New leadership for our community

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation just competed their Annual General Meetings. At that time both Boards welcomed new chairs who will guide and support the operations of each organization for the next two years. 

Karen Palayew is a practicing primary care pediatrician, with three children. Her family moved to Ottawa 23 years ago and they have embraced everything Ottawa has to offer. 

 “I need to be outdoors and breathe fresh air. I’m nourished by outdoor activities like skating on the canal, biking, kayaking, and skiing,” shares Palayew.

Palayew has an 11-year history of volunteerism in the Jewish community. 

“My journey is that I started off as a chaperone for the 2012 March of the Living program and came back from the March and realized the tremendous impact and the how important the program was for our youth.” 

From there, Palayew never looked back and after two years as vice chair under Ian Sherman, she began her time as Chair of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. 

“The more involved I became, the more I wanted to give back. I recognize and value the importance of Federation and the role that it plays in our community. I look at Federation as being the organization that supports and strengthens every aspect of Jewish life in Ottawa.”

Palayew identified that her number one priority will be to “find an incredible CEO. Andrea has been tremendous and is leaving the Federation in a really good place. The Federation has a strong foundation, and I am excited to transition someone new into the role.”

After bringing a new CEO on board, Palayew wants to focus on the younger generation and bringing them into the leadership fold. 

“I worry about a gap in leadership between the older leaders and the younger generation. There are some tremendous young leaders stepping up, but it’s not enough. I really want to broaden the engagement of the younger generation and encourage them to take on more volunteerism and leadership roles in the community.”
She’s hoping to have this engagement embedded in the next Federation Strategic Plan scheduled to be written in 2024.

Sandy Pollack is the new chair of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation and has been in Ottawa for over 20 years embracing everything the city and community have to offer. She owns an advisory company that works with business owners and high net worth individuals in family business succession and estate planning. 

“Money is more than just a currency, it’s a statement of values,” says Pollack. “How you spend your money transmits your values and your kids are listening.  How do you want your children to continue your legacy? 

“I recently launched a book called Don’t Leave a Mess: How to Disaster Proof your Family Legacy, and there is a chapter on charitable giving. When you talk to your children and teach then your stories and your history, they develop a connection to what your family does with its wealth. It creates a connection to the money so the kids see how it can support others in perpetuity.”

Pollack became involved in the Foundation five years ago but has always had a strong drive to volunteer. From posts at Temple Israel to coaching soccer, Pollack believes in supporting community. She has a hard time saying no when she is asked to take on a role as she always asks herself, “why not now?” This motto has led her to be a leader in so many ways, but chairing the Foundation is her biggest role to date. Because of the magnitude of her commitment to the Foundation, she is limiting other volunteer roles, but still maintains her role with Street Smarts, a program of Jewish Family Services that distributes care packages and clothing to homeless individuals every Thursday night. 

During her time as Chair, Pollack hopes to increase board engagement and to strengthen the relationship with the Federation board. 

“Federation focuses on today and Foundation focuses on today and tomorrow. We are the insurance policy, so it important that we be a well synchronized working team.” 

In addition, she’d like to see the Foundation endowment grow to $100 million over the next three to five years. It would grow the annual disbursement to about $5,000,000 and could further support the 150+ organizations that benefit from the Foundation. One example of a way that the Foundation has grown is by having started the Life and Legacy program as a way to help community institutions secure their futures. Already over 300 people have joined the initiative and since legacy giving is accessible to everyone, we know that in the coming year many more will want to participate.  

“While many perceive giving as a mitzvah (good deed), which it is, I see it as very selfish. When I give of my time or resources, I feel good about it. I am really the one who is rewarded.”

Both Palayew and Pollack share that they feel there is never a “right” or “best” time to assume roles of this nature, but that it is a calling to community that drives them.