Jordan Waldman hopes to create touch points to engage millennials in Jewish life
It’s been a busy first three weeks at work for Jordan Waldman, 30, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s new director of the Emerging Gen (EG) and PJ Library.
“I haven’t had time to unpack,” says Waldman, who arrived in Ottawa from Calgary in February. He has already hosted two events and has a jammed-packed few weeks ahead. “At least my socks match.”
As a millennial, Jordan Waldman understands that his generation does Judaism in its own way, beyond traditional experiences. His goal is to help the EG find their own touch points to engage in Jewish life.
With a background in community work, Waldman has insight into the traditional and the innovative.
“Growing up in Calgary, I was pretty involved in the Jewish community,” he explains. “I attended all the summer camps and youth groups.
“Only in university, in Toronto, I took a step away from the Jewish community to experience different things.”
After earning an MA in Communications and Culture from York University, Waldman returned to Calgary and Jewish community work, and took the position of Hillel Youth and Adult Director at the Jewish Federation.
Four years later, he sees that Ottawa is “a good fit to the things I want to do. As I was growing up, Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) was a value that was very important to me and my family. I hope, as I become more a part of the Ottawa community, that I will be able to give back in a meaningful way.”
He learned these values from his parents and grandparents.
“When I told my bubby I was moving to Ottawa to work with the Jewish community, she was super proud.”
This news of his move also launched a game of Jewish geography. She enthusiastically told him he is distantly, by marriage, related to the famous Ottawa labour lawyer Jacob Finkelman. (Any Finkelman connections out there, feel free to reach out.)
The story of Jewish geography highlights a key Jewish value – the search for commonality and community. Building connections. This is something Waldman hopes to impart in his work.
“It’s the symbiosis of community work,” he says. “What I mean is that this is a way of bringing people together while making sure the community is also taking care of itself. At the end of the day, I hope to make a difference.”
This is the goal of the EG, which is a special division of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. It is aimed at young adults under 40, and facilitates innovative programs that allow young people to meet, mingle and develop professional contacts. There are social events, workshops, grant programs, and other opportunities.
Waldman’s portfolio also encompasses PJ Library, an incredibly popular program where families with children get free Jewish-themed children’s books mailed to them monthly. In addition to receiving wonderful books, there are various programs throughout the year where families get together and build friendships.
With this type of programming, Waldman hopes to “create entry points for all Jews in the community to take part in Jewish events. The Jewish world has a lot of different values and experiences, and I hope that the EG and PJ Library programs will create doors for all the Jewish millennials of Ottawa.”
He adds, “I am still learning what Ottawa needs and wants, and along with making friends, learning about the community is my most immediate goal.
“So far, Ottawa seems really interesting. I like the vibe here, the culture and the outdoorsiness.” If he ever has spare time, he hopes to get outside and experience some of it.
Upcoming events for PJ Library: Teddy Shabbat Dinner for Israel’s birthday (Apr. 13); Yom Ha’atzmaut Maccabiah Games (Apr. 15); and Tot Shabbat, celebrating Israel (Apr. 21). EG members, stay tuned. For more info, please follow the Federation and PJ Library Ottawa on Facebook, or contact Jordan at 613-798-4696, ext. 240 firstname.lastname@example.org.