Aaron Smith, who grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, “a super small Jewish community,” has been chosen to receive the 2018 Freiman Young Leadership Award.
“My dad and brother and I made up 30 per cent of the minyan,” said Smith, whose grandfather was Ottawa kosher caterer Jack Smith.
The fact that Aaron Smith has a busy job and young family was not a deterrent to his becoming involved in the Ottawa Jewish community.
Born in Sackville, New Brunswick, Smith lived in Ottawa for a few years when he was younger, before moving to Sarnia. He did his undergraduate degree in genomic medicine at Western University, a business course at Ivey, worked for a few years and then studied health industry management and strategy at York University.
Now based in Ottawa, he is a healthcare consultant with hospitals, government and health industry providers across the country, frequently traveling coast to coast. This month he was planning a trip to Yellowknife.
“My wife and I moved to Ottawa five years ago when we were having our third child,” he said. We had two children born in Toronto, but once we were five, we wanted to be closer to family.”
They enrolled their son in senior kindergarten at Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), “and didn’t even have a house yet,” he said. “I worked with Ian Sherman at EY and he connected me to people in Ottawa.
Smith, who turned 40 in February, quickly became involved with OJCS. From 2014 to 2017, he served as president of the OJCS board, after previously serving as chair of sales and marketing in 2013. He and his wife Erin currently have two children at OJCS and one at Ganon Preschool.
“In my work, we’re all about action and impact, and adding value for our clients,” he explained. “The secret for me is that I was always action-oriented. You can get lost in analyzing a situation. Sometimes you have to work with your time to move forward and get things done. Less time talking, more time doing… Not that talking is unimportant – things we’re doing require a lot of thoughtfulness – but that needs to lead to action.”
The Freiman Young Leadership Award is given to a young leader who has demonstrated proven leadership to the benefit of Ottawa’s Jewish community. The recipient also receives the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award which allows him or her to participate in the annual General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America.
In his letter nominating Smith for the Freiman Family Award, Ian Sherman called Smith “a very gifted and trusted young leader,” praising his “exceptional talent, credibility, poise, determination, innovativeness and professionalism.”
Active on other boards in the Jewish and wider community as well, Smith particularly chose to be involved with OJCS because “I got behind something that had a personal interest to my family.
“I wanted a great school for my kids to go to,” he said. “Growing up in a really small place, where there weren’t a lot of Jewish choices, you were a central part of that community. I’ve always been motivated to help people get involved more Jewishly. I see day school as the way to make that happen for the kids, and for the parents as well.”
The 2018 Community Service Awards will be presented at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, June 20, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. For more information, contact Solange Ashe at email@example.com or
613-798-4696, ext. 236.