The Ottawa Jewish community has seen much change over the past two years.
I say two years because it was two years ago that I began doing reporting assignments for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. Then, at the beginning of 2014, I became the Emerging Gen columnist. Regretfully, this is my final column.
In that time, I have covered programming developments within the Emerging Generation (EG) Division of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, community engagement and notable events, and changes in local leadership, among so many other important and newsworthy events the Ottawa Jewish community has spearheaded or experienced.
This opportunity has allowed me to understand what makes is a “community leader,” especially in the context of the emerging generation. I tended to hesitate using this phrase when writing about the big things community members were up to, in order to avoid overusing it. There have been so many reasons to apply it – from volunteers spearheading a cause they care about, to others who give back through the existing framework, like working for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
Clearly, it fits. There is a place for “community leaders” in the common vernacular. It is a somewhat unofficial title that carries significant meaning.
I met community leaders of all ages every time I attended a community event or conducted an interview. It has been a great pleasure getting to know such a diverse, committed and engaged community.
What I have learned is that the Ottawa Jewish community cultivates so many leaders – from business to community development, volunteerism (pick a cause), to activism and awareness. In fact, I believe this community is particularly adept at cultivating leadership potential in everyone, and those who are actively engaged not only give the most, but truly benefit the most. That is a common theme I have heard since my first assignment in 2013.
The leaders I have become the most familiar with over the past two years are from the EG division, an exciting, nascent branch of Federation.
Samantha Banks, the first EG director, and then her successor, Ariel Fainer, have worked to grow and improve the engagement of a highly complex demographic. It was through their partnering with other leaders within the emerging generation that programming that best addresses the EG division’s needs has been developing. Thank you to them and to all others whose stories have informed my writing of the Emerging Gen column.
Thanks, especially, to my editor, Michael Regenstreif, who recruited me to this position after reading my work in the Canadian Jewish News, and who mentored me throughout my time as a reporter and columnist.
At times, I had to ask seemingly obvious questions. I have learned a lot of Hebrew that way. The help, guidance and insight that were offered allowed me to do my job of reporting on important things that happened in the community and informing those who weren’t there or who wanted to know more.
In two years, I saw Ottawa’s Jewish community give so much. Ultimately, as does happen in the business of news, I made some errors and was afforded the forgiveness and leeway to make up for any mistakes.
This column did not simply reflect my views on the emerging generation. It was a collection of stories. It was the young community leaders who were willing to tell me their stories. It was the recent graduates, the new parents, the young professionals and spiritual leaders who continue to change what it means to be part of the emerging generation.
The challenges, the successes and the context expressed by those who want to have their story heard change the narrative and allow the rest of us to better understand what means the most to them. It was an absolute privilege to hear what matters most to you.
Keep telling your stories. Know that they have a place in the ever-evolving history of Ottawa’s Jewish community and that they are important. I am so grateful to have learned and shared your stories in my short time here at the Bulletin.