As co-chairs of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa 2016 Annual Campaign, we could use this column to ask you to help make this the most successful campaign to date. We could tell you what you already know – we need to grow the campaign to meet the ever-increasing needs of our community as serviced by 23 beneficiary agencies. But, when we thought about how best to inspire you, it dawned on us: everyone has a story, so why not tell you ours to help you understand why Federation is so important to us.
Jeff’s story: I grew up in Montreal and didn’t move to Ottawa until 1984 with my wife Rhoda and young son. I was very fortunate to have met the late Gerry Levitz and received a great opportunity at GGFL.
When you move to a new city, there is a fear that it might not feel like home. I cannot tell you that story because the Ottawa Jewish community embraced me from the outset.
Without Hillel Academy, now the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), Camp B’nai Brith (CBB), and the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC), all beneficiary agencies, I don’t know what my life in Ottawa would have been like.
I met many of my friends through the Jewish Men’s Basketball and Softball Leagues. My two children attended Hillel from kindergarten to Grade 8 and went to CBB from seven until they were counsellors, where they developed many life-long friends. These two institutions played a major part in shaping who they are.
Over the years, I have been involved on numerous boards and committees, and served as chair of both Hillel Academy and Hillel Lodge. Needless to say, the Jewish community made this city home to me from Day 1. Some people might say I had a responsibility to become involved as a result, and, while that may be true, it has really been my privilege.
I am now inspired by future generations and I want to ensure that all families will feel welcome and have the same opportunities my family enjoyed.
Sharon’s story: Born and raised in Ottawa, I have been fortunate to see first-hand what the Ottawa Jewish community has to offer. As a child, I attended Hillel Academy, SJCC day camp and CBB. The experiences at these institutions shaped me and left me with a lifetime’s worth of friends and memories. Most notably, it is within this community that I met and married my husband David, who has been a wonderful role model to me and continues to serve as a board member for OJCS, CBB, Federation, Machzikei Hadas and others.
I have also since had the pleasure of seeing the impact that Hillel, CBB, Birthright and March of the Living have had on our three children. Like Jeff’s kids, these institutions played a large role in shaping them. And the impact extends beyond my household. I am so thankful to have had Hillel Lodge available for my parents. My mother was a resident and received exceptional care, while my father was so proud to be a weekly volunteer in his retirement.
Finally, I am not one to turn down a challenge. When Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman challenged me to take on the role of Chair of the Lion of Judah division for another year and then the Women’s Chair for the Annual Campaign, I accepted half-nervously, half-excitedly. I knew that in these roles I would need to stretch beyond my comfort zone, but the challenge to deliver meaningful change was too compelling. Not only would I be helping to ensure a healthy future for the community I love, it would also ensure a healthier Andrea. Yes, Andrea agreed to give up Diet Coke in exchange for my acceptance, which, for those who know Andrea, was no small concession. I am pleased to report that she is down to only one per day.
Your story: Everyone reading this also has a story that may inspire others, and we want to hear yours! Email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.