Since 2015, the Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund has been providing support for Ottawa Jewish community projects, big and small.
From funding for the Hillel Ottawa Israel Advocacy Coordinator for university campuses to programs for the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES) to the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS) Makerspace, the committee of five chooses projects that focus on the community as a whole.
“That’s the main thing that sets us apart,” said chair Jane Ehrenworth Shore. “Many committees that come out of shuls are focused on the shul, but we set this up purposely to look at the community on a wider basis.”
Ehrenworth Shore has served as chair since the committee’s inception, after being on the board of Congregation Beth Shalom as they underwent amalgamation with Agudath Israel. The shuls became Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI). While she’s now retired, professionally she was a speech-language pathologist and has also volunteered with the Israel Connect program.
One of the initiatives the committee has helped fund is the position of Hillel Ottawa Israel Advocacy Coordinator. The coordinator works on university campuses to help promote positive dialogue on the topic of Israel and to lead student advocacy efforts on campus.
“The Beth Shalom Legacy Fund stepped in to support the initiative when the committee became aware of a lack of other options for funding,” said Ehrenworth Shore. “We agreed (to help) because we recognized the rise of antisemitism throughout the schools … as a committee, we were unanimously on board in terms of supporting that.”
Similarly, the fund was able to step in and help CHES when they required extra funding for their work developing educational programs that teach about the legacy of the Holocaust. CHES is widely acknowledged for its efforts to bring together academics, educators, survivors, students, and diverse community members in their educational programs.
The Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund also provided major funding for The Ottawa Jewish Community School’s Makerspace. Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering. These special spaces are designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools, and materials and this diversity of activities are what sets Makerspaces and STEAM labs apart from single-use spaces.
“At the time I was working at OJCS as a speech therapist and I had a meeting with (school head) Jon Mitzmacher. He needed funding for his Makerspace project,” said Ehrenworth Shore. “I took it to the committee and we said absolutely. We wanted to support the schools and make OJCS a more dynamic, educational environment.”
The committee chooses projects to fund by looking at each program’s intentions.
“Our perspective, when we assess these, is to ask if it involves the community directly, will it support the community in a positive way, and will the impact be substantial?” said Ehrenworth Shore. “We choose to fund a wide variety by just looking at the impacts they have on the community.”
And of course, one of the fund’s main focuses had been supporting programming at KBI, which is the amalgamated shul. The people who serve on the committee are former members in good standing of Congregation Beth Shalom who were members prior to amalgamation.
Fund applications are not currently being accepted, but Ehrenworth Shore said they hope to open for submissions in late 2023.
“As we look forward, our plan is to continue to work with the Jewish community, in its entirety,” said Ehrenworth Shore. “Strong and vibrant.”