An ‘impressive array of new leaders’

By Louise Rachlis

New leadership brings new ideas, renewed energy and even more opportunities for positive partnerships,” said Jewish Federation of Ottawa President and CEO Andrea Freedman, noting that several institutions in the community have new leadership in their professional ranks.

“I firmly believe that as a community we are strengthened when all organizations are optimally positioned for success,” said Freedman. “A rising tide raises all ships, and so with the impressive array of new leaders, it is a wonderful time for Jewish Ottawa.”

Freedman said she is “excited to work with all my Jewish communal colleagues and warmly look forward to forging productive relationships with everyone.”

“It’s an exciting time to be in Ottawa,” said Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg, the new spiritual leader of Temple Israel. “I feel humbled to follow a number of longtime leaders in the community. Myself, and the cohort of leaders under 45 are continuing to walk the path of Torah, passing our values l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation). We bring renewed energy and appreciation for the opportunities and challenges of living Jewishly in the 21st century. I’m especially honoured to serve at Temple Israel as a steward of inclusivity and tikkun olam.”

Rabbi Gavriel Rudin, the new spiritual leader of Young Israel of Ottawa is also “very excited to be part of the new leadership in the Ottawa Jewish community at this crucial time.”

“There is so much potential for growth,” said Rabbi Rudin, “and the positive energy from other community members and leaders creates the ideal atmosphere to allow this to happen. Since moving here, I have had a number of conversations with my colleagues about how we can help bring the community to the next level. I look forward to turning those ideas into actions in the coming months and years.”

Rabbi Boruch Perton, the new head of school at Torah Day School of Ottawa, an Orthodox elementary day school, says he has “the unique opportunity to look at Torah Day School from a new and fresh set of eyes.”

“The words, ‘we don’t do it like this,’ or ‘that’s never worked,’ don’t speak to me,” said Rabbi Perton. “Anything and everything is possible.

“There is an excitement at Torah Day School as we welcome four new teachers joining us from around the globe – two rabbis from the States, one rabbi from Israel and a morah (female teacher) from Montreal,” he said. “They bring with them exciting ideas and suggestions from other communities and schools that will enhance Torah Day. We are not afraid of change, we embrace it!”

Avi Marcovitz is the new head of Jewish studies at the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS). “It is a privilege to work in an institution which celebrates a love of being Jewish and a love of Israel,” said Marcovitz. “Walking through the halls at OJCS, seeing the smiles first thing in the morning and listening to the tefilot, is truly priceless.”

His colleague, Jon Mitzmacher, beginning his third year as head of school at OJCS, said the infusion of new leadership at his and other institutions in the community inspires him.

“Part of my decision-making process that brought me to Ottawa was not only the potential that I saw in the school, but the potential I saw in the Jewish community. I am confident that our success at the school – in growth, in excellence and in word of mouth – is tightly bound to the renewed commitments between our institutions. It is a blessing to work and live in a Jewish community whose institutions truly view themselves as partners, invested in each other’s successes,” said Mitzmacher.

Rabbi Dov Nimchinsky, the new principal of the Orthodox high schools Ottawa Torah Institute (for boys) and Machon Sarah (for girls), had been in Ottawa just 10 days when he spoke to the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. He said that much of his career “has been spent bringing Jewish education, Torah education, to smaller communities.

“What I see in Ottawa is a city that is very warm and welcoming, filled with a tremendous amount of potential and energy. The city is at a turning point, ready to step forward. It’s a point where it’s coming into its own,” said Rabbi Nimchinsky.

Veteran social worker and administrator Sarah Caspi is the new executive director of Jewish Family Services of Ottawa.

Caspi said she is “very excited” about her new role, “as JFS is very special to me. This year we celebrate our 40th year and I am proud of all the programs and services that we offer,” she said. “I look forward to continuing our excellent work for many years to come.” Caspi is pleased to be part of the new professional leadership in the community and looks forward to getting to know all of the new leaders. “The Ottawa Jewish community benefits when we work together to support our community.”

“Building and preserving our community requires all of us, but energetic leadership is where that effort begins,” said Michael Polowin, who became Federation chair in June.

“I have spent my first two months as chair meeting with the leadership of some of our community agencies,” he said, “and I firmly believe that we are in good hands as we move forward…We are embarking on some of the most exciting times in the history of Ottawa’s Jewish community. The leadership we see around our community will encourage all of us to get involved.”

“I am personally, as is Federation, committed to helping in every way possible,” adds Freedman. “With all the strong new leaders and the overwhelming success of recent Federation initiatives, the future of Ottawa’s Jewish Superhighway is very bright. Our community is in a great place right now.”