As I sat down to write my final column as Chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, I was inspired by a radio interview on CBC.
The “All in a Day” show on March 14 showcased the work of Ottawa Jewish Archivist Saara Mortensen. She was discussing the completion of the digitization project providing online access to the complete run of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin from 1937 to the present.
The value of this project for our Jewish community is immense. This paper holds our collective histories and connects us. Now this information is there, protected and easily accessible.
The value of this project immediately highlighted what I hear from so many of you. As volunteers, you do what you do in our community to ensure an essential connection to our history, continuity and foundation for the future.
A series of events then conspired to solidify that inspiration for the theme of this article. One of those was the recent engagement of our daughter, Jessica. With the wedding date this fall, we are happily and busily working to bring everything together. When we talked about putting an announcement in the Bulletin, we decided it would be a good idea for two important reasons.
First, because friends and family members who choose to make a charitable donation to mark the occasion aligns with our desire for a philanthropic component.
Second, because it would create a permanent archival history in our community that cannot be found in any books or answered by Google. How fitting that the date of the wedding is the 80th anniversary of the first issue of the Bulletin!
We are a family that has significantly benefited from tracing our roots. My mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire immediate family. Ultimately, our research resulted in finding more than 60 relatives of hers in Argentina. We have learned the essential importance of being able to trace one’s family history. I knew that all Bulletin issues went into the Ottawa Jewish Archives and future generations could research the names from there. After the Second World War, the names of Jewish orphans were published in the Bulletin with the hope of finding relatives and homes for these children. Ethel Kot Kerzner was one of those children whose family found her because of such publications.
We are soon approaching that time of year when we attend the annual general meetings and school year-ends of many of our organizations. Often, volunteers are recognized and awards are given. We get to celebrate the vast array of talent and dedication at all levels in our community. All of this is recorded now in perpetuity in the pages of the Bulletin.
And each and every volunteer circles back to these similar thoughts. What did I accomplish, what difference did I help make, and did I lay a foundation for the future upon which others can build?
We are incredibly fortunate that we now have free, universal access to the digitized social history of our community. The Bulletin continues to be an essential publication that allows us to share interests, goals, and to work together to achieve them. We are uniquely positioned to provide generations the tools to contribute to the vibrant and vital growth of our community. I am truly proud and humbly grateful to have been able to be a part of that effort.