The hidden power of language: Empowering Hebrew-speaking children and youth

By Inbal Marcovitch

Research shows that in Canada immigrants who feel a high sense of belonging to both their source country and Canada have the best measures of well-being. That connection can be through spending time with other immigrants, finding people to speak their native tongue with, or transmitting their language to their children. For many Israeli immigrants to Canada, maintaining their children’s Hebrew language proficiency can be a challenge. As time goes on Hebrew may be a first, second, or third language for these kids and subsequent generations, however, language is a key component of one’s cultural heritage. So how can the community support Israeli immigrants and their famil
ies to maintain their connection to Hebrew?

Ottawa currently has a small but growing Israeli community consisting of 185 children up to the age of 14, and 115 youth and young adults, who speak Hebrew at home, according to Statistics Canada, (2021 analysis by Dr. Anat Ziv & Jackie Luffman, 2023).  Despite this growing community, there were limited opportunities for children to engage in spoken Hebrew language outside the family home, resulting in a struggle to maintain proficiency past the early years. But that has now changed. In April 2023, HaKibbutz was launched through a Jewish Federation of Ottawa Microgrant.

Leveraging the power of human connection and social networks, HaKibbutz fosters confidence in a space where children and youth can explore the Hebrew language, their identity, and their relationship to the various communities to which they belong. 

The idea for HaKibbutz emerged from a conversation in the Israeli Women in Ottawa online group. Six months were spent engaging and mapping the needs of the community by a group of supportive parents, community leaders, and Jewish organizational community partners, such as Jewish Family Services of Ottawa. In the end, we were able to articulate HaKibbutz’s vision: “Every child and youth who speaks Hebrew, has a place where they can speak their language while establishing meaningful social connections, leadership skills, and a sense of belonging.” 

Kibbutz” comes from the root Kuf (ק), Bet (ב), Tsadik (צ) meaning bringing different elements together. It’s about bringing together our community to explore, experiment, and discover what it means to raise the next generation of Canadian-Israeli children and youth in Ottawa in a non-religious and non-political environment.

Under the wings of Jewish Family Services of Ottawa (JFS) and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Microgrant, we were able to test this vision and program concept during a month-long pilot. We utilized the decades of experience from leaders in the Jewish community like Sue Potechin and Sarah Caspi and sought to create a community where children and youth can explore Israeli, Jewish, Canadian, pluralistic, and democratic values and culture through play in Hebrew. Thanks to the overwhelming success of the pilot, we solidified our partnership with the Soloway JCC, and received a very generous Jewish Journey’s Grant from the Federation to grow the pilot into a permanent program --- the first achievement of its kind!

As a core value, HaKibbutz is structured to work in partnership with various community organizations including the Soloway JCC, JFS, the Jewish Federation, PJ Library, Vered Israel Educational and Cultural Program, and Israeli Women in Ottawa.  

Join the Facebook group  for more information, including info on registration for our 2023-24 program offerings, or contact Sue Potechin, Program Manager, SJCC, at

--Inbal Marcovitch, Founder HaKibbutz הקיבוץ - 


Inbal is a social entrepreneur and intrapreneur advising executives in academia, the Canadian public service and national boards on building innovative, sustainable and resilient programing and organizations.