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Gail Asper presenting award to Mel Lazareck

Mel Lazareck's Remarks on Receiving the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Medal

Mel Lazareck, posted June 15, 2012


[The following are Mel Lazareck's remarks on receiving the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Medal on May 23, at the  Jewish Federation of Winnipeg's Kavod Awards evening at the Shaarey Zedek synagogue].

My participation and efforts are not extraordinary. I’m sure many others in our Community could be standing up here with me tonight.

In my years involved with the Jewish and General Community there was generally a core group that seemed to maintain their involvement so to some extent it almost becomes a question of who hangs in their the longest.

I can name several individuals that have made a career out of their volunteerism which has and continues to support a variety of communal activities.

Even though I am the one standing here tonight,,and I must acknowledge you for if it was not for your consistent support to our Community, we probably would not have been able to develop a Kavod evening.

I appreciate the Community’s presenting this prestigious award to me, and hope I can continue to live up to the standards expected as a recipient.

Whats important to me and why.

In my mind I have always been extremely aware of Jewish History especially from the 2nd World War.

As a youngster I could not fathom how&why the Jews of Europe were treated the way they were.I was somewhat conditioned at an early age that as Jews we must be constantly on guard for signs of discrimination and hate.I never accepted the term"never again" without adding the clause "without great effort".

My personal commitment to the memory of the millions who died without reason was to not be passive when it came to making sure that as Jews we would never leave ourselves in a position of vulnerability.

ISRAEL; the modern miracle.

In reviewing some of Herzl’s reasons for "our own Country", well before the Holocaust, he and others were very much aware of our tragic history. He believed that if the Jewish people hand their own homeland this would resolve or reduce Jewish vulnerability.

Our return to our homeland is very recent (64 years) and even after Israel’s incredible accomplishments,I still worry about our vulnerability.

I cannot imagine a world without Israel.

No one could have imagined the Holocaust. Wishing and hoping resolves nothing.

I have always believed that things don’t just happen.

As Jews our position in the World has improved substantially since WWII.

However as the expression goes"everything changes,nothing changes."

My adult years, have been considered one of best times for Jewish people from many standpoints.

Even though antisemitism I believe will always be with us, jewish life in North America has surely been one offering the greatest opportunities to Jews from many standpoints;

Education, career opportunities, general acceptance in societ y, basically there are really no limits to what a Jewish person may aspire too today, possibly even to be an elected Political leader of a Christian Country.

Of course confidence can turn into overconfidence. For reasons that people much more knowledgeable than myself have yet to specifically zero in on, the Jew has, is, and will continue unfortunately to be the readily available whipping boy for a Society that looses its way.

If this is a true and correct statement we can never let down our guard regardless of how engrained and accepted we think we are.

Where do we go from here.

Years ago when the Asper community Centre was being planned,and fund raisng was taking place, I was told by some potential funders that they were not "happy" with the idea of a new Community Centre. Reason?

We’re bringing too much attention to our Community.

After all the Jewish population is in the neighbourhood of 17,000 amongst a population of over 1 million in Manitoba.

Less than 2%, yet here were these Jews building a brand new multi million dollar community Centre..

I must admit at one time this idea of "attracting uneeded attention" to our Community bothered me as well.

I finally accepted the fact that if someone doesn’t, like you, it really makes no difference what you do. By not building our new Community Centre was not going to change this hateful attitude.

I believe that our insurance against the increase of anti-semitism,especially to a level approaching Germany in the early 1930’sis multifacited.

In a word Jews wherever they live, to the best of their ability,must maintaina high level of proactivity at all levels of society.

This is a very broad statement.

I would like to break this down into the following categories.

Politics,Professions,Education,Trades, Business,Philanthropy, Religion, andPublic Relations,

I do not intend to get into a discussion on each of these categories, how ever many of you are already aware of. What already transpires in these categories, and I would encourage those not involved to consider some level of participation.

We should of course NOT restrict our participation to Jewish causes, which fortunately is not the case, however a larger crossection of Jewish people participating in communal activities will serve us well.

I would also encourage much interaction with other Communities.

Manitoba offers one of the most diverse ethnic Communities in Canada.

If you find that hard to believe just take a look at the many different pavilions participating in Folklarama.

One of the fastest growing Communities in Manitoba is our First Nation people.

In is incumbent upon us to participate and encourage our first nation people.

There have been several positive moves in this direction however we have not even scratched the surface.

I sincerely believe that our Jewish Community can contribute to the First Nations future growth and success in Manitoba.

I see a great future for all Canadian Jews,as and all Canadians.

As Jews for what ever reason we are expected to maintain a higher standard,as is evidenced by the treatment of Israel by the world media.

This in many ways grossly unfair and discriminatory, however this is our reality, and change will not come easily. So lets accept what is expected of us, better yet lets exceed what is expected of us.

I leave these thoughts with you,and extend my thanks for this great honor. I would also like to extend my congratulations to all the other recipients of awards this evening.

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