Giving back to community and how Federation is “here for good”

By Josh Engel

Karen Palayew and I were asked recently “why are we volunteering our time to lead the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign?” We both thought about our reasons and struggled for days to answer what seemed to be a straightforward question. In the end, it is simple: Karen and I volunteer because our community asked us to do so.

Neither Karen nor I were actively seeking leadership roles in the community, but being asked to take on the position of Campaign co-chairs signaled to us that our community has confidence and trust in our abilities to lead and make a difference in people’s lives while hopefully inspiring others to do the same. How could we say no to that? To have the opportunity to represent and lead our great Ottawa Jewish community is an honour and a privilege.

For me personally, this is also my opportunity to give back to a community that has supported me through out my life. I am a product of Jewish Ottawa. A graduate of Hillel Academy, I had my B’nai Mitzvah (along with my twin brother) at Agudath Israel, now Kehillat Beth Israel, spent 16 summers at CBB Ottawa and I am so thankful for my Jewish journey.

Jewish Ottawa has always been an exceptional place to live, grow and learn and the uncertainty of COVID-19 has only highlighted the strengths of our community.

The leadership, generosity and teamwork shown by all during the pandemic has been truly inspiring. At a time of great uncertainty around the world, we managed to raise significant emergency funds and collaborate with our beneficiary agencies to assess, prioritize and meet the most pressing needs of our community in a timely manner. While our community should take great pride in these achievements, it is also important to note that the needs of our community continue to grow.

The theme of this year’s Campaign is “Here for Good,” which invokes many connotations including strength, compassion, support, generosity and resiliency to name a few. For this Campaign, Federation has identified two main areas of focus to help secure our community’s future and ongoing recovery. Firstly, we are supporting our most vulnerable. Many people still need extra help. From food insecurity to mental health struggles, with your support, Federation aims to strengthen our Jewish social safety net. Secondly, the Campaign aims to ensure access to Jewish life and education for all community members. With your generosity, Federation will support families who are at risk of disconnecting from Jewish life to ensure that everyone still has access to the Jewish Superhighway and the ability to enjoy meaningful Jewish journeys.

Meanwhile, these priorities will take place in a secure and safe environment. On top of the pandemic, Canada has witnessed a disturbing rise in antisemitism. Federation is working diligently with our advocacy partner, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, along with many grassroots activists, to

combat antisemitism, particularly to ensure public schools and our university campuses are safe spaces for our young people.

We cannot take our community for granted. It requires significant financial resources as well as volunteer hours to not only sustain our community but allow it to thrive. Thank you to everyone who has supported and contributed to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign and we urge everyone who is able, to consider a contribution to the 2022 annual campaign to ensure our community continues to be “Here for Good.” Visit here for more information and to donate. Thank you.

Wishing a Shana Tova to you and your loved ones.

- Josh Engel and Karen Palayew are the co-chairs of the 2022 Annual Campaign. Read their bios here.