Five months into my role as chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and I see a huge appetite within our community for innovation.
Every corner of our diverse and complex population is hungering for new ideas, methods and products that result in change, transformation, breakthrough and metamorphosis.
How do we start to satisfy that ravenous hunger? What will that “food court” of innovative options look like in order to appeal to a broad section of our multi-faceted community?
Andrea Freedman, our president and CEO, and I just returned from the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Washington, D.C. The General Assembly is an annual gathering of more than 3,000 Jewish volunteer leaders and professionals. This year’s theme was “Think Forward,” and the conference featured sessions entitled “FEDovations,” a deliberate play on words intended to highlight some of the best, brightest and most innovative programs and ideas from around the globe.
I always find it beneficial to attend these types of conferences. Aside from the networking, they provide an injection of inspiration into my volunteer life. I was particularly excited this year because, whether we were addressing Jewish philanthropy, education, identity, inclusivity, engagement, Israel, partnership and the like, the overlying message was innovative forward-thinking leadership.
Novelty, newness, creativity, originality, ingenuity, inventiveness – no relevant community can survive without an ongoing commitment to innovation. These are just some of the lessons we can learn from the business world.
I came away believing that federations are uniquely positioned to be the conveners and facilitators needed to jump-start conversations about offering solutions to meet new requirements and emerging market needs.
As a result, I believe one of our jobs at Federation is to provide our community with Jewish innovation. This means offering philanthropists the opportunity to fund a dazzling array of opportunities and settings for Jewish engagement. However, true innovation needs more than dollars. It requires inspirational ideas and a great deal of hard work. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to be committed to meaningful, sustainable, positive change. Our role at Federation, therefore, is to put the right people together who can achieve the above, and then get out of their way!
So I’m asking you: What are you willing to do to be a part of these new conversations? How can we help you, your family or your organization open up new possibilities and new pathways to engage Jewishly? What will it take to create alternative, yet complimentary, comprehensive wins for all of our community’s key stakeholder groups and individuals?
Opening up these possibilities and making available new tools and concepts is the focus of the expertise we are working to bring to our community. We recently invited Daniel Held, a leading expert on the changing face of Jewish education, to speak to our community leadership about the evolution of the definition of Jewish education. Our Board of Directors retreat welcomed Rabbi Adina Lewittes, director of Sha’Ar Communities, who enlightened us on innovative paths to connecting to Jewish identity. Our goal in exposing our community to innovators like these is to inform, stimulate discussion, inspire you to get involved, stay involved, lead involvement, inspire involvement and mentor involvement.
Federation’s mission in Ottawa is to advance and promote an exceptional quality of Jewish life. We can only achieve this if the conversations take place and the resulting actions begin to satisfy the “hunger for innovation” in our own community.