Article About Dani

Honoring love and justice

Evening to celebrate Danielle Horwitz is April 6. March 15, 2013


“Anyone who knew Dani will tell you she was the most generous person you could meet. She cared for all equally, whether it was her ailing mom at the Brier, her family and friends, her work associates and the thousands of clients she influenced, or the needy street people she encountered,” said Phil Moses about his late wife Danielle Horwitz. It is a sentiment echoed many times by those who knew and worked with her.

To honor Horwitz’s memory and to help promote the values that she upheld, Moses has established the Danielle Horwitz Social Justice Award, which will be the focus of the inaugural Artists for Education Benefit, an evening of music and friendship, on April 6 at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

Horwitz was trained as a social worker in South Africa, where she worked with underprivileged populations until coming to Canada and settling in Vancouver. As the regional coordinator at the Justice Education Society housed at the courthouse downtown, Horwitz spent 17 years helping disadvantaged local youth and adults navigate the justice system.

Moses told the Independent that he has been honored to have several friends, family members and Horwitz’s former colleagues help put the evening together. “I am working with a committee of local leaders who are brilliant,” he said. “The Justice Education Society, the Vancouver Secondary Administrators Association, the JCC and the Rothstein Theatre jumped on board immediately. Local artists contacted me and we have a wide assortment of fabulous art [for auction].”

The evening will feature several local musical acts, as well. “A number of gifted professional musicians have offered their services,” explained Moses, “including Harriet Frost,

Rebecca Jenkins, Joel Bakan, Jim Byrnes. Joe Marcovitch and his fabulous band will play too.” Moses and Horwitz’s daughters, Zavi and Joelle, will act as the evening’s emcees.

“Dani and I hosted lots of music evenings over the years. This is an extension of what we did at home,” he said. Moses will also contribute his musical talents, on guitar.

The benefit evening will begin with Havdalah, said Dina Wachtel, a friend of Horwitz’s who helped organized the benefit. “Dani was a spiritual person,” she told the Independent. “Havdalah fits for a number of symbolic reasons, including the separation of darkness and light, the end of something wonderful and a new beginning….” Wachtel said she is pleased at the chance to help grow the Danielle Horwitz Social Justice Award, which was originally established when Horowitz was diagnosed with cancer.

Proceeds from the April 6 event will go to the endowment-supported award, which will each year help a youth in financial need pursue post-secondary studies, explained Moses. The recipient of the award will receive up to $12,000. In order to select the recipient, Moses said he has organized a panel.

“Her passing left an enormous hole in her family and it shocked us all. She was really a special woman. She never ever said a bad word about anyone or any situation. She was so down to earth and humble,” said Wachtel. Moses added, “She really loved life and fellow human beings in the most genuine way; a truly unique individual, and most of us feel honored to carry on her legacy of giving and kindness.” Moses hopes to raise $300,000 dollars over the next few years in order to make the award sustainable.

A statement about the award on the Justice Education Society’s website reads, “As the Vancouver provincial court coordinator … Dani provided programs to students, youth at risk, and Aboriginal, ethnic and immigrant communities. She also helped those working within the justice system become aware of the humanity of all people and the barriers people face in accessing the justice system.

“Her work taught us all about cultural diversity, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction and other social issues that bring people to the justice system,” it continues. “Thousands of her students, teachers, members of the downtown eastside community, court staff and colleagues in all areas of the justice system would say they have experienced firsthand the gifts Danielle provided: thoughtfulness, kindness, laughter, virtue and, above all, joyous love, patience and devotion.”

There are various levels of suggested giving, but Moses said most tickets purchased so far have been the $180 patron level or $250 for a couple. “Many generous community members have contributed in the $1,800 to $3,600 level,” he noted. The capacity of the venue is 300 and he expects tickets to sell out.

Many friends of the family have came forward and donated items for a silent auction to raise more funds, as well. “We have some really interesting items, Moses said, including “a harbor boat cruise, a couples workshop, jewelry and artwork by local artists, to name a few of the items. People were jumping forward to help and to donate.”

Although this outpouring of generosity has put a spotlight on Horwitz’s life, Moses said she always avoided the limelight, despite her many remarkable achievements.

A friend recently told Moses that he believes that Horwitz may have been what the Talmud refers to as one of the mystical anonymous 36 tzadikim, or “lamed vavniks.” These righteous people are believed to walk the earth in every generation and take on roles to help redeem the world. Once one is gone, another fills his/her place. According to Jewish tradition, these special people are so humble, not only would they never reveal their true essence, they may not even know themselves that they are one of these tzadikim. “I didn’t say it,” said Moses, “but I agree that Dani would have qualified.”

For more information, tickets or to make a contribution to the Danielle Horwitz Social Justice Award, Purchase Tickets or Donate Online

Michelle Dodek is a freelancer writer living in Vancouver.