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Premier Greg Selinger appoints Mel Lazareck to the new position of special representative for Manitoba to Israel for economic and community relations.
Government of Manitoba

Jaqueline Freedman, Mel Lazareck and Erez Rotem



By Rhonda J. Spivak, October 6, 2010

[This story continues to be updated. Please check back later].

On Tuesday October 5, 2010, business and community leader Mel Lazareck received a very special and historic appointment on Tuesday October 5, 2010 from the Government of Manitoba---he has just been named Special Representative for Manitoba to Israel for Economic and Community Relations.

This is FIRST TIME that such a special appointment has ever been made in Manitoba [and quite possibly in Canada ] and reflects the deepening relationship and ongoing partnership  between Manitoba and Israel particularly in the area of water technology, agriculture and other areas of mutual interest.

Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger presented Lazareck a certificate of his special appointment in a ceremony in the Premier’s office. Present at the ceremony were Lazareck, his wife Karen, Erez Rotem, JNF-KKL Emissary for Manitoba-Saskatchewan and Alberta, Premier Selinger and a number of the Premier’s advisors. Lazareck is serving his third year as president of the Jewish National Fund for the Prairie Region.

In a statement, Premier Selinger said “We are recognizing the outstanding work Mel has done to build a strong relationship between Manitoba and business and non-profit organizations in Israel,” the premier said.  “This appointment will help us support those activities.”

Premier Selinger added, “Manitoba and Israel have common interests in clean energy, water quality and conservation. These interests provide the opportunities to share knowledge and strengthen our education and economic relationships and partnership.” said Selinger.

Lazareck told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “Our government is making a statement in trying to develop the mutually beneficial relationship between our province and Israel.”

“I am a volunteer,” said Lazareck, noting that he is not an employee of the government and does not receive any funding.”

 “I’m doing this as a volunteer for the benefit of  Manitoba and Israel…This is something for me that has been ongoing,  in that there’s common areas of interest [between the two] in water technology and agriculture and probably to some extent could involve tourism as time goes forward.”

Lazareck said that there are also partnerships between Israeli universities, “such as  Hebrew U And Ben-Gurion U in the areas of science, health and exchange programs and he’d like to see these continue to grow.”

Lazareck also referred to the dedicated work of Christine Melnick, Minister of Water Stewardship who has been at the forefront of developing Manitoba’s relationship with Israel.

Karyn Lazareck told the Winnipeg Jewish Review just after the ceremony that “We knew about this a little bit beforehand. It is very exciting. The [business] cards Mel received form the Premier are even printed in English [on one side] and Hebrew [on the other side].”

Erez Rotem who was at the ceremony told the Winnipeg Jewish Review  “I  felt very privileged to be invited to attend the ceremony, and I can not think of anyone more deserving to be given such a special designation.  Not a lot of people know about the full breadth of contribution of Mel to this community and the relationship between Manitoba and Israel and we at JNF are very fortunate to have him as our president.”

Karyn Lazareck said, “I think that the Premier wanted to make this appointment before the upcoming mission to Israel, which begins in a few days.”  The Lazarecks are leading a sold out mission of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to Israel which is being joined by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.  The premier,  Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick and Innovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak and leader of the opposition Hugh McFadyen and Conservative Candidate for River Heights Marty Morantz  will be travelling to Israel on  the mission from Oct. 10 to 15.The ballet will be performing in Israel (for more on this see related story by clicking here.)

Premier Selinger said today he will sign partnership agreements, help promote the Royal Winnipeg Ballet 70th anniversary tour of Israel and dedicate a park designed to promote peace as part the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s mission to Israel.

In January 2010, the second Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium took place in Israel hosted by the-Jewish National Fund -Karen Kayemet LeIsrael. [JNF-KKL].This second Water Symposium followed on the footsteps of the first Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium hosted by the Province of Manitoba in Winnipeg in August 2008. Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick was a key figure in both symposiums.

The Second Water Symposium in Israel brought together 20 water scientists, half of them from Israel and half from Manitoba, who focused on opportunities for mutual research, exchange of knowledge and promotion of joint research on water resources management.

Lazareck noted that Manitoba Institutions have partnered with Hebrew University in the field of medical and scientific partnership, and that there are other partnerships with Ben Gurion U and Technion and he looks forward to those continuing and growing.


Lazareck told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that his family was always Zionistic.

My grandmother, Ada Kowalson [married to Max Kowlson] “was working for the benefit of the birth of Israel”, then called mandatory Palestine [under the British Mandate].”

Ada Kowalson never got to see the land of Israel , but her love of Israel was instilled in her daughter Anna Lazareck (ne: Kowalson),Mel’s mother, who spoke Hebrew fluently and  “visited Israel many times.”

“My grandfather Max was a teacher at Talmud-Torah in the thirties and fourties [and owned a Hebrew bookstore on 560 Selkirk Avenue] my mother and all of her sibling were orthodox. They spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, and English.”

Jack Lazareck, Mel’s brother said “I’m just elated for my brother and his family and wish them all the best from his brother and family.”

Michael Kowalson, Lazareck’s cousin said on hearing of Lazareck’s appointment “Our family is thrilled for our cousin Mel with this very prestigious appointment. We know he will represent Manitoba well and foster many mutual beneficial relationships between the State of Israel and Manitoba. Zionism runs deep in our family and our support for Israel is unwavering. In fact, our uncle, the late Allister Stewart who was married to Esther Kowalson Stewart who was the C.C.F. Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North in the 40’s-50’s was the first MP ever to speak in support of the State of Israel in the House of Commons.”

Hugh McFadyen, Leader of the Opposition, speaking from Ottawa told the Winnipeg Jewish Review on learning of Lazareck’s appointment that “I think this is a great appointment. Mel and his family have made a great contribution to Manitoba. The Manitoba-Israel relationship is extremely important.”

Heather Stefanson, MLA for Tuxedo said of her constituent " Mel is an exemplary member of our community and he will make an  outstanding representative  for Manitoba in Israel." 

Gavin Rich added, "Mel was at a program and heard Prof Danny Weihs speak and after hearing him, he made the effort  to ensure that Technion would be on the agenda for the upcoming mission to Israel.  Without him it wouldn't have happened."

Rami Kleinmann, National Director of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University said " Mel has been committed and dedicated in working with the Manitoba Government to build new and strengthen ongoing relationships with Israel. Kleinmann also stated that this historic appointment of Mel should be the catalyst for other business and community leaders to come forth and together with Mel build a wider and more solid foundation for future endeavours. We at the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University are looking forward to working jointly with Mel to further consolidate and energize the relationship between Israel and Canada.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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