It is our honour and privilege to be the co-chairs of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Annual Campaign for 2017. This campaign is not about Federation, it is not about agencies, but instead is about all of us, our community, our kehillah. As chairs, we are here today, and to the end of the campaign, to help, to push, to prod and to remind everyone, that it is a blessing to live in a place like Ottawa, and a community like ours.
Both of us grew up here, and have benefited from what our community has to offer. Our educations, our summers, our faith, our recreation and our culture have all been fashioned by the community built by the generations that came before us. Our parents, our grandparents, and the multitude of those with whom we have no familial connection who built this community, provided us with the opportunity to grow up Jewishly in this city, to live Jewishly, and to raise our children Jewishly.
There is a lesson in this. The Torah was given to our people by God, but it is every generation that sustains it, and passes it along to our children. Our community was given to us by those people, each of whom left their old countries, and came to Ottawa to build a life for themselves and their children. When they needed a mikvah, they came together and built it; when they needed shuls, they came together and built them; community centres, schools, summer camps, agencies to help the less-privileged, the differently-abled, those who lacked for food, the elderly, these were all built by those who came together to create both the bricks and mortar of a community, and also put the human resources in place to make our community work for the people living in it.
Those builders, both at the beginning and as the Ottawa Jewish community grew and matured, were giants. At the beginning especially, they often had nothing – but were determined to live as Jews in this new country. They knew that what they were doing was their responsibility, because if they didn’t do it, no one would do it for them. They knew it was a community that they were building for themselves in the present, and for their children and grandchildren and all future generations.
So how does that apply today?
As our community has prospered, there has developed a tendency to think that others will look after things. As organized institutions have developed, too often we think that those institutions will take care of our communal needs. But at the end of the day, it remains up to us to make sure that the human resources are there; that we give of our time to help make the trains run on time. And it remains up to us to provide the financial resources, the fuel to run those trains.
Whether you take advantage of all the community has to offer or not, as a people we have always known the need to make sure it is there for others, and for us. None of us know what decision or need is around the corner, and even if you never use it, as a people, we must make sure it is there for others who do.
As young people when we come of age, we all learn that we must no longer depend on our parents to do for us. As a community, we must learn that we can no longer depend solely on institutions and our largest philanthropists to ensure that our community exists for us today, and for our children tomorrow. Maintaining and building community is truly a lifetime commitment we all must make.
We must recognize that indeed, it is Our Community. Our Responsibility. Our Future. Please help us maintain what we have today, and build for tomorrow.