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Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Community mourns Hadassh-WIZO president

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OTTAWA — March 22 was to be an opportunity to celebrate Terry Schwarzfeld’s recent election as the 20th national president of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW) at a brunch in her honour. Instead, On March 20, she was honoured posthumously at a funeral attended by nearly 800 people.

Terry Schwarzfeld

Schwarzfeld succumbed to injuries she suffered during a brutal attack while vacationing in Barbados.

Along with her daughter-in-law, Luana Cotsman of Guelph, Ont., who is recovering from her injuries, Schwarzfeld was severely beaten Feb. 28 while the pair was walking along an isolated stretch of beach at in the late afternoon. They were approached by a would-be robber, and when they told him they had nothing to give him, he attacked them with a piece of wood.

Schwarzfeld was taken to a hospital in Barbados, then then airlifted to Ottawa Hospital, where she remained unconscious until she died on March 18. As yet, no one has been arrested for the attack.

The Ottawa Chevra Kadisha funeral parlour was not nearly large enough for the hundreds of people expected to attend Schwarzfeld’s funeral. In fact, even the sanctuary of Agudath Israel Congregation couldn’t contain the standing-room only crowd. Chairs had to be set up in the shul’s foyer to allow the overflow crowd to view the ceremony on closed-circuit television.

The funeral was presided over jointly by Rabbi Charles Popky of Agudath Israel, where Schwarzfeld had been, until recent months, executive director, and Rabbi Steven Garten of Temple Israel, where Schwarzfeld and her family were members.

“We gather here because Terry belonged to all, to the entire Ottawa Jewish community and beyond,” Rabbi Garten said.

Rabbi Popky spoke of Schwarzfeld as a true Woman of Valour and outlined her qualities by quoting from the words of the prayer and applying them to how she had lived her life.

Originally from Regina, Schwarzfeld was the eldest child of the late Abel and Elaine Schwarzfeld – her mother and grandmother were both CHW members – she had lived in Vancouver and graduated from the University of British Columbia prior to moving to Ottawa with her husband, Stephen Cotsman.

The large number of people paying tribute to Schwarzfeld came from all areas of her very active life. In addition to many family members, there were friends and colleagues from CHW, including some who had travelled from Montreal and Toronto, and those who had accompanied her when she went hiking, cross-country skiing, dragon boat racing or any of her other favourite activities. Also in attendance were Glyne Murray, high commissioner to Canada for Barbados, and Leroy McClean, Barbados’ consul general in Toronto.

Schwarzfeld’s childhood friend, Toronto lawyer Ruth Mesbur, spoke movingly of their lifelong friendship, noting that even in their childhood games, Schwarzfeld always took a leadership role.

Other fond memories were shared by Schwarzfeld’s sister Audrey, son Adam, and her CHW friend and colleague, Debbie Baylin.

Tributes to Schwarzfeld were read by Toby Yan, honorary national vice-president of CHW; Marla Dan, first vice-president of CHW who was appointed national president of CHW upon Schwarzfeld’s death; and Helena Glazer, president of World WIZO.

In her memory, the organization has named a project in Acco, Israel, after her: the Terry Schwarzfeld Ottawa Day Care Centre. Donations to the centre can be made through the Ottawa office of CHW at 613-798-7644 or at www.chw.ca.

Schwarzfeld is survived by her husband, Stephen; her sons David, Adam and Simon; David’s wife, Luana, and their son, Benjamin; and by her four siblings and their families.

 

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