The Jewish Federation of Ottawa has announced that Debbie Scharf will receive this year’s Freiman Family Young Leadership Award.
Scharf will receive the award at the Federation’s annual general meeting, Wednesday, June 15, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. The Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, established by the Freiman family in 1988, recognizes a young leader for their exceptional volunteerism and service to the Ottawa Jewish community.
Despite being extremely busy with her job and young family, Scharf, an ex-Montrealer who came to Ottawa 15 years ago, always finds time for volunteering.
“I think it’s important to make a contribution to the community,” she said. “In a small community like Ottawa, if we don’t all contribute, our institutions won’t survive and thrive.”
JET (Jewish Education through Torah) was Scharf’s introduction to the Ottawa Jewish community when she moved to Ottawa after completing her graduate degree in environmental economics.
Scharf joined the JET board in 2008 and became its chair in 2010, providing strategic guidance and financial stewardship of the organization. She is also vice-chair of the board of Ten Yad of Ottawa, a volunteer-run, community-based, independent organization that “lends a hand” to individuals and families in the Jewish community during life-altering situations.
She joined the board of Torah Academy of Ottawa almost two years ago as treasurer and is currently chairing the transition committee bringing together the Torah Academy and Rambam Day School communities in one Orthodox day school beginning in September. She will become the school’s board chair when the transition committee complete its work.
Scharf and husband Jeffrey have three children: Eli, seven, Sarah, five, and Aryeh, three. She works at Natural Resources Canada as a director in the office of energy efficiency.
“I think people should think about what they’re good at, and try to find an opportunity to use those skills,” she said.
While there are many organizations that need help, “sometimes you have to be proactive,” she said. “I was very fortunate that Ten Yad approached me to go on the board, but sometimes you have to make that opportunity.”
“Debbie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to all her volunteering positions,” said Ilan Metz in his letter nominating Scharf for the award. “She is dedicated, effective and efficient, and has made a strong contribution to all the organizations for which she has volunteered.”
“It does make you feel good that you’re making the Ottawa Jewish community a better place,” Scharf said. “I’m very honoured and very surprised to be receiving the award.”
How does she manage everything?
“I move very quickly at everything I do,” laughs Scharf, who was just back from a Passover visit in Israel with her mother and brother who live in Jerusalem. “I only know one speed – faster – and I have a great husband!”