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All Jewish, Almost All the Time

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The above is the kitschy slogan of Montreal's most unusual new radio station, CJRS -- Radio Shalom, at 1650 on the a.m. dial. What is more unusual is that CJRS is North America's only full-time Jewish station. For 24 hours a day, 6 days a week (we're off the air for the Sabbath) a multiplicity of Jewish sounds cascades from our studios near Montreal's landmark Orange Julep.

"Two Jews, Three Opinions" doesn't come close to approaching the spectrum of Jewish thought on Radio Shalom. From radical right to radical left, and many shades in between, opinions on Israel, Washington, Canada, the Bible, Iran, kosher food, Sabbath observance, and much more can be heard in four languages. French, at 60% of airtime, predominates, but 1/3 of the programs are in English, and 10% in Hebrew. There's even a sprinkling of Yiddish (Sunday mornings at 7).

All the details of programming and languages can be found on the station's web site, radio-shalom.ca, where links are also available to sample perhaps hundreds of past programs, and are easily located. Among the English-language offerings, try Howie Silbiger, our lone talk show host, Sundays through Tuesdays at 6 p.m. for 2 hours. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3, I conduct interviews on Jewish and general topics, and on Sundays at 3 there's a weekly guide to Jewish travel around the world, past, present and future in a few cases. Cantor Sid Dworkin offers a weekly hour of great cantorial music on Sundays at 10 a.m.

The station's roots are North African and Sephardi, which partly accounts for French language predominance. It was a group of Francophone Jews, some from Morocco, who initiated the project, somewhat adapted from stations in France, where radio is still alve and well. It was a longer and rockier road to get a CRTC licence for a Jewish "religious" station in Canada. We began on subcarrier (to an audience limited to those who would buy special radios). Next, an Internet site was established, widening our scope to anywhere in the world.

In 2008 we went on regular radio, at 1650 on the dial, and have somehow managed to survive the recession years since then. This may be accounted for by the fact that almost all on-air personalities, and others behind the scenes, are volunteers. Some of the programming originates in Israel and France, and we need much more locally produced and themed material to be relevant to our basis Montreal audience. Periodic searches for volunteers are only occasionally fruitful, and so we appeal to readers of this journal to join us.

As the old Cantor's bakery ad featuring an Inuit chomping on a bagel indicates, "you don't have to be Jewish” to participate in and enjoy Radio Shalom. Call 514-738-4100 to reach my mailbox, local 269, and I'll fill you in on more details. We also welcome listeners to comment on our programming. You may be disturbed, enlightened, infuriated, delighted and/or soothed by our mix of music from all Jewish streams, and by our melange of words from many mouths and moods.

With Montreal's radio scene in flux, chaos or confusion, to say the least, depending on your sources of information, CJRS Radio Shalom is an interesting alternative to the "mainstream" on the dial -- or what's left of it.

Stanley Asher
VP of Radio Shalom
http://www.radio-shalom.ca/