Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman used the occasion of Federation’s annual general meeting, June 20, to announce that a generous $500,000 challenge fund, funded by three donor families, has been put in place for the 2019 Annual Campaign set to begin this fall.
The fund – which Freedman said she was “over-the-moon excited” about – will match campaign gifts from new donors and increases in gifts from established donors and will be used to help fund Federation’s ambitious plan to create a “Jewish superhighway” in Ottawa that will help community members of all ages and denominations make Jewish choices.
Looking back at the past year’s accomplishments, Freedman called particular attention to the announcement that Tamir will build an Integrated Living Centre – with funding from the Ontario government and the Azrieli Foundation – on land donated by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on the Jewish Community Campus. Freedman noted that Federation Chair Hartley Stern and the Federation Board had worked closely with Tamir to make the project a reality.
The presentation of community volunteer awards was a highlight of the AGM.
The Student Leadership Award was presented collectively to all of the Jewish student leaders at the University of Ottawa – including members of Hillel Ottawa and the Chabad Student Network – who worked to defeat three anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) motions at their student union.
The award was accepted by uOttawa students Eryne Ginsberg and Joseph Feldberg.
“On behalf of all the students who came together to work against BDS, we would like to thank you for this honour,” said Ginsberg. “We could not have gotten here today without the help of each and every one of our members, who spent countless hours to support us.”
“As the result of meetings, phone calls, and messages to people in our network, we were able to bring many people together – Jewish and non-Jewish – to help defeat this movement three times. It’s been a challenging year for all of us, but with our perseverance and determination we have continued to stand up for what we believe in,” Feldberg added.
Aaron Smith received the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award. The award honours a leader in Ottawa’s Jewish community under the age of 40. Smith, the immediate past-president of the Ottawa Jewish Community School board, was recognized for his years of service to the school.
Receiving the award is “very meaningful,” said Smith. “It’s an honour to be recognized as part of this wonderful group.”
Smith said that, for him, community means loving being Jewish, practicing Judaism in a way that is meaningful as an individual, and respecting how everyone was made in the image of God.
“I hope we remember that as we drive down our new Jewish superhighway,” he said. “There are lanes for everyone. We should respect everyone, we should recognize everyone’s practices as being meaningful to them, and learn from each other.”
Smith said he hoped the Jewish superhighway would include some form of Jewish education – whether day school or supplementary school – for every child in the community.
As recipient of the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, Smith also received the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award, which will allow him to attend the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America where he will be recognized with young leaders from other Jewish communities in North America.
Michael Landau, the immediate past-chair of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, received the Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award. The award recognizes an outstanding and active volunteer within the Jewish community who, through many years of service, has contributed to the enrichment of Jewish life in Ottawa.
Landau said he was “humbled and honoured” to be chosen and added to list of past Shem Tov recipients. “All of them I know, and they all did great things for the Ottawa Jewish community,” he said.
Landau, who has a distinguished record of fundraising on behalf of the community, spoke about the challenges of working with donors to raise the funds the community needs. Fundraising, he said, is more than making phone calls.
“The challenge is to take people from out of their comfort zone and put them right back in a comfortable place. It requires a lot of thought but it’s well worth the effort,” he said.
Aviva Ben-Choreen, who was in Israel at the time of the AGM, and Rabbi Reuven Bulka were recognized for their roles as co-chairs of the Annual Campaign, along with Sharon Appotive, the past-co-chair, who was given special recognition for serving for one year longer than the typical two-year term.
In closing the AGM, Federation Chair Hartley Stern said he was inspired by and proud of the people who had been honoured during the evening.
“Many amongst you consider your amazing acts … as [being] just humble and ordinary. What we as Jews don’t realize amongst ourselves, is that what we set are impossibly high standards for the everyday,” he said. “That is what makes us such a remarkable community; what we believe as the everyday, are truly remarkable achievements.”
Other speakers included Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who delivered a D’var Torah; Linda Kerzner, immediate past-chair of Federation, who delivered the nominating committee report and presented the community volunteer awards; and Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation Chair Gillie Vered, who brought greetings from the Foundation. The singing of “O Canada” and “Hatikvah” were led by Cantor Jason Green.