened 25 years before a similar law was enacted by the British Parliament.
noted that it was Louis-Joseph Papineau, who two years later founded the SJBS
, and the leader of the reformist Patriote movement, which was behind the 1837-38 rebellion, that spearheaded this law.
also recalled that Canadian Jewish Congress
was founded on March 18, 1919, at a meeting at the Monument National, the headquarters of the SJBS
For many years after, the Monument National would be the home of Yiddish theatre in Montreal.
frequently attended Jewish community events such as Yom Hashoah and has continued to do so since stepping down from office.
has had considerable social and political interaction with Jews over the years, the Chabad classes have been an introduction to their religious foundation.
"It's at the heart of what makes a Jew a Jew."
grew up well grounded in Roman Catholicism, through his
classical college education, but broke with organized religion when he
was 18 or 20.
never abandoned his
belief in God, whom he
refers to as HaShem.
Bouthillier said "a special spiritual chemistry" has formed between himself and his classmates and the rabbi from sitting around the table discussing deep concepts.
"Oh, that's for Bouthillier
The rabbi remonstrated that he
had been a faithful servant of God all his
"The answer was, 'When you spoke at the synagogue, everybody fell asleep.
speaks, everybody starts praying."