Henry Molot has been selected to receive the 2014 Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award. The award recognizes an outstanding and active volunteer within the Jewish community who, through many years of service, has contributed to the enrichment of Jewish life in Ottawa.
“A community could not survive without its volunteers,” said Molot.
“So, I guess I represent the hundreds of volunteers who are working to support and strengthen our community. This award has been given to me on behalf of them.”
Molot chaired the board of Hillel Academy and sat on the boards of the Jewish National Fund, the Ottawa Jewish Historical Society, Young Israel of Ottawa, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Jewish Family Services and Yitzhak Rabin High School. He currently serves on the Ethics Committee of the Ottawa Hospital, is the assistant gabbai at Hillel Lodge and is a steadfast fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign.
His most enduring volunteer commitment has been to the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha, which he joined 30 years ago.
“I found the hands-on nature of the work more gratifying than other volunteer activities,” he said. “Often, when you volunteer, you are raising money or making administrative decisions. This is more immediate, more personal.”
Molot made his work with the Chevra Kadisha a priority in his life, which included organizing and leading the organization’s annual general meeting, its annual fast day services and the annual banquet. He assumed the leadership of it in 2011.
“He has done great service in so many ways in the community,” said Rabbi Arnold Fine. “Certainly most recently with the Chevra Kadisha, carefully moving that august and very traditional organization to view and accept different methods and regulations.”
Born and raised in Ottawa, Molot grew up in the Glebe, where his father, a pharmacist, owned a drug store. He studied law at the University of Ottawa and Yale Law School.
After graduating, he accepted a position as a law professor at the University of Ottawa and then at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. In Edmonton, Molot joined a shul and, before long, the 30-year-old assumed his first volunteer role when he was recruited to sit on the synagogue board.
On his return to Ottawa, Molot began a distinguished, 36-year career with the Department of Justice, as well as an enduring community volunteering commitment. In addition to his highly regarded legal work, Molot organized weekly Talmud classes at the office with the input of local rabbis and created a weekly Parshat Ha’Shavuah commentary, which he distributed to hundreds of people worldwide.
The Ottawa Law Review described Molot as a “consummate administrative law practitioner and scholar” and “a leading authority on administrative law,” who wrote more than 1,700 legal opinions during his career. When he retired in 2007, Molot was given the Public Service Award of Excellence for an Outstanding Career.
“It strikes me how many people I know because of my involvement in the community,” said Molot.
“Volunteering strengthens your connection to the community, to the people you meet who feel committed like you, and to Israel.”
Molot is married to Maureen, a Carleton University professor who was the first woman to be president of the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa/Vaad Ha’Ir (now the Jewish Federation of Ottawa), and the Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award recipient last year. They have two children and six grandchildren.
The Molots are recognized as “community connectors,” regularly opening their home to people, including Israeli ambassadors, on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays.
“We do not have much family here and my wife is very involved in outreach at the university, meeting Jews who are working or studying away from home,” Molot said. “It is always so interesting to have new people and different ideas at our table.”
According to Adam Dodek, vice-dean research and associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, whose family has enjoyed the Molots’ hospitality, “The Ottawa Jewish community is blessed with many outstanding dedicated volunteers. Henry has never sought recognition for the mitzvot that he does, but he warrants it.”
“I am grateful to the community,” said the self-effacing Molot. “I don’t know if I am a role model to others, but I hope I have made a difference.
“I’d like to think that I left the Chevra Kadisha and the other organizations I have been involved in stronger and more viable than when I joined. Maybe we are enriching others by recruiting them to engage in activities they may have never considered or thought about.
“This award was such a surprise. Who thinks they will win an award for doing what they love to do?”
The Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award will be presented to Henry Molot at the annual general meeting of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on Wednesday, June 18, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.