Congregation Machzikei Hadas has launched a new school bus service to bring students from the Alta Vista area to the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), Torah Day School of Ottawa and the Westboro Jewish Montessori Preschool.
The bus is operated by 417 Bus Line with a dedicated bus driver who picks the children up at home every day and brings them back after school.
“The bus is our attempt to take away one barrier from parents who wish to give their kids a Jewish education,” said Rabbi Michael Goldstein, executive director of Machzikei Hadas, who explained that many parents in the area do not have the time they’d need to drive their children to and from the Jewish schools in Ottawa’s west end.
“Many parents have asked us to establish this bus service,” he explained.
Rabbi Goldstein credited OJCS parent Alec Mills for doing the research necessary to figure out the best routes, times, and costs for the bus service.
Seventeen children, aged three to 13, were registered for the bus service as the school year began.
“It was important for us to get the bus up and running even though it’s not at full capacity yet, because we want to encourage future registration,” said Rabbi Goldstein.
While there is a fee for the school bus service, Rabbi Goldstein emphasized “the service will be available for every child and family that needs it.”
The service is not restricted to members of Congregation Machzikei Hadas and families in the Alta Vista area are invited to contact the congregation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-521-9700 for more information.
Rabbi Goldstein, along with his wife, Stacy Goldstein, is also involved in a new initiative to bring more Jewish families to Ottawa.
“We know that living and housing expenses, especially in Toronto, are too much for many young families,” he said.
So the Goldsteins started a campaign to put Ottawa on the map for young Jewish families looking to leave places like Toronto.
“Ottawa is a very vibrant city. We’ve got high-tech, numerous industries, government and private sectors, and a connection to the Quebec market,” he said. “The city also offers a lot of Jewish content, often at about half the price of other places.”
Response to the initiative, Rabbi Goldstein said, has been positive, with families from across the Jewish religious spectrum expressing interest in moving to Ottawa.
“We wish to encourage people to make an informed decision, to get to know different neighbourhoods and congregations, and see that Ottawa has a lot to offer,” he said. “And even if only one family moves here and sends their kids to OJCS – it will be amazing.”