One of my passions in life is hockey. I play hockey, watch hockey and think I know more than the management of the Montreal Canadiens who have been breaking my heart annually since 1993. When I moved to Ottawa, the Sens immediately become my second favourite hockey team and I embraced and rooted for them (unless they played my beloved Habs). Today, as I write this column, it is the NHL trade deadline. It is also my last column before I have the honour of celebrating my 5th anniversary at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on March 11.
What do the Sens, Habs and the NHL trade deadline have in common with my work anniversary? In a typically Jewish manner the answer is everything and nothing.
Since I only have a few hundred words, let’s focus on the everything. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have always aspired to be a hockey columnist, so this is an anniversary gift to myself, which I hope others enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As even the most casual observer of the Sens can tell you, there is growing angst and even anger at the team’s ownership. Some incredible players have already been traded and the future of others remains uncertain. The Habs, though they have 24 Stanley Cups to their credit, do not seemingly have a blueprint for the 25th. Clearly, I suffer from hockey angst as neither of my teams appear close to winning the Stanley Cup, though I wish it were otherwise.
There are important parallels for our community. Some are not new themes, as I have touched on them before, but here are two key take-aways.
First, cheerleaders are important. Though both the Sens and Habs are having poor seasons, being booed is never a great motivator and does not help players raise their game. If you care about a hockey team, there is not much you can do to help them win other than cheer. Fortunately, in our community, there are other ways of helping – you can get involved. You can either wring your hands in consternation – or roll up your sleeves and get to work. But you cannot do both at the same time; it is physically impossible. Just ask any hockey player.
Second, effective change is complicated and very important. If, at present, neither the Sens nor Habs can win a Stanley Cup, what asset changes are required and in what areas? Alas, as a fan, it is not clear to me that either the Sens or Habs have a clear plan for future success.
As for Federation, we are always changing and evolving and, in the coming months, expect that pace to become feverish as we launch ambitious plans for the Jewish Superhighway. After five years living and working in Jewish Ottawa, I fervently believe that we have an excellent community, that we can be even better, that we know what is required to get us there, and are committed to implementing the strategic planning required.
Leaders have to lead. While ultimately it is up to the players on the ice to execute, ownership and management are responsible for setting the vision. Bold statements of what success looks like, why it is important, and the path to get there, are critical. At Federation, we have articulated a bold vision for our community and a path to achieve it.
The question I ponder on my fifth anniversary is: Will we get there? Will we realize our ultimate vision of vibrant Jewish life, where no one is left behind?
While I can’t predict the future, I am confident that we can. It will not be easy and will require contributions from lots of people, but I am exceptionally optimistic about our Jewish future.
I truly look forward to our sixth year together. May we continue going from strength to strength.