Two of Ottawa’s largest congregations recently hired talented new directors

Two of Jewish Ottawa’s largest congregations recently hired talented new Executive Directors.  Jeremy Rosenberg started work at Kehillat Beth Israel (KBI) at the end of January and Michael Goldstein returned to Congregation Machzikei Hadas (CMH) in November.  

For Goldstein, coming back to work at the shul has incredible meaning. “Personally, it is energizing to know that the work I am doing is supporting and furthering the causes closest to my heart: Torah and the Jewish people. Professionally, the job demands a unique and broad set of tasks that require me to tap into a number of different types of skills, such as emotional intelligence, business intelligence, and religious intelligence.”  

Commenting on Goldstein’s hiring, CMH President Alex Wilner said, “his dedication to our beloved shul is palpable, every hour of every day. His energy is electrifying. And his devotion to his family, friends, and Ottawa’s broader Jewish community is an absolute inspiration.” 

For Rosenberg who comes to KBI from the business world, it is an exceptionally meaningful way to give back.  

“I love the idea of working in the community that I have been part of for over 20 years. I have experience in lots of different areas of business and wanted to apply the knowledge and insight that I have gained to a career that is meaningful and important.”  

As KBI President Victor Rabinovitch said “Jeremy brings so much talent to his work. He has been in business for over 25 years, and all his work required lots of public connections, serving clients and members. He is an ace at the skills needed in successful operations. As an Executive Director in our large synagogue, with 525 households and over 1,000 individual members, Jeremy leads everything administrative and financial, affecting our expanding Talmud Torah supplementary school, our many youth programs, adult education courses, shul social events, and so on.”  

Shortly after beginning work, Rosenberg’s beloved father Phil Rosenberg Z”L passed away. While the stress of losing a loved one and starting a new job is challenging to see the least, it allowed Rosenberg the opportunity to personally and fully experience the loving embrace of community and the power and importance of congregational life.  

KBI and Machzikei, along with other Ottawa congregations are critically important parts of the Jewish Superhighway. Emerging from the pandemic, both congregations are flourishing.   

According to Rabinovitch “we are working hard at bringing people back into social connections after the Covid shutdowns. This is already very successful in our youth and school groups. Now we are focusing more attention on older members, who have been more reticent to connect in person. Our range of Jewish programming has already increased so much and will continue to grow, for adults, families and youth. Training for women and men to lead religious services is a priority - take a look at our new adult bar and bat mitzvah renewal course. We are also working on refurbishing our famous synagogue building, to expand its comfort and attractiveness. The amount of things we have going on is breathtaking.” 

According to Wilner “CMH is back in a big way. We’re hosting a combination of daily Torah classes with a range of weekly and semi-regular events. There’s something for everyone, from Shabbat dinners with world-renowned keynote speakers and monthly Women’s Symposiums to family-friendly events for young families, young professionals, and adults of all ages. Our upcoming Purim 2023 extravaganza is going to be epic!” 

Goldstein is also excited and motivated by the final planning for major renovations that will be funded by the Rabbi Bulka Legacy Campaign. 

“In addition to the complete and beautiful renovation of the sanctuary, this will see the construction of a proper youth wing to house our family programming. Right now, we have 50-60 kids in shul every Shabbat, and many more on holidays, and our youth leaders and educators do an incredible job creating impactful Jewish experiences for every one of those kids. But we are limited by the size, layout, and amenities of the current space, and I am excited to see our youth program up and running post-renovation.” 

Jewish Ottawa has always flourished owing in large part to the partnership between professionals and volunteer lay leadership.  At KBI and CMH, this tradition of partnership is continuing and is contributing to the excellence of both institutions. There is an old Jewish joke about two Jews – Miriam and Shlomo - shipwrecked on a deserted island. When rescuers arrive years later, they discover the construction of three synagogues – one where Miriam goes, one where Shlomo davens and the other where neither will step foot in.  Jewish Ottawa is so fortunate to have numerous flourishing congregations, serving all denominations and the diverse geography of the community, with no third synagogue like in the old joke. 

As Wilner said “Personally, I don't like the term ‘membership’ in the shul context. We are not a gym or a streaming service where the money paid is transactional. Instead of shul members, I think a better term would be ‘stakeholders,’ a community of people who value what the shul is doing and want to support that mission.”   

Rosenberg perfectly summed up the value of a synagogue as “a place where you can belong, celebrate and mourn and it is an important connection to our Jewish community…we are here for our members in the good times and the bad.”