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JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan President Nola Lazar Is set to be the Next President of Mercaz Canada

by Rhonda Spivak, November 26, 2020

Nola Lazar has been very active in her role as the current president of Jewish National Fund 's Manitoba/Saskatchewan region. She is also slated to become the next national president of Mercaz Canada-the Zionist voice of Conservative Judaism in Canada- and currently serves as the Vice-President of Mercaz Canada. 
Lazar notes that Jewish National Fund (JNF) chapters across Canada  recently put on a virtual event  "A Night of 100 Dinners” during which  donors received in their homes a mix of  snack foods and wine and watched a virtual performance featuring YidLife Crisis and a bevy of other celebrities ( such as Martin Short; Gal Gadot (who has starred as Wonder Women); the star of “Fauda”, Lior Raz; Colin Mochrie; and Howie Mandel.) The amount of food and wine that each participant received was tied to the category of donation to the JNF for the event. Top donors – the L’chaim level or $1,800 category – received sandwiches, plus dessert and two bottles of wine. The Negev ($75) and Young Adult ($54) categories each received sweet snacks.
As Lazar relates "The Night of 100 Dinners was a great evening! The Yidlife Crisis guys did a wonderful job of creating a fun virtual event. I thought they were hysterical! Our JNF team of Lara London, Zehava Yehuda and of course David Greaves organized the fundraising teams and the volunteers and Joel Lafond from the Shaarey Zedek put together some delicious snack packages and had everything incredibly well organized, which helped our volunteers get the deliveries out so smoothly. It turned into a great fundraiser for the JNF Canada House of Excellence in Sderot. We are excited to see it built as a safe, secure, state of the art, after school education center."
In Winnipeg over 100 homes and donors participated in "A Night of 100 Dinners" which raised $25,000 for the JNF Canada House of Excellence in Sderot, a facility which seeks to assist high school students in Sderot and surrounding communities in the south to enhance their academic performance. While the “Night of 100 Dinners” raised money, it was also a program JNF put on in order to engage the community in a special and interesting way. 
Lazar is revving up for the JNF Negev Gala honouring Dr. Ted Lyons, which has been rescheduled to May 19 2021. Lazar reports that recently it has been decided that due to Covid 19, this will be a virtual event, not an in-person one, as had been hoped. "Dr. Ted Lyons is an amazing honoree who deserves a Gala with all the pomp and ceremony," Lazar notes. "We are planning a virtual event that will bring as much honour and ceremony as Ted deserves," and "We are confident that we will be able to create a program that will bring full honour to him." Funds raised  from the Negev Gala will go towards the JNF Canada House of Excellence in Sderot.



Turning to  Mercaz Canada, Lazar explains that it serves as the Zionist voice of Conservative Judaism in Canada. "We promote and support Israel education and programs, and represent the interests of Masorti, (or what we in Canada call 'Conservative') Judaism in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency for Israel. Within these organisations, we fight for the rights for Jewish pluralism in Israel and the diaspora."



Lazar, who has been active in Congregation Etz Chayim, adds that " Membership in Mercaz has always been optional on our synagogue membership form. Some synagogues have it as an automatic part of their membership, but that is not how it is here in Winnipeg, so the uptake in membership has always been sporadic. Years ago, the president of Mercaz at the time, Marion Mayman decided that the board of Mercaz Canada was too Toronto-centric and wanted to reach out to members across Canada and made phone calls. She spoke with me and was very convincing!"



Since Lazar has been on the board of Mercaz Canada, and has been involved writing articles and speaking at Etz Chayim Synagogue, membership in Mercaz Canada "has grown slowly, not as much as I would like, but it’s a start!" She points out that "Our number of representatives at the World Zionist Congress is dependant on membership, so I would love to see every Conservative Jew and every Conservative leaning Jew join Mercaz Canada to help advance Jewish pluralism in Israel and the diaspora."




Lazar outlines that each term as President of Mercaz Canada is 3 years, but says that she plans to stay in the Vice President position for two terms under current President Stan Greenspan. I have not had a chance to attend a full sitting of the World Zionist Congress. The World Zionist Congress sits every 5 years. The last Congress, which just happened in October was on line, and did not have the budget meetings as they felt that there is no way to estimate what will be needed over the coming years. The plan is to have in person meetings next year to fill in some of the gaps. As this is not the full experience, and I don’t feel comfortable going as a newbie, I would like to slow down the transition process to make sure that Mercaz Canada is  in good hands when I take over."  I am learning so much from Stan and from our executive Director Rabbi Jen Gorman and want to make the transition as successful as possible.



Lazar adds, "I also think that it will be very interesting to see where I can take the organization as the first president who is not from Toronto. I would like to grow the membership from the smaller communities and extend the educational opportunities in these communities."



Nola, who is trained as an interior designer, is married to Matthew and together they raised four children. Her volunteer service to the community over these past 25 years has largely arisen through her synagogue involvement and involvement in Jewish women's groups.



As she says, "I began my community involvement by getting involved with several of the Jewish women’s groups. I also served on the board of the Beth Israel Synagogue for 2 terms, including during the merger that created Congregation Etz Chayim. I then served 2 more terms on the board at the newly created Synagogue. After my term on the board came to an end I served as chair of the youth committee for a total of 15 years. I ran many programs of which I am very proud. My favourite is the Chocolate Seder that was created by our whole family and ran by my husband Matthew for 10 years. It has since been taken over by Steven Hyman and is still a popular program each year."



Nola credits her mother Rae as being "a  big inspiration' in her life. "While raising the 8 of us kids - I was the 7th- she was always very involved in the community. I remember going with her to help out at the Golden Age Club, the forerunner to the Gwen Secter Center, and to the Opportunity Store, and then there were always meetings at our house for one group or another. And I remember groups of women coming over to create centerpieces for the Angel’s ball and for the Youth Aliyah dinner that were fabulous! People took them home at the end of the dinner and some people have theirs still!"



Two of  Matthew and Nola's four children have made aliyah. "Our 2 daughters, Yona and Galya have made Aliyah. Our sons Ezra and Gilon still live in Winnipeg. Both girls have completed their army service and have chosen to remain in Israel. Yona lives in a small town called Oranit, about a 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. She works as a nanny for a family with 2 small boys while attending university online, studying Health Systems Management. Galya is living in the south, on a kibbutz called Mishmar HaNegev. She is studying for the university entrance exam, the psychometry, and working at a daycare on the kibbutz."



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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