“This is a minga,” said keynote speaker Marc Kielburger during his presentation at the 2016 Annual Campaign Kickoff of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, September 9, at Centrepointe Theatre.
A minga, he explained, means “the coming together of people to work for the benefit of all.”
Kielburger learned the word from a community leader in the Andes when Free the Children, the group he co-founded with his brother Craig Kielburger, was building its first school in the South American mountains. When the group was having difficulties with construction and with the donkeys being used to transport materials up the mountain, the leader told him, “I will call a minga. Tomorrow there will be a minga. No problem.”
When the sun came up, the entire community, as well as some from further away, marched up the mountain to help finish the school.
Empowering young people to work for the greater good was the essence of Kielburger’s talk. He explained that he and his brother have worked with 2.3 million young people in 10,000 schools throughout Canada and the United States through their Me to We program. Two of them were Ottawa Jewish Community School students Haley Miller and Sadie Sider-Echenberg, who helped to introduce him by telling their own story of a project last year that earned their Grade 6 class the right to attend We Day, a celebration of students’ social justice projects that Me to We holds annually in 14 cities, including Ottawa. “We will never forget this experience,” the girls said.
Kielburger said he was honoured to speak in support of the Federation Annual Campaign. “Think about how to get the next generation involved, and how we can all heal the world,” he urged the audience.
Indeed, as event Co-Chair Stacy Goldstein of the Ben-Gurion Society of Ottawa explained, the kickoff event’s theme was “L’dor v’dor: From Generation to Generation – Inspiring and Empowering Future Generations.”
The kickoff was organized by the Ben-Gurion Society of Ottawa, a group of 31 young Jewish professionals, who have accepted the torch of leadership and philanthropy.
“The Ben-Gurion Society,” said Goldstein, is a networking forum for young Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s, who are actively engaged in significant leadership roles and philanthropy in the Ottawa Jewish community.”
Goldstein said the Ben-Gurion Society represents the next generation of Jewish lay leaders in Ottawa.
“We are all unique in our connection to the Jewish community,” she said, “but this we share: We are motivated. We are committed. We are proud. We are the future.”
Goldstein introduced the evening’s FED Talks format (modelled on the well-known TED Talks). She noted the evening was planned to provide “entertainment, inspiration and an opportunity to understand the impact of your campaign support on the entire Ottawa Jewish community.”
In addition to Kielburger, there were presentations by the New York-based Allison Josephs, founder and director of the Jew in the City blog, which does Jewish outreach, and comedian and Ottawa native Jon Steinberg. Campaign Chair Jeffrey Miller and Women’s Campaign Chair Sharon Appotive also spoke and showed the 2016 Annual Campaign video.
Miller and Appotive thanked those in attendance for “coming out and showing your support” and also thanked “the new generation of community leaders” represented by the Ben-Gurion Society.
The Campaign chairs also called attention to the program’s generation-to-generation theme.
“Tonight’s guest speakers will focus on engagement and why it matters and how each of us needs to take responsibility for our community’s future as a debt we owe to our predecessors and as our gift to our children, grandchildren and future generations,” said Appotive.
Calling attention to the Annual Campaign’s crucial role in supporting the work of Federation and its beneficiary agencies, Miller said it was imperative “to increase both the number of contributors to the campaign and the amount that we raise.”
Miller and Appotive offered a Top 10 list of reasons to support the Annual Campaign, including supporting such core Jewish values as tikkun olam, chesed and tzedakah and – in keeping with the evening’s theme – honouring previous generations and providing for younger generations.
Number one on the Top 10 list, they said, is that “no other gift touches more lives. With one gift to the Federations’ annual campaign, you have the ability, you have the power, to impact the life of every member of Ottawa’s Jewish Community, young and old, well or in need of assistance.”
They also announced that Michael Polowin will succeed Miller as campaign chair next year.
Josephs, wearing a bright red skirt and black top, said “Orthodox Judaism links people to a Jewish heritage that is just as relevant today as it ever was.”
She was just eight years old, she said, when she realized that “something was missing from my life.” Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, she felt the seconds of her life ticking away on a giant Swatch watch that decorated her room.
On a family trip to Hawaii, she was in a rainforest she thought must have looked like the Garden of Eden and said, “God has quite a paintbrush.” She looked up and suddenly knew that “everything has its time and its place.”
During his performance, the bushy-haired Steinberg said all of today’s comedians, Jewish or not, have been influenced by Jewish comedians.
“Encourage your kids to do comedy. It’s a very rewarding career,” he said with a straight face.“Fifteen years in the business, and I finally hit six figures – cumulatively.”
To make a gift to the Annual Campaign, contact Dawn Paterson at 613-798-4696, ext. 272.