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Rooslana Zodek has built a successful business here after having come to Winnipeg from Israel six years ago

By BERNIE BELLAN It was in the summer of 2016 when I approached then Rady JCC Assistant Executive Director Tamar Barr with an idea: Why not start a “Jewish Business Network” where members of the community with different backgrounds but one common interest could meet on a regular basis? The idea was not new in itself; there had been various attempts previously to do the same sort of thing, including having a “Jewish Chamber of Commerce” as an adjunct to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, but nothing had really taken off.
I was aware that there were many newcomers in our community who were anxious to network – not only with other newcomers, but with longtime members of the community. Tamar – with the full support of then Rady JCC Executive Director Gayle Waxman, was fully supportive of the idea and the JBN launched in the summer of 2016, with the first meeting held outdoors in the Danzker Garden area of the Asper Campus.
For the first three years the JBN was a terrific success. With regular meetings and interesting guest speakers,with at times meetings attracting over 100 attendees, there were plenty of opportunities for newcomers to mix with older members of our community. Two of our guest speakers in those first two years, and who attracted quite large crowds in particular were well known businesspeople Brian Scharfstein and Sandy Shindelman.
Over time, however, the JBN came to be a forum for newcomers themselves to speak to the audience – and their audiences began to be made up largely of fellow newcomers. While that may have been worthwhile, I felt that the JBN was deviating from its original purpose, which was to have newcomers and longtime Winnipeggers mix.
Then came Covid – and the JBN was put on hiatus.
This past fall, however, under the direction of Sheldon Appelle, Rady JCC Manager of Marketing, Communications & Digital Content, the JBN was “back in business” so to speak. I didn’t manage to make it to that fall meeting, but on January 24 I did attend the most recent meeting of the JBN.
The guest speaker was Rooslana Zodek, who arrived in Winnipeg with her husband and two children in 2016. (Since then Rooslana has had another child, born in Winnipeg.)
Rooslana Zodek has quite an interesting background. Born in Ukraine, Roolsana and her husband lived in Ashdod for 26 years before emigrating here in 2016.
She said that she had worked as a financial adviser for Bank Leumi for many years – until she transitioned into a completely different field, which was the subject of her talk. Rooslana explained that she had acquired a Bachelor of Economics and Accounting Studies degree from something called the “Open University” in Israel.
After she made that remark, Rooslana asked the audience, which numbered about 60, how many had also studied in the Open University? Quite a few hands shot up. I admit I had never heard of the Open University, so once I got home, I did some research and found out that it’s an online university in Israel which was established in 1974. It offers quite an array of courses at both the Bachelors and Masters level with all courses taught in Hebrew, but several also offered in Russian and Arabic. Since opening almost 50 years ago, over 50,000 students have graduated from the Open University, with 47,000 students currently registered taking at least one course. Its flexibility is particularly popular among soldiers, who are able to enroll even while serving in the military.
Returning to Rooslana – the turning point in her life, she said, came in 2009 with the birth of her first child, Ethan. Rooslana suffered from postpartum depression, she explained.
“I knew I had to find different ways to help myself, but I didn’t know where to start,” she said.
The search for possible therapies eventually led Rooslana to discover a number of different holistic approaches that worked for her, including “aromatherapy, Reiki, and homeopathy – after trying many healing practices.”
(Ed. note: Although I am writing about the path Rooslana took I do not intend anything I write to be taken as an endorsement of any particular treatment.)
As Rooslana explained, “spirituality transformed my postpartum mental health and helped me through the recovery process.”
It was while researching aromatherapy that Rooslana said she discovered that by combining various “essential oils” in different combinations she was able to help, not only herself, but the other members of her family as well with various conditions. Eventually, as she went on to relate, it was through the study of aromatherapy that Rooslana was able to open her own business here: “scentifique.ca.”
During her talk Rooslana spent quite a bit of time describing the benefits of certain essential oils, but we won’t get into any of those descriptions here. (If you want to find out more about what Roolsana says aromatherapy can do for you, go to scentifique.ca.)
In 2014, Rooslana’s second child was born, a daughter, Neomi. Rooslana said that, thanks to the holistic treatments to which she now subscribed, she “knew what to expect this time (insofar as postpartum depression is concerned) and I was prepared.”
However, Neomi also suffered from a terrible case of eczema, Rooslana explained. By combining certain essential oils, Rooslana said she was able to relieve the eczema, but once she stopped applying them, “the condition came back.” That experience – along with her previous experience dealing with her depression convinced her to further her knowledge of aromatherapy.
Upon coming to Canada though, Rooslana first found work as a full-time financial advisor with RBC. All the while though she was advancing her study of aromatherapy, going so far as to go to Europe for further training.
“I went back to school (in England) to learn about aromatherapy, natural skincare formulation, and nutrition,” she explained. (European schools are much better for learning about skincare, Rooslana added.)
Subsequently, Rooslana switched to a part time position at RBC and, in 2019, registered her online business, Scentifique Holistic wellness boutique. One year ago she joined the Essential Balance Center on Grant Avenue and began working as one of the practitioners there.
It was at that point in her talk that Rooslana made a number of observations that have special relevance for newcomers to our community, including that “it is very easy to start a business in Canada as opposed to Israel.”
“I opened a business account,” she noted, and “it took me only an hour to register my business.”
“In the beginning I was making things only for my family,” she observed, but then friends began asking her to develop skincare products for them, “and those friends told other friends.”
“Most of my clients are word of mouth,” Rooslana said. She also does a fair number of workshops – where she is able to bring her kids along, not only to share their company, but also to help her set up. (You might have seen Rooslana at her booth during Yom Ha’atsmaut at the Campus, also during Folklorama.)
“If I have an event I try to take the kids with me,” she noted. “If I’m at a market I try to make them part of a family business. It makes them feel engaged.”
One other interesting observation Rooslana made is that “men are my most loyal customers.”
Still, working part-time at RBC, then spending a good deal of the rest of her time devoted to her business must be quite demanding, as one audience member asked Rooslana: “How do you combine everything in a day?”
“At times it’s tough,” Rooslana admitted. But she does set aside “Sunday as a family day,” she noted. “I try to spend time after work at the bank with the kids,” she added, seeing “clients only after 9 pm during the week.”
But, not only is Rooslana actively engaged in developing her business, she is also a regular volunteer – both for the Jewish community and the Ukrainian community – from where she came. She thanked the Jewish Federation and, in particular, Dalia Szpiro, for helping her and her family in their move to Winnipeg over six years ago.
Moreover, along with several other members of our Jewish community who also came from Ukraine originally, Rooslana spends a fair bit of time providing assistance, by giving financial advice, to Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Winnipeg since the Russian invasion of their country almost one year ago.
Where she gets the energy to do all that she does is hard to understand, but Rooslana Zodek is an example of the kind of spirit that so many newcomers to Winnipeg have embodied over the years. So many of our own ancestors followed a similar path – by working from home to fashion a successful business. Rooslana – and so many other newcomers to our community display a kind of energy and drive that is inspiring to see.

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