It was a memory the Grade 3 students of the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS) will carry with them for a lifetime.
On September 7, the kids walked over to the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge for a pre-Rosh Hashanah challah-braiding event with Lodge residents – and were joined in the activity by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The event – organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and its advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – marked the first visit by a sitting prime minister to Ottawa’s Jewish Community Campus.
There were two or three kids and two or three Lodge residents seated at each of a dozen tables set up in the Lodge auditorium when the prime minister arrived. There were also board members from Federation, Hillel Lodge and OJCS at some of the tables.
The eight-year-old students and the residents – up to age 103 – were braiding Rideau Bakery challah dough that would be baked into loaves for clients of the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank. At the front of the room, Federation Board member Nikki Shapiro – who bakes challah weekly with her family – was explaining how to braid the dough, as well as the significance of making round challahs for Rosh Hashanah.
The work had already begun when Trudeau arrived and the participants – no matter their age – were thrilled that he took the time to spend a few moments at each table greeting and chatting with everyone. He seemed genuinely engaged with every conversation and made a point of wishing everyone, “Shana Tova.”
Trudeau reacted with a laugh when one elderly woman said, “You’re not the first Prime Minister Trudeau that I’ve met.”
Before he left, Trudeau listened to Federation Chair Hartley Stern recite the blessing for fruit and joined everyone in partaking of apples dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a sweet New Year.
Community leaders were thrilled with the visit.
“The Federation is delighted to have hosted Prime Minister Trudeau for this historic visit to the Jewish Community Campus. We are so deeply proud of our agencies, like Hillel Lodge and OJCS, and it was truly significant for us to have the leader of our country witness some of the wonderful programming and initiatives on the Jewish Superhighway. We are blessed in this community and I am thrilled to have been able to showcase Jewish life on campus to our prime minister,” said Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman after the visit.
“This special visit highlighted some of the most unique and exceptional aspects of our community. The Jewish Campus is an inclusive, welcoming home to people of all ages. Seeing Prime Minister Trudeau with Lodge residents and our students, all socializing while making challah was heartwarming. Where else can generations intersect so easily than on our campus? And this will only get more impressive when Tamir’s Integrated Living Centre is built. This is a great start for the New Year,” added Stern.
“We were honoured that our Grade 3 class was able to share in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the Jewish Community Campus. It was a sweet thrill and a wonderful way to usher in Rosh Hashanah for our students,” said OJCS Head of School Jon Mitzmacher.
“Hillel Lodge was delighted and excited to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to our Rosh Hashanah challah-braiding event. Our managers and staff have been busily working all week to prepare for a meaningful and fun-filled afternoon for the children and for the prime minister. Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time of year to foster strong supportive and collegial relationships with all,” said Hillel Lodge Board Chair Arlene Rosenbloom.