Foundation award winners build bridges across communities

Talia Freedhoff is currently studying journalism and creative writing at the University of King's College and defines their passion as advocacy work. Talia is also this year’s Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation’s G.J. Cooper Scholarship award winner.

The G.J. Cooper Scholarship Award is granted each year to support a member of the Ottawa Jewish Community who is between the ages of 18 and 30, who has displayed leadership qualities, and academic excellence, and who has an interest in the Jewish Community. The award must be used for formal education or apprenticeship in the artistic, literary, or social sciences.

Talia had this to say about their passion and involvement in the Jewish community:
“As a Jewish student, I've seen my fair share of antisemitism and I feel very strongly about the importance of standing and speaking against it whenever I am able. At the same time, I am also deeply passionate about spreading hope and Jewish joy. Being Jewish can often feel very isolating or even scary at times, and just as it's important to spread awareness of antisemitism, it's also important to spread the message that there are good things out there too. As a writer, I hope to be able to provide this one day in positive representation through journalism and fiction writing alike.”

Talia hopes to one day write a children's series featuring a Jewish protagonist and to cover many stories about Judaism through journalism. Talia said, “I feel very strongly about advocacy work in both my queer and Jewish identities and hope to be able to continue to speak on different topics that affect both communities, especially related to the intersectionality that can appear within them.”

Talia is clearly committed, but can an organization embrace the same level of passion for change as an individual? Instead of using their pen, the winner of the Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, is using sports to build bridges.

The recipient(s) of The Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award must propose an idea for an innovative and creative philanthropic, entrepreneurial activity that offers the potential for ongoing benefits to the Ottawa Jewish community, or surrounding communities.

Congregation Machzikei Hadas (CMH) is excited to develop Hockey Against Hate, a one-day charity tournament that will bring together the diversity of our beautiful Ottawa community through a game we all love. This tournament will also bring together faith leaders and business leaders from across different communities in Ottawa. Together, with other communities, CMH will raise awareness of the need to stand together and fight hate and will raise funds to support future bridge-building programming. They envision Hockey Against Hate becoming a premiere charity tournament in Canada.

Executive Director of CMH, Rabbi Michael Goldstein said, “Congregation Machzikei Hadas has a significant impact on the Jewish community, but also has a major impact on the broader community. Continuing down the path that Rabbi Bulka forged, we act as ambassadors of the Jewish community to the broader community in so many ways, and we build bridges within the beautiful fabric of Ottawa's general community every day. CMH has created and continues to be instrumental in helping to create a city that is united in fighting against any kind of hate and discrimination and will continue to build on decades of bringing our community together with love and positivity. CMH is so grateful to the Lesh family for recognizing the work they do and supporting them to take it to the next level.” 

The winner of the Ilana & Steven Rubin Education Scholarship certainly took things to the next level when she identified a need within the community during the COVID pandemic. The Ilana & Steven Rubin Education Scholarship is open to high school students in Ontario and the Maritime provinces, and landed immigrants of three years or more, who wish to attend a post-secondary institution in Canada or Israel. This year we congratulate Savannah Crystal Lobo on received this award.

Savannah started her journey to make the community a better place when she started “Sharing is Caring.” Savannah says, “I started my first project, "Savannah's Care Packages” in 2020 during the start of the global pandemic. Due to the pandemic, homeless shelters were desperate for donations for their residents. Donations were down due to the socioeconomic instability, as many people lost their income. My organization successfully donated 160 care packages (80 male, 80 female) to two shelters within the city of Toronto.”

To further their efforts, Savannah’s organization has started the distribution of care packages to various hospitals within Toronto including The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and St. Joseph's Health Centre. “They both expressed a desire for care packages for their patients and both hospitals embraced the concept of “Sharing is Caring.” We were happy to support them and to deliver care packages for their patients.”

The Federation and Foundation wish all the winners a hearty Mazel Tov and much continued success.  You all truly embrace Livnot gesher, building a bridge.