Radio Shalom is no more — what happens to CJRS 1650 AM?

Radio Shalom has been shut down.

Kind of.

CJRS 1650 AM is still on the air (you can catch the live stream here), but since last Friday at 6pm it has been broadcasting non-stop evangelical Christian programming supplied to it from CKZW (not an official callsign), a Christian audio service operated by André Joly. CKZW had supplied programming for CJRS during the Sabbath, when Jewish rules prevent practicing members from operating a radio station. Owner Robert Lévy has decided, at least for now, to have them provide programming 24/7.

I explain what happened in this story for the Montreal Gazette. Basically Radio Shalom was not breaking even, and Lévy was no longer willing to fund the station by himself. Despite a public plea in December, it seems no one (or not enough people) stepped up, and despite giving extensions, he’s decided it’s the end of the road.

Though there were some goodbye messages on Facebook, the end on the air was anti-climactic. The last Jewish program was actually a syndicated broadcast from France, and made no mention of Radio Shalom going off the air. It was cut off mid-sentence during an interview, switching awkwardly to CKZW programming with some dead air.

So what happens now? I couldn’t get an interview with Lévy — I was promised a press release that never came — but others provided more detail. Joly will provide CKZW programming 24/7 (including some bilingual programming, he said) and Lévy will remain the owner to satisfy CRTC ownership requirements.

Joly said there are discussions about him buying the station (which would require CRTC approval), but that’s not a given. He suggested there still might be hope of a benefactor coming forward and bringing Radio Shalom back.

But that doesn’t look likely at this point. Despite Montreal’s strong Jewish population, the community hasn’t rallied behind this station. There are various reasons I was given for this. Among them, the French/English split was also a cultural one, between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. There was a religious versus secular split, with the former following hard-line (and sexist) rules. And the station’s insistence on its independence, refusing to become a mouthpiece for any Jewish community organization.

Plus the running joke that Montreal already has a Jewish radio station in CJAD.

And there were the kinds of problems that any small radio station faces. The AM signal was poor and hard to hear in many parts of the city, the programming was all produced by volunteers and didn’t attract many listeners, and some people at least felt it was poorly managed. (Though no one is stepping up and promising to turn things around if they’re put in charge.)

What happens now is still up in the air. Joly would like to keep CJRS and turn it into a Christian station, but that would require him and Lévy agreeing on a sale price for the station. If an agreement isn’t reached, Lévy’s options are limited, but he could shut down the station, return the licence and sell off whatever assets are still there.

The likelihood of a Jewish radio station returning to Montreal, though, seems slim at this point. There might be better hope of having Jewish-themed shows on ethnic stations — right now I know of only Radio Centre-Ville that has a regular show on Judaism, but others have had shows for that community in the past.

9 thoughts on “Radio Shalom is no more — what happens to CJRS 1650 AM?

  1. Irwin Block

    Leslie Lutsky’s long-standing radio segment on CINQ-FM, Radio Centreville, is not really “a show on Judaism,” but about Jewish life in Monteal, based on interviews with writers, scholars, activists, who deal in their work with issues of concern to the Jewish community, which goes way beyond the religion per se. Thanks very much, Steve, for your excellent coverage of the media scene!


  2. Francois

    “Plus the running joke that Montreal already has a Jewish radio station in CJAD.”

    I know this is just a joke, but I don’t really get it. Is this a carryover from the 90s? My parents listen to CJAD a lot more than I do, but I can only think of one Jewish host that I know of. Are there more? Or is the staff Jewish? I’ve heard this before but the joke must be going over my head.

    1. Marc

      Many of their primary personalities are Jewish: Tommy Schnurmacher, Barry Morgan, Aaron Rand, Dan Delmar, Joe Schwarcz, Mitch Schulman.

      1. Dilbert

        Moreover, the Jewish community gets an incredible amount of airtime for their causes and events. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that is well known and understood.

        It’s just the way it is.

    2. Mario D.

      As Marc replied CJAD s staff is in big part of jewish origin which does not make it a sad joke but just the actual picture of MTL s English community.
      As far as CJRS prognosis everyone knows what will be the end result. If a radio aimed at a specific community (jewish) did not make it, it is doubtful that a religious one will survive for a long time.

      What about radio Ville-Marie then that operates in the same market in french ? Radio VM is surviving , not thriving and has to deal with life and death financial issues every so often that brings changes to it s offended volunteers that disagree with new views brought in by new faces…So you do have to deal then with lesser quality product supplied by an aging religious group. Programming is being kept alive by donators ,funeral home and Real estate companies for the elderly. Can t have it all i guess but long term outlook does not look realistic for CJRS.

  3. Ileana Gehrenbeck

    I am Jewish, and that station never represented me as a Jewish woman nor I was able to relate to its contents…my family has not lived in a shtetl in over a century


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