This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. To commemorate this remarkable milestone, the Federation is embarking on a series of year-long initiatives about our shared journey. Among the initiatives will be monthly articles delving into our history, including columns from past leadership. As such, we are delighted to share this first column from a past chair by Steven Kimmel, who served from June 2013 until June 2015.
The headlines of the times: service, education and an inclusive community
By Steven Kimmel
As I prepared to compose this article, I decided to review the two years of Ottawa Jewish Bulletins which were relevant to my term as chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. I was fortunate to have these Bulletin copies in a beautifully bound booklet, which was presented to me upon ending my term as Chair.
What I found consistent when reading the Bulletins was the diversity of programming available and more importantly, the community cooperation of the various synagogues and agencies that continues today. This is something we should be proud of.
When reviewing my opening remarks at the Federation AGM in June of 2013, I shared my thoughts on where I wanted our Board of Directors to focus during my term.
1) Customer service – transparency – accountability to our community members and donors.
2) Ensuring Jewish education was accessible to all.
3) Creating a centre for Jewish philanthropy in partnership with the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.
4) Promote inclusiveness and ensure that we are a welcoming community.
To aid us in accomplishing these goals, we developed a five-year strategic plan under the leadership of board member Linda Kerzner. The plan was effective and measured each year to ensure we were on track and to track where we needed to pay more attention.
During my term, we were challenged with a few community issues which unfortunately are still being addressed today: Synagogue financial viability, the availability of kosher food and its cost, and Jewish education are examples.
One of the most difficult decisions that affected our community during my term was the one by the board of the Ottawa Jewish Community School to close the Jewish high school. This was not an easy decision, but in the end, it was a financial one that could not be avoided.
So, what are the proudest moments in my role of chair? It is very hard to recall a specific moment or occasion, but what I can say is that during my term I was proud of the work our board accomplished under the leadership of then CEO and President Andrea Freedman.
I am also proud of how our community supported Israel, financially and in person, both then and now. This was demonstrated in July and August of 2014 during the Gaza War when standing-room-only community rallies were held to support Israel. Unfortunately, the necessity for these rallies is ongoing as we must continue to ensure our government protects our citizens and Israel.
Near the end of my term, I was fortunate to join our community in celebrating Israel’s 67th birthday. As always, our community gathered to show our support for the state of Israel.
I also recall that in November of 2014, an international Shabbat Project Havdalah service attracted 100’s of people.
Our goals then and now are continue building a strong Jewish community and to encourage as many members as possible to be involved wherever they can. Building community is not a spectator sport, you cannot play from the sidelines. How can you be involved in our community’s success for the next 90 years?