June has been a month of celebration with a return to in-person Annual General Meetings for both the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa as each celebrated the year’s accomplishments, recognized the impact of community leaders and volunteers, and shared gratitude for Board members and pride in scholarship and grant recipients.
“2021 was not the year any of us planned for or quite frankly wanted, but it was one that we as a community were able to weather, in part, due to the tremendous support of the Foundation,” began CEO Andrea Freedman in her remarks at the Foundation AGM, which was held on June 7. “As of December 31st, 2021, the Foundation had $81.5M in assets under management and distributed $3.2M in assistance to worthwhile organizations, at a time when they needed it the most.”
Foundation Board Chair Lawrence Soloway echoed these sentiments stressing that as the Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary, there was so much pride in how profoundly the organization has helped and continues to impact the community, expanding its legacy.
Of particular note is the success of the Life & Legacy initiative, a program that promotes after-lifetime giving to benefit Jewish day schools, synagogues, social service organizations and other Jewish entities.
“Notably, we are finishing up Year 2 of the Life & Legacy initiative, an initiative that is changing philanthropic conversations in Jewish Ottawa,” said Soloway. “We rightfully feel that a lot has been accomplished in engaging the program and motivating community agencies to go out and get estate gifts.”
Foundation now has approximately $48 million in unrealized expectancies, with $12 million of that attributed directly to the Life & Legacy program efforts.
After more than two years of pandemic-hindered celebrations, Soloway was also proud of bringing back in-person cheque presentations.
“It was fun to hand out cheques and see the smiles of the agency representative’s faces,” he said, adding that the $3.2 million handed out was the most in the Foundation’s history.
A highlight of the AGM was the awards section of the evening. The G.J. Cooper Scholarship Award, valued at approximately $19,000K and which recognizes academic excellence and leadership,. was awarded to Jordan Geist who is studying law at the University of Ottawa.
The Ilana and Steven Rubin Education Scholarship was awarded to two deserving students, Maddison deBeaupre and Morgan Shusterman, who received their award from Mr. Rubin at their high schools.
The Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award, valued at $10K went to Jewish Family Services and Suzi Shore Sauve’s From House to Home for their work supporting refugees. The Women’s Collective Philanthropy Grant went to Jen Perzow for her workshops on resilience for women with a focus on self-care.
Similarly, a highlight of the Federation’s AGM, held June 15, was the Community Award celebration that recognizes outstanding volunteers and, new this year, Jewish communal professionals.
Danya Vered received the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award and the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award, for her passionate volunteer efforts on Federation’s Board, where she led the strategic planning process. Vered is also a past co-chair of the Emerging Generation’s Annual Campaign and is involved heavily in community initiatives outside of the Jewish community.
“I don’t know any other way than to say yes to community work,” said Vered. “We grew up knowing that this was an extension of us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Rabbi Reuven Bulka Shem Tov Award for Volunteerism and Kindness, renamed this year in honour of Rabbi Bulka Z”L, was awarded to Harold Feder for his contributions to the enrichment of Jewish life. Feder has served on both Foundation and Federation’s board for many years, serving on multiple committees.
“I will cherish being the first recipient of this award dedicated to Rabbi Bulka,” said Feder. “They say this award is for a lifetime of service, but I can assure you I have a whole lot more lifetime to live and giving to give.”
Sarah Beutel, Federation’s vice president of community building, was awarded the Jewish Communal Professional Leadership award, a new award for this year, for living Federation’s mission in promoting and advancing exceptional Jewish life and her deep commitment to the community.
“What motivates me is to be able to pay this forward,” said Beutel about her Jewish upbringing. “I’m optimistic about our Jewish future, and I’m inspired by the many volunteers in our community who work hard every day to ensure we have this vibrant Jewish life.”
The optimism expressed by Beutel in her acceptance speech echoed earlier remarks by Board chair Ian Sherman in a fireside chat with Andrea Freedman. Sherman shared that while it’s been a challenging year, there was still much to celebrate.
“It’s been very, very fulfilling,” he said. “I’m very honoured to fill this role and I don’t take that honour for granted. It’s been emotional at times, with some sleepless nights.”
Sherman, when asked about his most proud accomplishment, pointed to the valuable work of the Board, committees and volunteers. Special thank yous were made to outgoing Board members Jessica Greenberg, Danya Vered, Nikki Shapiro and Stacy Goldstein; and new Board members Tal Scher, Marina Milyaskaya, Marci Surkes and Leila Ages were warmly welcomed.
“They offer so much insight and a lot of foresight, so I’m proud of that,” he said. “We’ve been able to maintain our allocations, which is a lifeblood. Our current initiatives (Generation’s Trust) to make Jewish education more affordable is exciting — we already have $6 million in commitments.”
For Freedman, also expressed the challenges of the year have been bandwidth and fighting antisemitism. She explained that the time invested in the fun aspects of community building and engagements must be balanced against crisis management - whether it to be the pandemic, the Ukraine or antisemitism. the highlights of the year were maintaining the five-year Strategic Plan that saw Federation take on serious learning around truth and reconciliation to supporting community Microgrants for Jewish experiences, to the growth of the Life and Legacy initiative.
However, in keeping with the positive theme, Sherman and Freedman expressed optimism as they looked forward to more in-person gatherings.
To view the livestream video of the Federation AGM, please visit: https://fb.watch/dNAQZe1wvn/