By Regan Treewater-Lipes
(AJNews) – A hearty mazel tov must be extended to some exceptional members of the Edmonton Jewish community. We may be small in numbers here in Edmonton, but we are enormous in our spirit of tikkun olam!
On January 26, set against the glittering backdrop of an exceptional downtown skyline view, under the sparkling lights of the Queen Elizabeth II Building reception hall, distinguished members of the Edmonton Jewish community were presented with the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in recognition of their ongoing commitment to enriching engagement and service.
Rabbi Ari Drelich, Stephanie Hendin, Gillian Horwitz, Clyde Hurtig, Ellery Lew, Steven Shafir, and Debby Shoctor were honoured in an auspicious ceremony, complete with due pomp and circumstance. Edmonton-McClung MLA Lorne Dach presided over the proceedings with characteristic joviality and enthusiasm.
The ceremony provided a “great opportunity to celebrate each other, celebrate community, and how we help each other, and the warmth we feel for each other. “Today’s recipients lead rather than wait to be led,” boomed Dach as his complimentary praises boomed through the elegant, windowed hall. “They tackle challenges head on. They see problems as opportunities instead of obstacles.”
The ceremony was for recipients throughout the greater Edmonton area, but the Jewish presence was undeniable significant. When asked how he first reacted when he heard the exciting news that he would be honoured with this distinction Rabbi Drelich responded simply: “Surprised and humbled.”
Rabbi Drelich’s tireless work to ensure that kosher food be made available to all Jewish inmates incarcerated in the Province of Alberta has done much to promote equality and compassion for those working to redeem themselves in the eyes of society. Rabbi Drelich, the Executive Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Edmonton, has been working to contribute to the sustainability, and religious vivacity of a modest, but active, local Jewish community with his wife, Rebbetzin Rifka Drelich, since November of 1991.
Lorne Dach bestowed Rabbi Drelich’s medal as if paying tribute to a valued longtime friend. “Rabbi Drelich works tirelessly advocating for Jewish religious rights. […] He is a protector of underprivileged rights. He is a constant in our community,” Dach commended, noting that the two have collaborated prolifically on past initiatives. Rabbi Drelich was cheered on by his wife and son Mark.
Gillian Horwitz, is a well known leader within Jewish Edmonton. She has devoted decades to promoting Holocaust awareness through education, and was also a proud recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. Horwitz had an impressive entourage of friends and family along for the occasion. When asked about her initial reaction when she first heard the impressive news, Horwitz humbly commented: “I have always felt a strong connection to my community be it the Jewish community or the general community and volunteering in the various organizations that I have, just seemed a natural thing to do. I grew up in a home and an environment where giving back was a way of life, so being ‘rewarded’ for what to me is simply a way of life, was unexpected and really quite overwhelming. And yes, I was even more surprised that my ‘way of life’ was ‘noticed’ and needed to be acknowledged as it were.” And noticed it was, with a moving introduction from Dach, who has had the privilege of working with Horwitz in the past. Horwitz is excited about some new endeavours on the horizon.
She commented: “As for future projects, my involvement and commitment to Holocaust Education is ongoing, particularly now with the rise of antisemitism. I am committed to ensuring that we continue open dialogues and communication when it comes to dealing with racism and antisemitism. Our upcoming Holocaust Symposium which is a ‘Live’ event this year, is an arena I am involved in.” She continued with significance: “Irrational hatred and bigotry has no place in society and as demonstrated in the most heinous crime of the 20th century, the Holocaust.”
Jewish Federation of Edmonton President, Steven Shafir, was the youngest of the Jewish community’s awardees and an impressive recipient. He was joined by family and friends, including both his parents. Dach noted that Shafir has worked to “combat hate-crimes so that all members of the community can feel safe.”
Other members of our community were honoured to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal in separate ceremonies including Senator Paula Simons, Marshall Shoctor, Netta Phillet, Paula Kirman, Jodi Zabludowski, Judi Card and Elexis Schloss. In all, 7000 Albertans will receive this medal in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign.
Yasher koach and heartfelt thanks to the honourees from all of us in the Edmonton Jewish community!
Regan Treewater-Lipes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.