SJCC recognizes outstanding volunteers, teen leaders

By Pamela Rosenberg 

The Soloway JCC is a vibrant and active community centre at the heart of Ottawa’s Jewish community. Each year, at its AGM, the SJCC honours outstanding community volunteers who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to support the centre and its programs. These volunteer awards are a recognition of the vital role that volunteers play in helping the community thrive. 

The Grossman Klein Teen Leadership Award, for two teens who have shown outstanding dedication and service to the Jewish community and the community at large, was awarded this year to Deena Friedman and Liat Wolfish. 

A Grade 12 student at Sir Robert Borden High School, Liat is Co-President of the Finance Club, DECA Chapter President and field hockey captain. 

Liat has devoted much of her time to the SJCC as well as, Kehillat Beth Israel where she has played an instrumental role in the United Synagogue Youth program.   

Liat has taken on a variety of positions with USY locally, through the Eastern Canada Region and internationally.  She has been the Vice President of Membership for Kadima, is currently the President of ECRUSY (Eastern Canadian Region of United Synagogue Youth) and she is on the International Interim Board for USY. 

In 2012, Liat joined the Karate class at the SJCC and quickly rose up the ranks earning all her belts along the way. Now a black belt, and a sensai herself, Liat helps teach in the after-school program that she once attended as a student as well as at the 6 Tigers Martial Arts Academy where she is also a mentor for junior competitive participants.  

During the pandemic, when classes were cancelled, Liat spent her Sunday mornings teaching online, doing her part to make an extremely difficult time, a little better with a friendly face and some fun Karate moves.  

"I am inspired by the idea that I can contribute to making a difference in people's lives and helping to create a better future for everyone,” says Liat. “Community involvement allows me to connect with people, learn from their experiences and perspectives, and build strong relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. I believe that it is my duty to lead by example and encourage others to get involved and give back.”   

Deena, a Grade 12 student at Nepean High School, has been a strong advocate for ensuring that Jewish identities are heard and understood at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).  

Deena was the first speaker to take the stage at Rise Up Ottawa this past November. Her impactful words about her experience as a Jewish student in the public school board garnered a standing ovation from over 800 attendees. A month later, she was the only student to delegate in person at an OCDSB meeting where she demanded the school board take immediate action to keep Jewish students safe.   

At Nepean, she was head of the Jewish Culture Club and created the first Holocaust educational display in the school showcases.  She is an active member, and participant in orthodox institutions such as Camp Torah Academy of Ottawa, Young Israel Congregation, NCSY, and Camp Moshava.   

Deena has a passion for horses and is an award-winning equestrian competitor, children’s summer camp coordinator, and instructor. She is a long-time volunteer at the Royal Equestrian Centre where she helps with the horses. 

The Ben Karp Volunteer Service Award, which is presented to a volunteer who best exemplifies communal ideals and sets an ongoing example for others, was awarded to Sidney Rosenblatt who chose to give back to his community through his love of Pickleball. 

When Sidney first joined the SJCC, Pickleball was slowly gaining popularity with one Sunday afternoon time slotted in for those who wanted to play. 

Just over a year ago, Sid began to volunteer his services as a Pickleball instructor; something he was happy to do to help spread his love for the fastest-growing sport in North America across our community.   

Sid patiently and expertly introduced new players to the game by showing them the basics and sharing his simple philosophy; “it's about having fun, getting some exercise, and trying to get better.” 

“Sid is just a pleasure to work with,” says Barry Sohn, SJCC President, and COO. “He is upbeat, positive, and extraordinarily patient. He, with just a bit of support from the SJCC, has gotten pickleball up and running at the Centre with 50-60 people playing weekly. He’s done a great job!” 

- Pamela Rosenberg is the Vice President Operations, Soloway Jewish Community Centre