A Tribute to Arliene Botnick

by Robbin Botnick, November 28, 2017

I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard in the planning of Arliene’s 30th Anniversary Event. I would like to begin with Roz Allen, the chair of the committee, who patiently kept track of everything that needed to be done and kept the team on track. The event could not have happened without the planning team which included, Aviva Tamari who designed and created all of the table centre pieces, the beautiful tissue flowers and the tree of life for the event. Victoria Stacy who was an outstanding MC and Cheryl Englander, Deb Stoch, Judy Miller, Lisa Rosenberg, Kim Mayne and Rabbi Pollack who did so much of the rest of the heavy lifting. I would also like to thank Marla Stoch and Richard Beer who helped with the setup to transform the social hall into the ball room; Julia Botnick for all of the delicious deserts and Cheryl and Connie Shine for the yummy cheesecakes; Talia Botnick for the Kahoot game design and all of the Botnick grandchildren for the excellent presentation. I would also like to all those who stayed back at the end to help tidy up, especially Dan and Georgia Fineman and family, Lyse Brothman, Chris Bowden and Brad Bass, Eleanor Stoch and Maks Pikoul who helped us set up and clean up and was an all-round good sport. I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such an incredible Solel community!

Tribute to Arliene (As shared at the Anniversary Event)

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire Botnick Family, I would like to thank you all for joining us today and I would like to express our most sincere congratulations to Arliene also known as Bubbie.

Thirty years with one employer, in one role, warrants huge admiration in and of itself, but Arliene’s contribution to Solel and to our broader community goes so much beyond her role as Educator. Arliene has been the Director of Education at Solel Congregation since 1987. She is an active participant in many community groups including, the 905 Interfaith Council, the Credit Valley Spiritual Advisory Committee, Pathway Community Projects, the Family Education Network of the Board of Jewish Education (Mercaz), and the Teacher Education Institute. She was the chair of the Reform Educators’ Council and is a graduate of the International Summer School of Holocaust Studies – Yad Vashem in Israel as well as the Bergman Israel Seminar for International Educators

Now that I have shared Arliene’s resume, I would like to talk about who Arliene really she. Born of Russian/Polish Immigrant parents, Arliene is the youngest of 5 children with two brothers and two sisters; she never met one of her brothers and the other died when she was only 3 years old. Her father died when Arliene was just 13 and her oldest sister died when Arliene was 35, she remains close with her sister Lorraine. Her mother, my grandmother Jennie, taught her that women needed to be strong, they needed to work hard, and they needed to survive even when tragedy struck. Until her death in 1992 Jennie remained a strong and caring woman, a role model in her own right. Arliene learned from her mother that you not only needed to be a good person but you needed to give back to your community and giving was much more important than taking. Even in her old age Jennie never wanted to take her Old Age Security as she thought that others needed it more than her and the government could better use if for someone else.

Arliene grew up in a time when very few women went on to secondary education but she had different plans. She was the first woman in her family to not only graduate from University but do this as a young married woman while raising a small infant son and, for those of you who know Ian, this could not have been easy. In fact, Arliene gave birth to Ian and was back at UofT 2 weeks post birth with her professors not event realizing that she was pregnant. Arliene was a straight A student earning various awards throughout her high school and university years. She paid for University with the various scholarships she received and through her job at the Bell Telephone Company where, due to her stature, she had trouble reaching the plugs on the board for the long distance lines. If you want to learn more about her experience at Bell, ask any of her grand children.

Arliene’s young family grew quickly and over the span of 9 years Arliene and Ron had 5 children. But Arliene aspired to me much more than a stay at home parent. Arliene loved to teach and she began supply teaching in 1966 and moved into a full time teaching role in 1977. Arliene was a working mom, but this only made her more of a role model. She taught us that you could have a career and family and you could balance both and be good at both. Arliene went to all of the hockey, lacrosse, baseball, dance, skating, swimming, piano lessons and games. Albeit she spent much of her time in the lobby or the snack bar because she couldn’t watch the close games, a tradition she has continued to this day, showing her support but not being able to actually watch the game from the seats. At Jane Junior High Arliene taught English as a Second language to new immigrant students. She loved having this opportunity to welcome new Canadians and teaching her young students both how to communicate in English but also what it meant to be Canadian. To this day Arliene continues to support and welcome new comers to Canada to welcome and support people of all cultures, races and religions. She fully embraces both our diverse culture and our need to be an inclusive and welcoming society and demonstrates this through her actions. Earlier this year when tragedy struck the Muslim Community following the Quebec shootings Arliene worked actively to support and participate in the Rings of Peace initiative, a show of solidarity with the Muslim Community, creating a ring of peace around a Mississauga Mosque.

Arliene and Ron commuted to their schools together every day, Ron dropping Arliene off at Jane while he continued on to Westview. After his sudden death in 1986, leaving a 41 year Arliene widowed with 5 children between 12-21 years old, Arliene knew she had to be strong for her children but that it would be difficult to return to Jane. By this time she had been teaching at Bet Sefer Solel for several years and had even taken courses to learn Hebrew so she could teach it. She applied for and became the new Educator of Solel, following in the footsteps of Ella Stoch and Joy Wasserman. Despite the many tragedies that Arliene endured in her life, she never shied away from living or growing. In 1991 she earned her Masters Degree in Education from OISE and then in 1995 she earned the title of Reform Jewish Educator from the National Association of Temple Educators. Over her many years at Solel Arliene has taught over 600 students as they progressed from nursery through to Kallah in grade 10. She has helped and supported 546 Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Arliene has been actively engaged in all aspects of Solel but especially the school. She has never called in sick, even when she should have, and rarely missed a Sunday or Tuesday in over 30 years. She knows the name of every child she has ever taught and she treats everyone of them like her own. She so passionately believes in teaching our own that all of the teachers in the school are parents and/or congregants. Many of our teachers are former students and are second or third generation Soleniks. Some of our teachers would have retired years ago but are so dedicated to Arliene and the school that they continue to come back year after year – some were even hoping that this would be the year that Arliene retired, but I am happy to say that she is still going strong and plans to continue her teaching for years to come, so I guess your role as teachers will continue. Arliene’s student connection goes far beyond Bet Sefer Solel, every year she welcomes over 100 Catholic High schools across the region and close to 2000 students a year into Solel to learn about Judaism and ensure they learn not just about our differences but our commonalties. She has taught so many that everyone’s beliefs and customs are important and she has continued to encourage positive dialogue amongst our youth. Arliene also speaks at numerous Mosques, Temples and Churches across many faiths and has participated on many interfaith forums.

Perhaps Arliene’s great accomplishment though has been as a role model to not just her many students but to her children and grand children. It is not what my mother says that makes her so special but what she does; Arliene is the embodiment of actions speak louder than words. I have watched her embrace life long learning and she has raised children and grand children who value education. She shown us that woman can raise happy healthy children while still having successful meaningful careers. She has shown that you cannot give up when tragedy strikes and she has demonstrated through everything that she does that creating a caring respectful community is vitally important. Khalil Gabran said, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind”.

Arliene embodies all that Solel is and I am so proud today to honour her on behalf of Solel and to tell her that she is the greatest mother and bubbie that a child could ever hope for and she is our hero. Mazel Tov!

Filed under: President's Message

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