The Jewish Federation of Ottawa used its annual general meeting, June 15 at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, to update the community on Federation activities over the past year and to recognize several accomplished volunteers.
“Community collaboration is the key to our continued success,” said Jewish Federation of Ottawa Chair Linda Kerzner at Federation’s 82nd annual general meeting.
Among the major successes of the past year highlighted at the AGM were an increased Annual Campaign, unification of the two Orthodox day schools (Torah Academy and Rambam), expansion of the Shabbat Project, and the exponential growth of the PJ Library program.
Kerzner also noted that Jeff Miller, Annual Campaign chair for the past two years, has come to the end of his term and presented him with a gift on behalf of Federation. Michael Polowin succeeds Miller as Annual Campaign chair and will spearhead the 2017 campaign with Women’s Campaign Chair Sharon Appotive.
Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman spoke with pride about Federation accomplishments over the past year and noted there are also a number of challenges on the community’s agenda.
She issued a call to action for all in the community to work together in meeting those challenges.
“Each of us has the capacity, the ability and, dare I say, the responsibility to add more richness and vibrancy to Jewish life … I’m not saying that it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.” Freedman said. “We have to act, we have to dream, we have to plan and, most importantly, we have to believe. If we work together as a team, we’ll make it happen.”
Other speakers included Ambassador Rafael Barak, who brought official greetings from the State of Israel and noted the special relationship Ottawa’s Jewish community shares with Israel, and Rabbi Rob Morais of Temple Israel, who delivered a D’var Torah.
The Federation presented three community service awards to accomplished volunteers. (The Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award is now presented every second year and will be awarded in 2017.)
Arielle Ellis received the new Student Leadership Award, which recognizes a student pursuing a post-secondary degree, who demonstrates leadership and outstanding commitment to the Ottawa Jewish community. Ellis received the award for her work as citywide president of Hillel Ottawa from 2013 to 2015 as well as for her continued dedication to the organization through tikkun olam and Holocaust education projects.
Ellis, who was in Israel, accepted the award via pre-recorded video.
“It has been such a privilege living in Ottawa and working so closely with its Jewish community. [I know] that it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Ellis said.
Debbie Scharf received the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, which recognizes a young community leader in Ottawa’s Jewish community. Scharf’s work on the board of Ten Yad, her tireless efforts in the unification of Torah Academy and Rambam, and her work as JET’s board chair since 2010, were cited as leading to the award.
In her acceptance speech, Scharf spoke about the importance of getting involved and spearheading projects that one is passionate about and emphasized the importance of Jewish education.
“The Ottawa Jewish community needs you and Jewish education needs you. We all have a role to play,” she said.
As recipient of the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, Scharf also received the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award, which will allow her to attend the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America to be held this year in Washington, D.C.
Merle Haltrecht-Matte received the Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award, which recognizes an outstanding volunteer’s lifetime of service dedicated to the betterment and enrichment of Jewish life in Ottawa. Haltrecht-Matte’s work with the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank, Temple Israel, including Temple’s Baby Quilt for Israel Project, IsraelConnect, and the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, were cited as examples of her volunteerism.
Haltrecht-Matte spoke about the joys of volunteer work and encouraged others to give their time to important causes.
“Everyone can do something,” she said. “Volunteers aren’t paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”