(Edmonton) – The City of Edmonton’s Naming Committee has proudly announced the naming of a city park to honour the leadership and community spirit of Karen Leibovici, a highly respected Edmonton woman who is a member of our community.
“This is a very great honour and I am grateful to the many Edmontonians who have supported me throughout my career,” said Leibovici. “I am blessed to have a loving family and friends who have stood by me through thick and thin.”
A four-term Edmonton City Councillor and former MLA for Edmonton Meadowlark, Karen was born and raised in Montreal to immigrant parents. A social worker by training, she was instrumental in leading a variety of City of Edmonton initiatives including the Transforming Edmonton initiative, the Centre for Public Involvement, the Affordable Housing Strategy, the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, among others. She was involved in the creation of the City Hall School and worked hard to promote the establishment of Big Island Provincial Park.
Karen was a strong advocate for the needs of her constituency in the former Wards 1 and 5. She fought to prevent the operation of a gravel pit along the North Saskatchewan River, and for the retention of natural areas in Edmonton. She was a President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and a Chair of the FCM Green Municipal Fund.
“I entered politics some 40 years ago because I felt I could make a difference and have a positive impact on my community,” remarked Karen. “I look forward to continuing to serve in any capacity I can and want to say Thank You!”
Through her years living in Edmonton, Leibovici has been involved in many nonprofit organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Concordia University, Events Edmonton and Hadassah. Just recently, she has served as the vice-chair of the Civilian Review and Complaint Commission for the RCMP and as a board member at Canada Energy Regulator.
“Karen Leibovici’s life and career have been motivated by a strong sense of social justice, the determination to do what is right and the heart to champion what needs to be done to build a better community,” said her son Adam Zepp, who nominated her for the park recognition. “She continues to look forward to serving and making Edmonton, Alberta and Canada a better place.”
Karen is very proud of her Jewish roots. Her early years were spent in Jewish neighbourhoods in Montreal and Yiddish was her first language. During her time in office, she called upon Rabbi Ari Drelich to place mezuzot on both her Legislature and City Hall offices – a first in Alberta. She was proud to be the first Jewish woman elected to the Alberta legislature and would routinely rise in the Assembly to make note of the upcoming Jewish holidays.
Highlights of Karenʼs political career included lighting the Menorah on the Legislative grounds, assisting with the passage of the Holocaust Memorial Day and Remembrance Act and rallying support for Council to provide funding for the Chevra Kadisha.
Karen Leibovici Park is in the Edgemont Neighbourhood on the corner of East Gate NW and Edgemont Road NW.
A second city park was also announced honouring Julie Rohr, a well-loved member of the Laurier Heights community who worked hard to bring people together and create places where children were welcome. Although she died in September 2021, she is fondly remembered by her friends and community.
Julie was actively involved in her son’s school and several fundraising efforts like the Nepal Children’s Fund and the Women’s Healing Project to support domestic violence survivors. Julie and her son Max collaborated to raise $13,000 from the sale of Max’s artwork to support a family with a mother and daughter both fighting cancer. She was actively involved in an initiative to bring a Syrian refugee family to Edmonton. In 2018, Julie became a public speaker on the subject of having a holistic, spiritually-informed way of living and facing death with courage and grace.
“Julie, despite a terminal prognosis, lived an intentional, full life, and spread joy to those around her. She consistently demonstrated how to live a life of courage, volunteerism, equality, dedication to service, and resiliency. Julie’s approach to life inspired thousands, and she posthumously continues to inspire more,” said her husband David Schoor.
The Julie Rohr Park is located in Laurier Heights at 140 Street and 78 Avenue.
“I am thrilled to share the heartfelt stories behind naming these two parks. They pay tribute to two remarkable Edmonton women, Karen Leibovici and Julie Rohr, who touched the lives of countless individuals in our city,” said Erin McDonald, Chair of the Edmonton Naming Committee.” These parks embody the essence of their incredible community spirit and remind us of the power of connection and generosity. We celebrate Karen and Julie’s legacies through these dedicated spaces with great admiration and a sense of personal joy.”