J-Fellows program supports, encourages young professionals

Since 2018, the J-Fellows program has been supporting and encouraging young Jewish professionals in Ottawa through skill development, mentorship and opportunities for collaborative action. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has continued in a virtual realm, focusing on a speakers’ series. 

The program was developed to highlight the challenges young Jewish professionals face and support them through the values of the community. 

“We wanted to empower the next generation of leaders,” said Arielle Kreisman, a kindergarten teacher who has co-chaired the program since its inception. “We want to include leaders of the Jewish community to be mentors to this group.”

The first year, it was a relatively small group of people with regular attendees, including Simone Davis, a learning consultant at the University of Ottawa. 

“I was really attracted by the program — there’s a lot of programming out there that focuses on social aspects and religious events, but I was looking for professional development and leadership,” said Davis. “I was really inspired and really engaged by the events and that pushed me to want to be involved and then I was asked to be a co-chair.”

For Kreisman, starting the program was spurred by what she saw as that same “gap.”

“I was at a point in my career and also personally where I wanted to make other connections. It gave me some perspective and chances to connect.”

Ruth Middlebrook, a senior communications advisor for the federal government, said the program’s pillars really resonated with her, so she attended a session — and then she attended a second one.

“Both sessions I went to have spoken to me … the first one was on having difficult conversations,” she said. “It was very useful and now I’m reminding myself almost daily with the lessons we learned from that conversation. And it taught me not to lose my own values in our day-to-day when things get complicated.”

While the J-Fellows program targets young professionals, the definition of that is relatively wide — from 20s to 40s, in their careers for less than 10 years — but people starting over in new careers later in life are also welcome. 

“We want to be able to offer the program to anyone interested — we have a wide array of demographics and ages and professions attend,” said Kreisman. “When you see ‘young professional,’ it’s hard to understand what that is, but really we’re just a group of like-minded people who are looking for a connection.”

Davis agreed. 

“More importantly, someone who is consistently looking to learn and develop in their skill set.”

Middlebrook said for anyone considering joining one of the sessions, it should be a no-brainer.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” she said. “I’m amazed at the commitment of J-Fellows to equip young leaders like us.”

Kreisman said they’ve taken advantage of the virtual setting over the last year to permit more people from a wider boundary to attend, which helps add to the experience.

“There’s things you can take from every session and apply to everyday life, including at home,” said Kresiman. “The opportunity to connect not only with community leaders but with every participant is invaluable.”

Visit J-Fellows online to sign up for speakers’ series events and to learn more about various opportunities. Programming is offered free of charge, but donations to Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign are encouraged.