by Deborah Shatz
(EJNews) – Over 80 women gathered on November 15 at Beth Israel Synagogue for the 2015 Edmonton Community Women’s Health Forum. With Rabbanit Batya Friedman at the helm, the event was a celebration of women’s health and wellness and it was a stellar example of community collaboration.
The event was initiated as a tribute to a school friend of the Rabbanit’s who tragically passed away earlier this year. The kindness and warmth of her friend Rebbetzin Rashi Minkowicz z”l, of Alpharetta, Georgia influenced Batya to emphasize living joyfully and effecting positivity where ever possible.
Rabbanit Friedman used those tools as her impetus in planning the 2015 Edmonton Community Women’s Health Forum. She rallied together numerous community organizations to collaborate with Beth Israel in planning and implementing what turned out to be an exceptional day of learning and caring among the 80 or so women who participated.
The day started on a very positive and upbeat chord with a morning exercise warm up with fitness instructor Jane Sobel. She was energetic, enthusiastic and exuded positivity, setting an ideal tone for what would become a wonderful day.
After a shmooze and a nosh during registration and a brief introduction from Batya, the delegates chose from 4 workshops that were held concurrently. The topics were organ donation by Sharon Marcus; stress management for caregivers by Cassy Lawson; diet and nutrition for children by Sharon Macklin and neo-natal ICU by Paula Globerman. The sessions were 45 minutes in duration and each delegate had an opportunity to attend 2 out of the four sessions in the morning and 2 out of three sessions in the afternoon.
Afternoon topics were kaballah on marriage by Rebetzin Chaya Blachman; mental health awareness by Chris Lefebvre and the genetics of breast cancer by Cynthia Handford.
Each of these topics was interesting and well chosen for its wide range and broad appeal. The presenters were not only experts in their fields but they were seasoned professionals who could articulate the subject in an engaging manner. Each one had the skills to take a difficult topic that could have been sad or depressing and present it with a positive empowering message.
The time allotted to each workshop was perfect for the setting. It allowed for a brief introduction to the topic and an opportunity for the delegates to learn a bit about the subject and still have time to ask a few questions of the presenter. In each case the participants left their workshops wanting to learn more.
Not only were the presenters knowledgeable and articulate but each one brought a warm nurturing personality to their presentation that transformed their topic into an act of love rather than an act of desperation. One couldn’t help but feel that these are the professionals you would want in your corner for assistance with any one of the health issues being addressed. Just as Batya’s friend had inspired her to organize the forum, each of the presenters was inspirational in their approach to their own area of expertise.
Also inspirational were the many women who collaborated with the Rabbanit to organize and implement the forum. Batya thanked the special women representing each of the different organizations within Edmonton’s Jewish community who assisted with the forum. She singled out Jodi Zabludowski (NCJW), Leah Goldford (Emunah), Rebbetzin Shulamis Laufer (The Edjge), Francie Nobleman (Temple Beth Ora), Rebbetzin Rifkah Drelich (Chabad), Bluma Goldberg (Beth Tzedek), Darlene Bushewsky/Maya Feldman (Na’amat), Phyllis Nurgitz (ORT), Risa Margolus (L’Chaim Society) Miriam Cooper/Stephanie Hendin (Hadassah/WIZO), Penny Hardin/Colleen Paull (Beth Shalom Women’s League), Tsiporah Reboh (BI Pomegranate) and Frida Pesin (Talmud Torah) for their tremendous contributions.
“It was truly an honour to work with each and every one of these incredible women who already do so much for the community. Let us continue to focus on matters that unite us,” says Batya.
In addition to the wonderful workshops, highlights of the day included the delicious and nutritious lunch that was prepared by Lauren Baram and Rifka Leah Glatt, the beautiful music that was played during lunch by pianist Riquette Sherman and a spiritual Dvar Torah by Rebbetzin Esther Segal that addressed the health of our souls as well as our physical bodies.
One other noteworthy highlight was the wonderful feeling of camaraderie that was present in the shul during the forum. Over eighty women attended, representing all ages and all levels of community affiliation and religious observance. The group included women with many different attributes but the underlying theme was the importance of health, wellness and nurturing. The similarities brought the delegates together with a powerful bond. Everyone who participated was genuinely happy to be there and overwhelmingly positive about the entire experience.
Kol Hakavod to Rabbanit Batya Friedman and the many collaborators who put together this exceptional forum. Hopefully it will be the first of many such events in our community.