Volunteerism, work, and family: Howard Fremeth, the recipient of the 2015 Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, knows how to connect all three to make a life meaningful.
The award, established in 1988 by the Freiman family, recognizes a community member under the age of 40 for his or her exceptional volunteerism and service to the Ottawa Jewish community.
Fremeth, 34, has been a pillar of the community’s emerging generation, connecting young professionals of all backgrounds and affiliations through initiatives like jnet, a grassroots organization he founded in 2008 that hosts events and offers mentorship for new arrivals to Ottawa.
The young father, who is director of communications at the Embassy of Israel in Ottawa, and was a founding board member of the Glebe Shul, said he is passionate about connecting the sometimes fragmented members of the Ottawa Jewish community’s emerging generation; even now, with family life dominating his after-work schedule.
“You get so busy, especially when you just become a dad, and you’re not going to Glebe Shul Friday night dinners or young adult, emerging gen, post-Yom Ha’Atzmaut parties [because] your schedule is totally different,” he said.
But, he added, organizing an event for young fathers (and mothers) is doable with the right planning and mindset.
The pinball machines and arcade games at the House of Targ bar was a definite draw for the dads, bringing out about 30 people to a recent Dad’s Night Out event organized in part through the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Emerging Generation Division.
Fremeth said it is highly satisfying to host successful events, but it is even more meaningful to know that he is helping to organize these kinds of events for young parents so they can connect more strongly with their peers and become more involved with the community.
“In your 20s, you have more free time to do that kind of stuff,” both going to events and volunteering, he said of his own increasingly busy schedule.
Fremeth said he hopes more events organized through PJ Library can help connect or reconnect more new parents into the Jewish social scene and create lasting relationships.
“For this demographic, it’s probably one of the best things out there,” he said. After signing up for the free books, he said “it’s great to go to the next level and meet other people in the community. It reminds me a lot of the stuff we did with jnet a few years ago.”
Fremeth added he hopes others will also help build on existing structures and organizations in order to keep empowering the emerging generation.
Fremeth will be in Israel attending the Keren Hayesod-UIA 2015 World Conference when the community volunteer awards are presented during the annual general meeting of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on June 17, so he’s expected to speak via pre-recorded video.