The Jewish Federation of Ottawa launched the 2017 Annual Campaign, September 18, with an innovative two-event kickoff.
Popular children’s entertainers Judy and David performed for young families in the afternoon in the Ottawa Jewish Community School gym, while filmmaker and philanthropist Nancy Spielberg spoke in the evening at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre and screened her documentary film, “Above and Beyond,” about an inspiring group of Jewish American Second World War pilots who volunteered to fight for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.
In the spirit of l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation), the 2017 Annual Campaign Kickoff was co-chaired by two generations of the Dolansky family: Bernie and Donna Dolansky, both past chairs of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, and their daughters and sons-in-law Gillian and Neil Presner and Shawna Dolansky and Grant Overland. Bernie and Donna, long-time volunteers in the community, are passing the torch to their children and grandchildren as they continue to lead by example.
The afternoon event acknowledged the importance of young families to the future of the community as more than 150 young kids and their parents enjoyed Judy and David’s lively performance.
“It was two hours of entertainment for the kids for $10 per household,” said Kickoff Co-Chair Neil Presner. “It brought out many people who will now be engaged in our community.”
The evening event, which began with short presentations by the Dolansky family and 2017 Annual Campaign Co-Chairs Michael Polowin and Sharon Appotive, as well as a screening of the 2017 Annual Campaign video, brought out hundreds of enthusiastic community members.
Polowin and Appotive, who both noted they grew up in Ottawa’s Jewish community, told of the many ways they had benefited from the community and its institutions, and urged people to give generously so that future generations will be able to benefit as well.
Spielberg, who was introduced by Federation Chair Linda Kerzner, regaled the audience with anecdotes about her family, about growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, where there was “no water, no Jews” and where she acted in older brother Steven Spielberg’s first forays into filmmaking, and about her adventures along the way as she discovered and embraced her Jewish identity.
Spielberg came late to her filmmaking career, in large part, she said, because she feared being compared to her famous older brother. But, when she learned the story behind the heroes of “Above and Beyond,” she could not resist the urge to bring it to the screen.
The film, Spielberg explained, provided an opportunity for the American Jewish pilots, who heroically but secretively helped Israelis defend themselves against the formidable armies of the surrounding Arab countries, to be finally and publicly recognized and honoured for their sacrifices.
“It amazed me that this group of Second Word War veterans who survived the war would do this. I said ‘this is my story.’ It grabbed me by my heartstrings … I wanted them to be honoured. I wanted them to have their moment to shine,” she said.
Spielberg said she has two more documentaries in the works and showed trailers from “Who Will Write Our History?” the story of a small group of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto who documented everything and buried the documents in milk cans and tin boxes so they would someday be found; and from “On the Map,” an uplifting film about the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team that defeated the Soviet Red Army team to win the European Cup Basketball Championship in 1977.
During a question-and-answer period moderated by Kickoff Co-Chairs Shawna Dolansky and Grant Overland, Israeli Ambassador Raphael Barak told Spielberg the story of how he, as a young government official, brought Israel’s winning basketball team to meet then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Visit www.jewishottawa.com for more information about the 2017 Annual Campaign.