Eyal Podolsky will receive the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Student Award, an honour established in 2016 to recognize “a student pursuing a post-secondary degree who demonstrates leadership and outstanding commitment to the Ottawa Jewish community.”
“I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen,” said Podolsky. “I feel that working for the Jewish community is part of my identity. My parents always said that, when you are a guest in someone’s home, bring your share and a little more. Judaism has given me so much. I feel that my work in the community is giving back my share and a little more.”
Only 20 years old, Podolsky has a long and impressive list of volunteer accomplishments in Ottawa’s Jewish community. He has been BBYO chapter president and regional vice-president; president of the Jewish Culture Club at Sir Robert Borden High School; a Hillel Lodge volunteer; and a participant in the Developing Future Leaders program of the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies.
As student president of Hillel Ottawa, Podolsky oversees all programs, events and meetings, provides guidance and assistance to other executive members, and is the voice of Hillel on campus – all this while he pursues a degree in health sciences at the University of Ottawa.
“Eyal’s professionalism, work ethic and commitment to Jewish life on campus are something you rarely see in young adults his age. To be fair, Eyal is a one-of-a-kind Jewish student leader,” wrote Dovi Chein, Hillel Ottawa’s Jewish student life co-ordinator this past academic year (and incoming director), in his letter nominating Podolsky for the award.
Born in Israel, Podolsky moved to Canada with his family when he was four years old. The aspiring pediatrician discovered volunteering as a Grade 4 student at Hillel Academy (now the Ottawa Jewish Community School) when the students would go to Hillel Lodge to spend time with the residents. Podolsky has continued his involvement at the Lodge in the years since.
When he got to high school, he felt that a Jewish component of his life was missing, so he joined BBYO.
“BBYO shaped me as a leader,” he said. “It gave me confidence and showed me that, if I wanted to do it, I could.”
In recognition of his initiative and outstanding leadership, Podolsky has received the BBYO Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award and the Soloway Jewish Community Centre’s Grossman-Klein Teen Leadership Award.
Rather than curbing his passion for volunteering, university life reinforced it. Podolsky got involved in the Chabad Student Network, taking positions on its executive, and then with Hillel Ottawa, where he rose to student president.
“University is more than academics,” he said. “My passion for Judaism guided my involvement with Hillel Ottawa. It helped me to integrate and to feel like a part of something. I discovered my place in the community and where I fit within it.”
Podolsky also serves on the board of Save-a-Child’s-Heart Student Foundation of Ottawa, and will become its next president. In his letter of support for Podolsky’s nomination for the Student Award, current president Reuben Goldberg wrote, “I believe that he is … a young man that will go on to accomplish great things as a leader, both at the student level and in the Jewish community-at-large.”
Podolsky described his parents, Dekel and Rony Podolsky, as “beautiful role models” who inspire and motivate him. “Everything I do stems from admiration for my parents,” he said.
“To say Eyal Podolsky deserves this award is an understatement,” wrote Chein in his nomination letter. “He truly embodies why this award was created.”
Podolsky will receive the Student Award in absentia during the Jewish Federation of Ottawa annual general meeting, Wednesday, June 14, 7 pm, at the Soloway JCC. Podolsky can’t be there to accept the award in person because he will be in France taking part in a genetic research project.