Scott Goldstein, executive director of Hillel Ottawa for more than four years, has a new job as director of community collaboration at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
My main interaction with Scott has been through Hillel’s Israel Awareness Committee (IAC), which I joined a year-and-a-half ago as vice-president/communications. While Scott and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, I have great admiration for him and the work he did. Most of all, I admire him for his open-mindedness, respectfulness, and his unwavering belief in dialogue. Scott always took everything I threw at him in stride – including my sarcasm and unrelenting Yesh Atid idolatry – and, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say he actually enjoyed jabbing back with jokes of his own.
Scott always took a genuine interest in the lives of “his students,” always stopping for a quick chat if he saw them walking around campus. While he may have had an official line to tow as executive director of a Jewish community organization, he was never afraid to “go off the record” and tell you his true feelings on certain matters. In a world of frustrating, superficial talking points, Scott was always genuine, and that’s something I’ve always appreciated.
While some Jewish campus leaders just talk the talk, Scott always walked the walk and was willing to sit down and discuss anything with the utmost professionalism and genuine kindness. For that, I’ll greatly miss seeing him around on campus.
I’m far from the only student who’s been impacted by Scott Goldstein. Hillel members of all stripes have been touched by his kindness, dedication and larger-than-life personality.
Shalom Benzaquen, a former Hillel student executive now studying dentistry at McGill University, described Scott as a “tremendous force in unifying the community on campus [regardless of the] background the members may have come from,” while current Hillel vice-president/social, Alexander Chuchin, said he is the embodiment of “what it means to be a mensch.”
IAC Vice-President Sapir Fellus said Scott’s ability to empower students was his greatest gift.
“Talking with Scott is always a special treat because he’s so attuned to what makes each student unique, and would always express genuine interest in what each person had to say,” she said. “Scott infuses his every action with thoughtfulness, meaning, and with a purpose of inspiring and bringing students together. Most importantly, Scott’s legacy is that he empowered students to empower others. He constantly reminded us that we are capable of contributing so much to our community and encouraged us to pursue higher ambitions each year.”
Dovi Chein, Hillel’s student life co-ordinator, echoed many of these sentiments.
“For almost five years, Scott channelled all of his energy and time to ensure Hillel and the students were successful. Scott’s success with Hillel was because of his massive heart and his sincere passion. Hillel, myself and all of the students will sincerely miss [him],” said Chein.
We don’t know yet who the new executive director of Hillel will be, but whoever it is, he or she will certainly have big shoes to fill. While the structure of Hillel itself will undoubtedly remain the same, a new executive director can make or break student involvement.
I hope the new director will be able to create an atmosphere that caters to all students, regardless of background or belief; that he or she will understand that being pro-Israel takes multiple forms and will allow student executives to put on events or launch campaigns that illustrate this diverse spectrum; and that he or she will continue to allow students to harness their ideas and empower them to grow into themselves accordingly.
Scott somehow found a way to expertly tread the line between fulfilling his organization’s mandate, while making Hillel members happy, and simultaneously staying true to himself. I wish the next executive director much luck in this immensely difficult task.