Full circle: giving back in gratitude

Every year the Jewish Federation of Ottawa is honoured to acknowledge outstanding volunteers in our community. Each year, volunteers are nominated to receive awards that reflect the individual’s commitment to community and to seeing the Ottawa Jewish community grow and thrive. In addition, every two years, an outstanding community professional is selected for their tireless commitment to community and the development of our community members. 

Rabbi Reuven Bulka Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award

Sabina Wasserlauf has been dedicated to the advancement of our communal organizations for over 25 years. For her long-time commitment to Jewish Ottawa, she is being awarded the Rabbi Reuven Bulka Shem Tov Community Volunteer Award, which recognizes an outstanding volunteer for a lifetime of service dedicated to the betterment and enrichment of Jewish life in Ottawa. Wasserlauf has held many positions in the community and has touched the lives of thousands of individuals with a special passion for Jewish education and the Soloway JCC. 

“Volunteering in the community has been a great way for me to feel a part of the community, to meet people, learn new things, and discover that what I have to offer - time, effort, experience, and a particular skillset - are of benefit to others. I believe that if you benefit from what the community offers you, then close the circle by serving the community,” says Wasserlauf.

Her passion for Jewish education is evident as she was integral in the amalgamation of Hillel Academy and Yitzhak Rabin High School to create the Ottawa Jewish Community School. 

“What stands out are my years collaborating with Faye Goldman that resulted in the Ottawa Jewish Community School. It was a challenging and gratifying time, which led to a wonderful friendship with Faye that I so value to this day.”

When asked what Jewish value inspires her work, Wasserlauf replied, “The quote from Rabbi Hillel, in Pirkei Avot, always comes to mind:

If I am not for me, who will be for me?
And when I am for myself alone, what am I?
And if not now, then when?”

Freiman Family Young Leadership Award and the Lawrence Greenberg Young Leadership Development Award

It’s hard to be building a career, raising a young family and finding time to volunteer in the community. However, Tal Scher is doing it all. He is the recipient of The Freiman Family Young Leadership Award, which recognizes a member of the Ottawa Jewish community, 40 and under, who has demonstrated proven leadership to the benefit of Ottawa’s Jewish community.

Scher’s motivation  for being involved in community is multifaceted.

“We’re a smaller community so it’s important for people to step up and do what they can. I have found many of the role models I have in the business world have also been my role models in the Jewish world. They give so much back to the community as well as making contributions to the business world. I want to model them, and I want my kids to see that and inspire them to give back. When we can give our time, it helps the community mature and grow.”

Scher is particularly proud of the “Healthcare Heros Campaign” that Torah Day School of Ottawa launched during COVID. Not only was it a great fundraiser, it brought awareness to the community of the Jewish value of Gimilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and the students were able to thank and give chocolate bars to every healthcare worker in the city who was working overtime to keep us safe.

“I’m beyond appreciative to everyone who has mentored me, guided me, and molded me and to the community for selecting me for this award.”

Jewish Communal Professional Leadership Award

Andrea Gardner is the Associate Executive Director at Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, a role she has held for 17 of her 25 years of service. This award is given every two year, to a community professional who has demonstrated a strong contribution to the advancement of communal life in Ottawa.

At the core of Gardner’s passion is her love of people. 

“I like being able to help and support, to problem solve, and to assist my clients in making connections to the services, supports, and resources they need – at the time they need them the most,” Gardner explains.

“I have been telling our JFS story now for 25 years! Reminding community that we are here for them.  Our community knows us as Jewish Family Services, but often never think of themselves as that family.  The truth is, we are all that family at one time or another and so when I get a call from a member of our community, no matter the ‘why’ I am so grateful they are reaching and entrusting us with their story.”

Over the years, Gardner has touched many lives and says that her success “is about building relationships and collaborations to ensure that gaps in services and systemic inequities are addressed. From those partnerships amazing things have happened; safe and supportive landings for refugees, culturally sensitive COVID vaccine clinics for newcomers, monthly financial support and emergency assistance for members of our Jewish community that live with financial insecurity, helping to amplify the voices of grassroots organizations to help them build capacity.” 

Gardner’s guiding principal has always been the JFS mission of Tikkun Olam (to heal the world).

“To be a guiding light in how that is done and to ensure that all are treated with dignity, respect and compassion. Now more than ever this is needed.”

Please join the community in celebrating these amazing leaders at Federation’s upcoming Annual General Meeting on June 19 at 6:30 pm. Register here.