Tamara Fathi is the recipient of the 2014 Freiman Family Young Leadership Award. The award recognizes a person under the age of 40 who has contributed actively and has rendered exceptional service to Ottawa’s Jewish community.
“This is a huge honour,” said Fathi. “It was completely unexpected. I am extremely overwhelmed. I love what I do for the Ottawa community. It is a huge honour to be recognized for something you love to do.”
Fathi, 32, began volunteering at age 16 when she delivered kosher meals-on-wheels. But, long before that, she remembers tagging along with her parents, Ellen and Ray Fathi – who have held a number of leadership positions in the Jewish community, including co-chairing telethons and walkathons – and helping out in whatever way she could.
“That’s how I grew up,” she said. “Volunteering was what you do. My parents taught me that it’s important to give back to the community. When they co-chaired telethon, I ran cards. When my mother went to a synagogue sisterhood meeting, I went with her.”
Fathi’s nomination for the award was spearheaded by Sharon Diamond.
“Tamara is not only the perfect candidate for the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, but an excellent example of a dedicated young woman who goes over and above to contribute to her community, and make it a better place for her generation, and generations to come,” wrote Diamond in her nomination letter.
Fathi has co-chaired the Sisterhood Committee of Congregation Machzikei Hadas and was part of the synagogue’s search committee for a new spiritual leader. She chaired the Social Action Mission to Israel, helped organize the Dragon Boat Foundation’s fundraising event and participated in the inaugural Dragon Boat Israel festival. She sat on the board of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and is currently a member of the Federation’s Finance Committee.
It is her role as co-founder of jnet, a grassroots organization aimed at bringing together young Jewish professionals and graduate students in Ottawa, that she is most proud of.
“Ottawa is a transient town, with so many young adult Jews who come to study or work here, or who were born here. Yet there was nothing bringing them together. A small group of us got together with the goal of changing that. We wanted to showcase Ottawa, to show that it is a vibrant city. It worked. It’s all about the network.”
Howard Fremeth was also part of jnet’s founding group.
“Today, Ottawa is blessed with one of the most dynamic young adult Jewish communities in Canada,” he wrote in a letter of support for Fathi’s nomination. “I am certain that this dramatic shift would never have happened without the commitment and dedication of Tamara Fathi. … In trying to make Ottawa a better place for her to live and to make a future for herself, Tamara has made Ottawa a better place for all young Jewish adults.”
A graduate of Hillel Academy, the pioneering class of Yitzhak Rabin High School and Carleton University, Fathi describes herself as “totally a product of Ottawa’s Jewish community.” She has studied or worked in six countries – Canada, Ecuador, Belgium, Spain, France and the United States – and has two master’s degrees.
After obtaining an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, she got a job in the U.S., but a poor economy brought her back to Ottawa and a job in global financing with Export Development Canada, where she manages a $4 billion portfolio.
“I never thought that I would move back here from the U.S.,” she said. “I’m so glad I did.”
In addition to crediting her parents for their support and guidance, Fathi considers Marueen Molot and Debbie Halton-Weiss to be her mentors.
“I am truly grateful to have worked with wonderful people,” she said.
Fathi’s nomination was enthusiastically endorsed by several community members, including Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who described her as “extraordinary,” and her uncle, Eli Fathi, who praised “her unwavering commitment to making a difference to the lives of people in the Ottawa Jewish community.”
The recipient of the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award also receives the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award, which allows the recipient to attend the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (GA) where young leaders from across North America are honoured. The GA will be held this year from November 9 to 11 in Washington, D.C.
The Freiman Family Young Leadership and Lawrence Greenberg Young Leader-ship Development Awards will be presented to Tamara Fathi at the annual general meeting of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on Wednesday, June 18, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.