Of all of the questions I have been asked while president of the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS) board, the most common is, “Why did you take this on?” The question came from family and friends, and from people I did not even know before I took on this role. To me, it is a great question. If you believe the writing and thinking of Simon Sinek, why we do what we do is the most important question to answer.
A reason for anyone to get involved in community work is to contribute their time and effort to improving and enhancing the organization or activity they deem to be important. As the foundation of our community and source of future leaders – I truly believe that our educational institutions are just that – my children’s school was a great cause to get behind.
A Jewish community day school teaches our children to love being Jewish, to work with other Jews collaboratively and constructively, regardless of Jewish affiliation, and to be active and inspired community members. Over the past three years, while we have seen enrolment both increase and decrease, we have seen participation in school events become more and more meaningful and we have heard community sentiment turn to one of hope for the future of our beloved school.
As Jon Mitzmacher, EdD, begins his first year as head of school, and as Michael Polowin takes over as president of the OJCS board, I am excited about the school’s ongoing enhancement and to see the school structured to best serve the current and future needs of the children in our community.
It has been the collective work of the OJCS teachers and administration, and of the board that I have served, that has continued to make OJCS a school of excellence and that has supported our students in their amazing accomplishments in sports, sciences, the arts and academics. Our graduates are filling up the honour rolls at all local high schools – so, watch out world, they are going to continue to make a massive impact!
As I reflect on “why?” I come back to my own children and, by extension, the children in our community. A Jewish day school provides children with the greatest opportunity to be immersed in Judaism and to learn that being Jewish is not just holiday celebrations – it is part of their everyday lives. Learning at a young age how lessons from the Torah and other Jewish texts can help to inspire and guide you throughout life helps our children become a mensch as they grow up. There is something very special about learning in a school devoted to the integration of Jewish and secular studies with other children from across the spectrum of Judaism.
Ultimately, I do what I do so that my children and, hopefully all children in our community, are educated on what it means to be Jewish, and why it is important to embrace our heritage collectively, and to be proud of who we are individually – while inspiring Ahavat Yisrael in the generations to come.
I hope that you are inspired to get involved in Jewish education in Ottawa and make sure that every child in our community has some form of Jewish education, our continuity depends on it.