WINNIPEG — Mel Lazareck, a business and community leader and president of the Jewish National Fund, Prairie region, received an unprecedented appointment Oct. 5 when Premier Greg Selinger named him special representative for Manitoba to Israel for economic and community relations.
Premier Greg Selinger, left, appoints Mel Lazareck to the new position of special representative for Manitoba to Israel for economic and community relations.
It’s the first time such an appointment has been made in Manitoba, and possibly in Canada, and reflects the deepening and ongoing partnership between Manitoba and Israel, particularly in the area of water technology and agriculture.
Selinger gave Lazareck a certificate confirming his special appointment at a ceremony in the premier’s office attended by Lazareck; his wife, Karen; Erez Rotem, JNF’s emissary for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and a number of the premier’s advisers.
“We are recognizing the outstanding work Mel has done to build a strong relationship between Manitoba and business and non-profit organizations in Israel,” Selinger said in a statement. “This appointment will help us support those activities.”
He 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.”
Lazareck told The CJN that the “government is making a statement in trying to develop the mutually beneficial relationship between our province and Israel.”
He noted that he’s not an employee of the government and doesn’t 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 in water technology and agriculture, and probably to some extent [that] could involve tourism as time goes forward.”
Lazareck said that there are also partnerships between institutions in Manitoba and Israeli universities “such as Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University [BGU] in the areas of science, health and exchange programs” and he’d like to see these continue to grow.
He also highlighted the dedicated work of Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s minister of water stewardship, who’s been at the forefront of developing Manitoba’s burgeoning relationship with Israel.
“The [business] cards Mel received from the premier are even printed in English [on one side] and Hebrew [on the other side],” Karen Lazareck said.
Rotem said that he “cannot 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.”
The Lazarecks are currently leading a sold-out Jewish Federation of Winnipeg mission to Israel, from Oct. 10 to 15, which features the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Selinger, Melnick and Innovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak are also taking part.
In January 2010, Lazareck participated in the second Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium, hosted by JNF in Israel. The first symposium was hosted by the province in Winnipeg in August 2008.