One of the founders of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation calls it a “miracle” that the Foundation got started back in 1971.
But the Foundation has thrived, and 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the partnership between the Jewish Federation of Ottawa – known as the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa/Vaad Ha’Ir until 2005 – and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.
The Foundation gives donors a vehicle to contribute to the long-term financial stability of the Ottawa Jewish community and to support the needs of the agencies serving it.
“The work of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Foundation are synergistic,” said Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Federation and the Foundation. “The Federation’s Annual Campaign takes care of needs today, while the Foundation contributes to meeting today’s needs, and also secures our future. At the Foundation, we like to say that there you actually can ‘live forever’ by making a legacy gift.”
“We are working together, and our partnership is of great benefit to the community. It’s a holistic way of looking at our community,” said Foundation Chair Lynne Oreck-Wener. “Our missions are different, but we work co-operatively. We give a significant amount to the Federation from our allocated funds every year. Working in partnership and shared staff makes so much more sense.”
“We’ve recently strengthened and expanded our relationship through legacy gifts,” said Federation Chair Steven Kimmel. “The Federation Annual Campaign currently has more than 2,200 donors and, with the strengthening of our partnership, we will continue to have discussions and provide education to our donors.”
Kimmel said that, when Andrea Freedman came on board a year-and-a-half ago, “we realigned even closer, because we now have one CEO for both organizations. It’s a new and exciting way to do business.”
The Foundation was launched when far-sighted community leaders Gilbert Greenberg and Bernard Shinder, as well as Vaad executive director Hy Hochberg foresaw the need for a financial resource to maintain the Jewish community’s fiscal structure and safeguard its future.
“If it weren’t for Gilbert Greenberg, it never would have happened,” recalled Shinder, an international tax/trade attorney since 1965, who was Foundation president from 1977 to 1979 and is still a member of its professional advisory committee.
“Gilbert walked into my office, and said to me, ‘If I were a client, would you take this on?’
“I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Fine, I’m a client. I’m not paying.’”
So Shinder took on the task of doing the legal work to establish the Foundation.
“I went to see a prominent Jewish tax lawyer in Toronto, Wolf Goodman, and we agreed that this is going to work. Within a matter of months we had a charter.”
The next step was the difficult one, said Shinder, recalling that the Department of National Revenue (now the Canada Revenue Agency) turned down the Foundation’s initial requests for a charitable number. “It took a visit by me to one of their senior people, and they ultimately agreed,” he said.
In the following weeks, Jewish community foundations in Montreal and Toronto also received their charters.
“We all consulted together. That was the beginning of the movement,” said Shinder.
“This movement in Ottawa was very controversial at the time in the Jewish community. It was felt this would take away from what was then the UJA. A number of prominent people were against it happening, but they came on board later on,” added Shinder. “The first gift was made by a client of mine, Michael R. Freedman, who wanted to do something important for his 80th birthday. He gave us $100,000. He ensured the legitimacy of the organization.”
The first directors of the Foundation were Alex Betcherman, Hyman Bessin, Gilbert Greenberg, Hy Harris, Hyman Soloway, Abraham Palmer, Harold Shenkman, Bernard Shinder, Sam Taller and Norman Zagerman.
The first president of the Foundation was Gilbert Greenberg. By 1974, Casey Swedlove was serving as the Foundation’s executive secretary, a role he would fulfil for more than two decades.
Browsing recently in the Ottawa Jewish Archives, Federation Vice-President (community building) Bram Bregman found some interesting documents. The Annual Report of the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa/Vaad Ha’Ir for 1974 expressed delight at the Freedman endowment, as well as the inauguration of the Harold Flagal Memorial Fund.
The 1975 report noted, as a result of “three functions in the form of two luncheons and one dinner meeting, we received 20 Letters of Intent.” Six funds were now being administered: the Michael R. Freedman Endowment Fund, the Harold Shenkman Endowment Fund, the Harold Flagal Memorial Fund, the Phillip Cohen Memorial Scholarship Fund, the David Zbar Memorial Fund and the Louise Greenberg Memorial Fund.
“We have high hopes,” wrote then-Foundation president Gilbert Greenberg, “that the Foundation will continue this growth, and eventually become a valuable source of revenue in the Jewish Community of Ottawa.”
With the 40th anniversary of the Foundation and Federation working together, Oreck-Wener said she looks forward to “continuing the strengths of our partnership and serving the community to the best of our joint abilities.”