In recognition of his passionate and longstanding commitment to Ottawa’s Jewish community, Jeffrey Miller has been selected to receive the 2017 Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award.
The award, which is now presented every second year, is described by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa as “the highest tribute that the Ottawa Jewish community can bestow on an individual, honouring a lifetime of leadership in the Jewish world.”
“It is very flattering,” said Miller. “I am honoured and most appreciative to be recognized for what I do, but that is not why I do it.”
Miller’s impressive list of volunteer work demonstrates why he is being honoured with this award. Whether he was chairing events, fundraising for a variety of organizations, acting as treasurer or chair of community agencies, synagogues and schools, Miller has been a constant leadership presence in Ottawa’s Jewish community for over 30 years.
In her nomination letter on behalf of Miller, Elissa Lieff wrote, “Jeff is a mensch – a true believer in community. He sees others as colleagues, regardless of the diverse positions they may hold on various issues; he strives to work collaboratively in order to build consensus for the greater good.”
Originally from Montreal, Miller was 27 years old when he moved to Ottawa in 1984 with his Ottawa-born wife Rhoda. Theirs was a true love story. Fixed up by Jeff’s sister and Rhoda’s cousin who were neighbours in Montreal, the couple was engaged three months later.
A chartered accountant, Miller joined the accounting firm Ginsberg Gluzman Fage and Levitz (GGFL). One of the firm’s principals, the late Gerry Levitz, an iconic leader and philanthropist in Ottawa’s Jewish community, encouraged Miller to get involved in the community – and so it began.
From manually adding up cards during campaigns to playing basketball, baseball and bowling on Jewish men’s teams, Miller went on to become treasurer of Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Torah Academy of Ottawa, Jewish Family Services, the Rideauview Golf Club and Hillel Lodge; as well as serve two terms as president of Hillel Academy (now the Ottawa Jewish Community School).
Miller chaired two Millionaires Nights for B’nai Brith of Ottawa and two Desert Classic Golf Tournaments in support of the Soloway Jewish Community Centre and Hillel Academy. He chaired Hillel Lodge’s Capital Campaign, which raised $5 million for its expansion.
Miller has canvassed for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Annual Campaign for almost 30 years and co-chaired the 2015 and 2016 Annual Campaigns.
The Charithon, a softball fundraiser Miller co-founded and chaired, raised more than $1 million for CHEO over its 15-year existence.
Miller’s community work is also distinguished by his long-term commitment to the organizations he works with. He sat on the board of Hillel Academy for 12 years and the Hillel Lodge board for 10 years.
“As an accountant, I want to add value to the organizations I get involved with,” he said.
“I want to learn about them and understand how they operate. I want to stay involved for the long term, because I believe in them and the people they are serving.”
In their letter supporting Miller’s nomination, past Annual Campaign co-chairs Sharon Appotive and Michael Polowin describe another of Miller’s distinctive leadership traits.
“The community has known for years that Jeff was always there to give quiet advice and guidance to organizations in which he was not directly involved,” they said. “He has been a go-to leader and adviser to leaders for years.”
Despite the considerable demands on his time, Miller has managed to ensure that his key priorities – family, profession and community – each receive the attention they deserve.
Miller’s son Howard confirms this in his heartwarming letter endorsing his father’s nomination.
“He never missed a single family event,” wrote Howard. “I do not have a single memory of an important moment where my father wasn’t right there as well … and, at the end of the day, is that not the single most distinguished service a Jewish man can perform?”
The intrepid volunteer has also excelled professionally. He is a senior partner at GGFL and, in 2016, was awarded the Fellow (FCPA) designation of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, one of the highest honours the profession can bestow.
Over the years, Miller shared many meetings with his mentor, the late Gerry Levitz (the 2006 recipient of the Gilbert Greenberg Award), and his friend, the late Arnie Vered (the 2008 recipient). After the meetings adjourned, the three would sit together for hours discussing ideas and issues. That is Miller’s fondest volunteering memory.
Now a grandfather of one, with a second on the way, the affable and concerned Miller is always looking toward the future.
“We have an incredible community, but it is facing some serious challenges,” he said.
There’s always going to be a need, he feels, to encourage young people to step up and become the next generation of leaders.
The Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Miller at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa annual general meeting, Wednesday, June 14, 7 pm, at the Soloway JCC.