Celebrating volunteers for National Volunteer Week

Volunteers are central to the success of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. Without their generous commitment of energy and time, Federation would not be able to function. From the dedicated team of canvassers who raise funds for the Annual Campaign and the passionate and engaged members of Federation’s Board of Directors and the numerous committees, to the recent outpouring of volunteers ready to help Ukraine refugees, Jewish Ottawa’s success is due to these compassionate and caring people.

Next week is National Volunteer Week and to mark this occasion and as a way to honour and recognize the power of volunteering, the E-Bulletin met with a few of the amazing volunteers in our community to learn more about why they do what they do.

Jonathon and Elyssa Greenberg are extremely active volunteers in the Ottawa Jewish community. They both serve as Steering Committee members for Federation’s Emerging Generation (EG) and are the current Co-Chairs for the EG annual fundraising campaign.

“It is important to have a strong community with a strong Jewish identity so that our children and their children can grow up with a specifically Jewish set of values and traditions that can act as a guiding light as they go through their lives,” the Greenbergs said. 

Since 2019, Elyssa has volunteered for Congregation Machzikei Hadas and at the Ottawa Kosher Food bank. Jonathon also serves on Federation’s Grants and Evaluation Committee. Outside of the local community, Jonathon sits on the Jewish Public Servants’ Network Steering Committee, is a member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Young Leaders Circle,  and is a World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps member.

One of the pair’s favourite volunteer memories comes from the 2019 Chanukah Ball.

“It was amazing to see the results of our volunteerism come through in the form of a successful event that brought the community together,” they said. “Also to watch Jewish young professionals network with each other to build friendships and new bonds in this way was inspiring.”

The Greenbergs firmly believe being a volunteer enriches not only the lives of those they serve, but their own lives.

“Through our volunteerism we are building our lives and identities as active members of Jewish Ottawa and building better lives for every member of the community. Not everyone has the time and resources to devote to community building and so we see it as our duty to do as much as we can, while we can.”

For Tamara Fathi, who is a member of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation Board of Directors and a member of Federation’s Communications and Community Relations Committee (CCRC), she reflects on two verses to inspire her volunteerism. 

“First, the famous Hillel quote, particularly the second line: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’ and two, a verse from the Talmud: ‘Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,’ meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other,” said Fathi. “It is so important to give back to the community and build for future generations.”

Fathi is also a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps International Steering Committee, was previously on the CIJA board of directors and co-chair of the CIJA Young Leaders Circle, and also held a three-year term as the first vice-president of Congregation Machzikei Hadas. 

“In my professional career I often draw upon leadership experiences that I have held in the community,” said Fathi. “Just recently I interviewed for my dream job in Colombia (which I got) and I drew upon my experiences with the World Jewish Congress in terms of diplomacy and advocating for world Jewry – no other candidate would’ve had the opportunity to attend the UNGA to advocate for Jewish issues.”

Finding the time to volunteer can be a challenge, but Fathi makes it a priority.

“We all make time for things that are important in our lives. I make the time,” she said. “Over the years, I have had so many rich experiences and have met so many incredibly dedicated people that have inspired me to continue to make time.”

The Greenbergs add volunteering to their regular schedule, just like work or school.

“So that it has its own time slot and so that we can give it the attention and focus that it deserves,” they said. “We make the time before work, after work and on weekends because this is something we feel passionately about. Sometimes it feels like a part-time job but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

According to Jewish Federation of Ottawa CEO Andrea Freedman, what makes the Jewish community such a vibrant and caring place  is the special relationship between professionals and volunteers. “It is remarkable how much time and expertise everyone gives. It amazes me each day how much time that Board Chair Ian Sherman gives to the community. In this community there are no honorary volunteer roles, everyone rolls up their sleeves and does the work.” 

Federation is always looking for new volunteers to serve in a variety of ways! Contact Sarah Beutel at sbeutel@jewishottawa.com if you are interested in getting involved.