One of the Ottawa Jewish community’s most dedicated volunteers received international recognition for her lifelong service when Sunny Tavel accepted the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland (KWF) Award at the International Lion of Judah conference in New York City on September 9.
“I’m extremely honoured and humbled to get this award, in particular because of the people who have gone before me who have already received the award, both from our community and across North America,” she said.
The KWF Award, named for the Lion of Judah’s founders, is one of the highest honours a member can receive, requiring at least 10 years of commitment to the international women’s philanthropy group in addition to demonstrated leadership qualities by giving back to the community.
Tavel was one of 77 KWF Award recipients from across North America and Israel to be recognized for her contributions at this year’s conference. About 17,000 women worldwide are members of Lion of Judah, established in 1972 in Miami, Florida, by Norma Kipnis-Wilson and the late Toby Friedland.
“It’s very exciting to think that such new ideas and new work is going on and involving more and more people all the time,” she said by phone from the conference, where “the pride” gathered to share experiences and learn from each other’s community initiatives.
Among Tavel’s decades of community leadership and giving, she said co-chairing the Women’s Division fundraising campaign in the mid-1980s and chairing the general campaign in the mid-1990s were “highlights,” in addition to the many missions to Israel – as well as to Poland and Russia – that she has participated in.
“To be part of a movement that is so impactful of other people’s lives, that meant more to me than anything,” she said.
A woman can join Lion of Judah with a minimum donation of $5,000 to her community’s Annual Campaign. Tavel said she knows she is fortunate to be able to give at that level and stresses that gifts of any size are equally valuable when considering the well-being of future generations.
“It’s very exciting to be involved with the community at any level,” Tavel said. “We’ve got Jewish poverty in our community, we’ve got people who need us more than ever and we’ve got to help ourselves. And, I think, for the most part, people do.”
Tavel said she is in good company with other local Lions who have committed themselves to the Ottawa Jewish community.
The KWF Awards are presented every second year. Ottawa’s previous recipients are Elissa Iny (2012), Bonnie Merovitz (2010), the late Ethel Taylor (2008) and Donna Dolansky (2006).
“I feel so lucky that I can stand up and be counted,” Tavel said. “I’ve done a lot of community work in my life, and I just got very excited this morning about something that I heard, and thought there’s still a project or two left in me yet.”
A Lion of Judah endowment fund that can be used to honour Ottawa’s KWF recipients has recently been established with the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.
For information about donations and tribute cards, visit www.ojcf.ca.