Francie Greenspoon, a well-known figure in Ottawa’s Jewish community, has retired following an accomplished and rewarding career as senior director of communications and community relations for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
For more than a dozen years, Greenspoon was the voice of Federation, informing the community about events and milestones, liaising with the media, strengthening advocacy efforts on local university campuses, as well as co-ordinating efforts to strengthen the Canada-Israel relationship.
“When I came into the job, I didn’t know how Federation was perceived,” she said. “I learned a tremendous amount about the Ottawa Jewish community, about what goes into building and maintaining a strong community. I worked with incredible volunteers who give their time and energy, many of whom do it quietly not wanting recognition. I learned what it means to be Jewish and part of a community.”
Originally from Toronto, where she worked for eight years as a publicist for the CBC, Greenspoon married Norman Lieff and moved to Ottawa in 1989. Her introduction to the inner workings of the Ottawa Jewish community began when she joined the Young Women’s Leadership Council (YWLC). As part of the program, she sat as an observer on the JCC board.
After graduating from YWLC, Greenspoon continued as a member of the JCC board and also sat on the communications committee of the capital campaign, which raised the funds to build the new Soloway JCC on the Jewish Community Campus.
Later, Greenspoon took her first staff job in the Jewish community working for almost two years as the Soloway JCC’s marketing manager.
Mitchell Bellman, then executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa/Vaad Ha’Ir, was struck by Greenspoon’s positive attitude, skill and professionalism. Sometime after she left her position at the Soloway JCC, Bellman offered her a job.
“I had to beg her to join,” said Bellman. “I asked her three times before she finally agreed.”
In 2004, Greenspoon joined the Vaad as communications director.
This was a time Bellman describes as
a “turning point” for Ottawa’s Jewish community. Until then, the Vaad – which became the Jewish Federation of Ottawa in 2005 – had an insular approach, never reaching out to the greater Ottawa community for marketing and communications.
Working with Bellman and the communications committee, Greenspoon launched a concerted effort to reach out to the secular community, publicizing the existence, the benefits and the inclusiveness of Ottawa’s Jewish agencies and organizations.
Bellman believes it wouldn’t have happened without Greenspoon.
“I credit Francie with making it happen,” he said. “She led the transformation.”
Greenspoon’s position immersed her in the community and saw her working with Jewish community staff members and volunteers. This is what she will miss the most in retirement.
“The people were always changing and you were constantly building new relationships,” she said.
“New chairs, new staff, new volunteers, new ideas – change is all about people and ideas. It changes the dynamic of how you work.
“There are lots of people I will miss. I loved the work and working with a team. If you have good team, there is spirit and laughter and fun. That’s what I will miss.”
It’s no surprise that the fondest memories of her years with Federation do not centre on events or milestones, but rather on individuals, particularly her co-workers.
“I have tremendous respect for donors and volunteers, but I have an inordinate amount of respect for staff,” she said. “Nobody knows how hard they work. Campaign after campaign, they work 12 to 15 hour days. They are the unsung heroes of the community.”
Greenspoon leaves confident that her position is in good hands. For the past four years, she has been job sharing her position with Pauline Colwin, who is now working full-time in the position. She and Colwin worked seamlessly together, so the transition will be smooth.
“We are grateful to Francie for her many and varied contributions to the community and will miss her can-do attitude and tremendous talents at messaging the complex work of Federation,” said Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman.
“The nature of Francie’s work and the fact that community issues don’t always present themselves between 9 and 5 meant that she frequently made herself available to handle challenging tasks in the evening and on weekends. She handled herself with the utmost grace and professionalism.”