A 24-year-old woman has won a seat on the Montreal, Canada, city council, becoming the first Hasidic woman to hold public office in Montreal.
Mindy Pollak, a member of the Vishnitzer sect, defeated four candidates to win her race for the municipal council in the Outremont borough on Sunday. She garnered about 35 percent of the vote in a district that is home to an estimated 5,000 Hasidim.
Among the candidates she defeated was Pierre Lacerte, a well-known anti-Hasidic blogger in Montreal
Montreal has had Orthodox Jewish councilors previously, but all have been men.
Pollak’s political aspirations were triggered two years ago when controversy erupted in her neighborhood over plans to expand a small Bobover synagogue. Tensions with non-Jewish neighbors were already running high over zoning, noise and congestion issues.
She teamed with Leila Marshy, a neighbor of Palestinian origin, to found Friends of Hutchison — named for the street on which the Bobover synagogue is situated — to promote dialogue between Haredi Jews and Francophone Montrealers.
Her advocacy caught the attention of Alex Norris, a councilor from neighboring Mile-end, borough, which also has a large Hasidic community. “A number of us were impressed with her and Leila Marshy’s initiative,” Norris told The Tyee, an online magazine.
Norris approached Pollak about running for office for his Project Montreal party, and on Sunday she won the seat.
Pollak is a volunteer for Chai Lifeline, which works with sick children and their families.