A Campaign of pivots and gratitude

By Yudit Simmons

My first Annual Campaign with Jewish Federation of Ottawa has been an incredibly meaningful experience. As I reflect on my first year in Ottawa, I am impressed beyond words with the strong community presence that has been the catalyst of success for this year’s Campaign. Coming from Toronto, I wasn’t sure what community engagement in the National Capital would be like, and I have found myself truly inspired by the level of support for Federation.

As I look back over the success of this year’s Campaign, a few thoughts immediately came to mind:

I moved to Ottawa only a year ago, and have been completely embraced and welcomed into the Jewish community, despite arriving in the middle of the pandemic. Behind masks, people sent baked cookies and meals, provided us with resources to feel settled in, and greeted my husband Ze’ev and me with much warmth and support. During a period of great uncertainty in Canada and around the world, Federation was able to raise money for its Emergency Campaign, in addition to the Annual Campaign. Many donors gave to both initiatives proving that even in the most difficult of times, the community will do whatever they can to ensure the most vulnerable are safe and cared for.

As Campaign manager, one of the best perks of my role is working with an amazing group of volunteer canvassers. Despite the challenges of working remotely, and not being able to meet in person, the warmth and positive energy of all of these volunteers motivates me every single day. One canvasser mentioned in training, “Dial with a smile, go into a call feeling good, and know that you are giving an opportunity for someone to do a mitzvah.” Our canvassers did marvellous good deeds, and they started each conversation with a caring, “how are you?” The simple greeting created space for people to connect in a time when we were all disconnected and lonely. They went above and beyond helping community members connect with services, resources while taking time to swap stories. I am so proud and grateful to work with such generous and kind individuals. In addition to the amazing canvassers, I received excellent support and guidance from Campaign Co-Chairs Karen Palayew and Josh Engel as well as Federation staff Micah Garten and Andrea Freedman. What a powerful and caring team! Together we launched a new program for this Campaign called the Monthly Mitzvah Club, which is a monthly donor community that supports Federation on a monthly basis to ensure there are consistent resources to succeed in our mission to affect change for those in need. As for many of us, the word “pivot” has become part of my vocabulary. For the Campaign team, we had to pivot to online canvasser training, card allocation, online canvasser packages, online events. I am grateful to say these pivots went smoothly and revealed the powerful depth of our collective engagement.

On a personal level, I experienced another new pivot. For the past decade, I spent all my summers as a Camp Director and Leadership Professional. September always marked the end of a season for me. This

year, September marked the launch of Federation’s Annual Campaign when I joined 200 new and seasoned canvassers as community ambassadors. Now, as I look back on all the successes, new friendships, and the generosity of our donors who join together to ensure Jewish Ottawa thrives, I am filled with gratitude and pride. This new transition in marking September as my new beginning has never felt better.

- Yudit Simmons is the Annual Campaign Manager at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa