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Montreal Votes In First Hassidic Female Council Member

In a landmark move for Hassidic, Jewish women's representation, Montreal elects Mindy Pollak, 24, to city council
By Dalit Halevy, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/1/2013, 1:20 PM / Last Update: 11/8/2013, 1:43 PM

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Mindy Pollak, 24, has become the first Jewish representative to be elected for city council in Montreal, several news media outlets reported. The landmark decision is a first in Jewish representation in Quebec, but also as to the involvement of Orthodox Jewish women - specifically, Hassidic women - in the public sphere.

The elections, which were held last week, selected Pollak to represent the Montreal borough of Outremont, a district highly publicized in local media for the past several years due to an ongoing conflict between its large Orthodox Jewish population and other local residents, according to the website Hello, Toronto.

The conflict allegedly started over plans to extend a synagogue into public space. When the issue was brought to light, media coverage of the issue expanded the conflict into clashes of opinion between the locals and the Orthodox community, the former of which was critical of the way the Orthodox kept themselves separate from the wider Outremont community and specifically the Hasidic and Haredi ways of life, which are often more isolationist.

Pollak, a Montreal native, has been working to bridge the gaps between the two communities for several years. Her efforts have included establishing the group Friends of Hutchinson, which aims to bring the communities together to discuss the issues in an open and relaxed environment.

Pollak has worked to establish an environment of mutual understanding. Hopes are high that her election on the council will put the conflict permanently at rest.