The Jewish Federation of Ottawa unveiled its five-year strategic plan for 2014 to 2019, celebrated the achievements of volunteers and lay leaders, and honoured three deserving award recipients at its 80th annual general meeting, June 18, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
The meeting began on a solemn note as Rabbi Barry Schlesinger of Agudath Israel Congregation led the assembly in prayer for the quick and safe return of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, the three Israeli teens abducted the week before in the West Bank.
Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak also expressed Israel’s concern for the kidnapped yeshiva students and thanked Ottawa’s Jewish community for its ongoing support and solidarity.
After the meeting, many in the crowd held up signs displaying the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys as photos were taken to contribute to the international social media campaign on behalf of the three Israeli teens.
Federation vice-chair Linda Kerzner – who chaired the board committee that developed the strategic plan – gave a presentation outlining the process and major highlights of the five-year plan. (See the article on page 9 for detailed information on the strategic plan.)
As Kerzner noted, the strategic plan was about inclusivity and building community, a theme that echoed throughout the evening.
“Building community is not a spectator sport,” said Federation Chair Steven Kimmel. It is a sign of a “healthy, evolving community” when members decide to embrace change and take on leadership roles.
Leadership was also addressed in an inspiring D’var Torah delivered by Rabbi Yehuda Simes and in comments by Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman.
The only way to become a more vibrant Jewish community is if more people actively participate, said Freedman, noting that attracting and developing new volunteers and leaders is one of the goals of the new strategic plan.
A high point of the meeting came when Federation past-chair Debbie Halton-Weiss presented the three community service awards.
Mitchell Bellman, the former Federation president and CEO, was presented with the Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award, the highest tribute offered by Ottawa’s Jewish community.
Over the course of his career at the Federation, Bellman said many community members repeatedly told him they would never want his job as CEO, thinking it was thankless and difficult.
“The truth of the matter is, I love serving the Jewish community,” Bellman said. “I love seeing the magic of what our collective actions can accomplish. I love helping people get the most out of their experiences.”
Henry Molot received the Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award, which recognizes an outstanding and active community volunteer who, through many years of service, has contributed to the enrichment of Jewish life in Ottawa.
Molot was recognized for his many years of engagement, service and leadership within a diverse range of activities, organizations and community agencies. While he never sought recognition for his actions, Molot warrants it, said Halton-Weiss.
Molot said he was surprised when he got the call and learned he would receive the award this year.
“It’s not false modesty on my part to recognize how many very active and deserving volunteers there are in the Jewish community, who make extraordinary contributions to not only within the Jewish community, but also the Ottawa community-at-large,” he said.
Tamara Fathi received the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, which annually recognizes outstanding volunteerism and community leadership of someone under the age of 40.
Receiving the award “is an incredible honour,” said Fathi. “It is so much a part of who I am and something I just love to do.”
Fathi said she finally realized how much volunteering in the community truly means to her when she was asked about her extensive volunteer experience when she was interviewing for her “dream job” at Export Development Canada, where she now works.
“I am a product of my environment,” said Fathi, who attributed her love of volunteerism to the examples set by her parents.
As recipient of the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, Fathi also received the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award, which will allow her to attend the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (GA) where she will join other young leaders from across North America in being honoured.
This year’s GA will be in Washington, D.C. from November 9 to 11.