How well we manage change is a measure of our success, writes Andrea Freedman as she completes her fourth year as president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
It has become an annual ritual of mine to write an article for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin to mark the anniversary of March 11, 2013, the day I began working on behalf of Ottawa’s Jewish community. After my first year working for you, my Bulletin article began with a question from the play “Rent.”
“525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”
If there is one word that best captures the last 525,600 minutes, it is change.
Firstly, the world we live in has changed.
When I began my career in the Jewish world as a youth director at a Jewish community centre (JCC) in Massachusetts, my only security concern pertained to the potential of misbehaving teens. But, I write this message just after the latest series of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in North America, including three in Canada today.
It is painful to regularly read accounts of evacuations at JCCs. But, at the same time, the resoluteness of people is remarkable.
Security on the Jewish Community Campus is an issue that I spend a great deal of time on, as do many members of our staff and several key volunteers. What used to be a relatively minor portfolio has become significant as we constantly update protocols, communicate with staff, and ensure that we are appropriately prepared should there be a threat. We must all remain vigilant and attentive, while, at the same time, continue to enjoy participating in the richness and fullness of Jewish life.
Secondly, the world we communicate in has changed.
Thoughtful debate and discussion has been replaced with the desire for immediate disruption and quick responses. I am constantly amazed at the words people chose in Facebook posts and how quick we are to disparage both people and ideas.
Social media and the Internet have evened the playing the field when it comes to accessing information. It is also exceptionally positive how quickly and effectively information can be conveyed. You can now mobilize people on an important issue in a matter of hours. However, as with many things in life, change has positive and less positive consequences – and we work hard to maximize the positive and minimize the negative.
Finally, the Jewish world we live in has changed.
Jews affiliate and participate differently than we did a decade or two ago, and subtle shifts continue today. We join organizations – including synagogues – less frequently than previous generations, and children from fewer families attend Jewish day schools.
However, that is not the same as disengagement. After approximately two decades of the Birthright Israel program, a significant percentage of the under-40 Jewish population has visited Israel. In Ottawa, the PJ Library program has a market penetration rate of approximately 50 per cent of its target audience. The growth of PJ has been exponential over the past four years.
People, today, want and demand choice and customization. I’m writing this article a few days before Purim and there is an astounding variety of Purim activities scheduled to take place in Ottawa – as varied as the types of hamantaschen being made. Virtually any type of Purim party or activity was available to community members.
While choice is a good thing, a question we must consider is “How much choice can a community of 14,000 Jews support?”
The world we live in has changed in profound ways since I first began my career in Jewish communal service – and since I began working on behalf of Ottawa’s Jewish community four years ago. And it continues to change.
So, how do you measure 525,000 minutes? By how well change is managed.