We have just kicked off the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s 2019 Annual Campaign.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envisage heading this Campaign.
Yet, here it is, and here I am, working with Annual Campaign Co-Chair Aviva Ben-Choreen.
Chairing the Annual Campaign is a ton of work. Kudos to Aviva, who has already done this for a year, and whose enthusiasm and dedication have only increased.
The past chair, Sharon Appotive, has rightly earned plaudits and superlatives for her unflagging drive and energy in moving the campaign forward.
The staff team, ably led by Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman, and Director of Development Micah Garten, see their work as more than a job. It is a passion, an expression of devotion to the community.
For years, like many of you, I have supported the Federation Annual Campaign, but seeing what it takes from the inside is a very different experience. My admiration for all the previous chairs knows no bounds.
A few thoughts that have come to the fore are worth sharing with you.
The first is that against all odds, we are still a strong Jewish community. We have been blessed with great exemplars who have led the community, in word and deed, for many decades. We continue to be blessed with leaders who are singularly devoted to the community, and who recognize that without Federation, which we used to call the Vaad Ha’ir (I still call it that out of a many-decades habit), we would still probably endure, but not as a community. Federation is the vital glue that helps hold our community together.
But, wait, you say, do we not have many issues, perhaps even divisive issues? The blunt answer is yes, we do. No argument. Is Federation perfect? No. Are any of us perfect? No. If as humans we are all imperfect, how can we expect an organization comprised of people to be perfect.
Here is a critical point: Some people have a complaint about Federation. Not enough support for this cause, too much support for that cause, whatever. Think of it is this way. Suppose, heaven forbid, someone to whom you are close – a best friend, a family member – makes a terrible blunder, does something of which you disapprove intensely. How do you react?
There are many options, including disavowing the family member or friend. However, a true friend, a loving family member, will not abandon the wrongdoer. They will stay connected and supportive, because barring an unforgivable sin, our love, if it is genuine, is unconditional.
I like to think of Federation as the loving, unconditional head of the community, of each member of the community. Federation looks after the vulnerable, after those in need, whether the need is education, social services, practical services, whatever.
Is there more Federation can do? You bet. And no one knows this better than the community leadership.
Hence, the Jewish Superhighway theme for the campaign. This is NOT a slogan. It IS a commitment. Everyone matters. Everyone counts. And we all want to do more for the community.
Do I delude myself into thinking that everyone will be happy? Not for a moment. But I do dream, and hopefully it is not a delusion that everyone will be counted, and everyone will consider themselves included.
I take my cue from the Torah. In raising funds for the community, we had two streams. One was the half-shekel, which everyone had to contribute. The other was free-will offerings that people gave according to their means. The half-shekel – not a great amount, but also not an insignificant amount – was a way for everyone to say, “Count me in,” and for the community to say, “Glad to have you.” The other was to assure the community had enough to take care of the community as effectively as possible.
We want all of you in. We also want the wherewithal to maximize the community’s commitment to you. A few community giants have created a challenge fund to really help us put on the accelerator for the Jewish Superhighway. The rest is up to you. Please come along for the ride.