Party with a Purpose, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s inaugural flagship event for women, raised more than $20,000 for three vital community initiatives, while giving women in the community an opportunity to mingle and make friends.
The idea for “Party with a Purpose,” held May 21 at Bayview Yards, was kindled last year when event chairs Jenny Shinder and Lenora Zelikovitz were travelling through Israel with a Jewish Federation of Ottawa-sponsored group participating in a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project tour.
When the bus stopped at Susan’s House, a place for at-risk teens that teaches vulnerable kids how to create glass work and ceramics, Shinder thought to herself, “I’m not buying any of this stuff. I don’t need any more tchotchkes in my house.”
But she listened to the speaker and that immediately changed her mindset from “I don’t need any more tchotchkes” to “take all my money.”
“Hearing the story touched my heart,” Shinder told the full house audience at Party with a Purpose. “Hearing the story was the difference that moved me from the typical feeling of obligatory giving to a completely different feeling, which I like to call ‘heartfelt giving.’”
Then Shinder and Zelikovitz had the conversation that led to the creation of Party with a Purpose. “We thought, ‘what if we could go home and bring some heartfelt giving experiences to our own community?’”
Party with a Purpose was a two-hour cocktail and dessert reception. After an hour of socializing, or “friend-raising,” the second hour was dedicated to fundraising and learning about three vital initiatives in the Jewish community: Ten Yad, which steps in to provide support for those experiencing an acute life-changing event; Shalom Bayit, a Jewish Family Services of Ottawa program supporting women suffering abuse; and Keshet for Kids, a Tamir inclusivity initiative that allows children with special needs to go to summer camp.
Spokespersons from each of the three initiatives were given 10 minutes to explain their project and attendees were given the opportunity to make targeted donations to them.
Sarah Caspi, executive director of Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, spoke about the Shalom Bayit program.
“Unfortunately, domestic abuse happens in all communities, and it happens in our community,” said Caspi. “Think about what you can do to help the women you know” who are dealing with emotional, psychological, financial or physical abuse.
Esti Fogel and Debbie Scharf spoke on behalf of Ten Yad and explained the all-volunteer organization has coordinators in neighbourhoods across the city. Scharf read from Psalm 121, “A song for ascents. I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?” in noting the group’s mission to assist individuals and families dealing with difficult situations including deaths of loved ones, serious illness, hospitalizations and other traumas.
Laurie Oakley, Tamir’s residential services manager and Madelaine Werier, a parent of children with autism, and a co-founder of JOIN (Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network), spoke on behalf of the Keshet for Kids program, which supports children with special needs in having summer camp experiences.
“Keshet for Kids will benefit families like mine,” said Werier, “but it will also benefit the entire community… The community is stronger by supporting the inclusion of all kids.”
The response to the inaugural Party with a Purpose was strong.
Funds raised at the event totalled more than $20,000. Interestingly, many in attendance gave to all three organizations.
Women attending the first Party with a Purpose were enthusiastic in their praise for the event.
Adele Sidney attended as a supporter of Ten Yad. “That was the catalyst,” she said, “but I like the more casual atmosphere.”
“It’s a beautiful creative space with a nice energy,” said Eileen Melnick McCarthy, a member of the executive of the Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program.
“This is a really new and interesting venue to try,” agreed Fran Freedman-Kesler. “I feel very strongly that Jewish women should support Federation activities. That’s why I’m here.”
“I like attending Jewish community events that showcase all the good being done in our community,” said Stephanie Levitz. “I like that this event attracts a diverse group of women across the community.”
“I loved the opportunity to meet new people,” said Devora Caytak. “It provided a meaningful evening out. It couldn’t get any better than that… My hat’s off to the organizers – very, very well done.”