On June 28, the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS) said l’hitraot (farewell) for the second time to Sheldon Friedman, its beloved head of school.
Friedman came out of retirement in 2011 – he had already retired as principal of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto – to lead OJCS for three years before retiring again after the 2013-2014 school year.
But, in need of an interim head of school for the 2016-2017 school year, OJCS asked Friedman to return for one more year.
“I finish the year on a very positive note,” Friedman told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin as the school year ended. “The entire school – teachers, administrators, students and parents – appear relieved and happy with the school today. I think that we have accomplished much over the year, more than I had hoped for.”
Friedman’s OJCS colleagues expressed deep appreciation for what he has done for the school.
“I could not wish for a better mentor for myself and for the rest of the school,” said vice-principal Brian Lamb. “Shelley’s mission for OJCS – Respect, Responsibility and Reaching for excellence – redefined the school all together.”
Many teachers said they were grateful for the support and the professional faith Friedman had in them.
“He motivated the staff to go above and beyond, and gave us tremendous support,” said Keren Gordon, the special resources co-ordinator.
Returning to OJCS after two years away, Friedman said he was happy for the opportunity to re-establish old relationships and to get to know people better.
When the Grade 8 students graduated, he said, “It struck me that I’ve known most of these children since Grade 3 – and now they are going on to their futures.”
“For the students,” said Gordon, “Shelley is like a celebrity. They know that he genuinely cares for them and what he tells them is special. Parents, the board – everybody knows how invaluable he is.”
“It was an invigorating challenge to come back here after a two-year break,” Friedman said with a smile, “but now it is my time to step back and let the young people take over.”
Friedman said he now plans to travel for a while and sit in his rocking chair on the porch.
Friedman’s hope for OJCS is that it “keeps up its magnificent work and strives for even higher achievements in the mission of ‘Respect, Responsibility and Reaching for excellence.’”
Jon Mitzmacher is the new head of school at OJCS.