The past several weeks have been both trying and inspiring for all of us at NCSY Ottawa.
Late in the evening of May 26, or in the early morning hours of May 27, the NCSY Centre in Centrepointe Plaza, where Torah High classes take place, was broken into. Electronics were stolen and a fire was set, which destroyed most of the contents of the centre. Fortunately, no one was present at the time, so there were no injuries. However, the facility will be unusable for the foreseeable future.
Ottawa Police investigators determined this was a purely random crime as there was nothing to suggest it was a targeted attack against a Jewish community institution. No anti-Semitic graffiti was left behind and no threats were received as is common with a hate crime.
While the fire damage was substantial, it is the events that followed that are the real story.
May 27 was an emotional day as the fire was discovered and its implications realized. We quickly recognized we were facing months of rebuilding that will include major renovations and the restocking of our beloved NCSY Centre. That day, though, new emotions surfaced as students, parents, friends, alumni, colleagues and community members began to reach out to us with well wishes and offers of support.
Many of the students, parents and alumni shared their fond memories of the NCSY Centre and of the positive impact NCSY has had on their lives. Hearing how students developed self-confidence, made new friends, learned the value of volunteering and discovered their love for Judaism has served as a strong reminder about why we do what we do and why we must rebuild.
The past weeks have also shown the overwhelming generosity of Ottawa’s Jewish community. Offers flooded in of spaces to hold Torah High classes while the NCSY Centre is out of commission, new furnishings for a rebuilt centre and financial pledges towards reconstruction. And so many people have offered to volunteer their time in any way necessary.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa quickly established the “NCSY Centre Fire Relief Fund” and the community responded generously with funds that will ensure the NCSY Centre will be rebuilt.
If we are to take anything away from this fire, it is the overwhelmingly kindness, generosity and caring that exists in Ottawa’s Jewish community. Our facility was destroyed, but the people and community that are NCSY Ottawa remain. We will rebuild and continue to serve this amazing community.
Gaby Scarowsky is executive director of NCSY Ottawa.