What does the Jewish Federation of Ottawa do?

If you were asked “What does Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto do?”, the answer would be easy. They help sick kids. Their mission and agenda is laid out in their title. When asked what the Jewish Federation of Ottawa does, the answer requires a little more information, but the impact is no less real or relevant.

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2024. It is an organization that began with a communal need and continues filling that role to this day. We are here for the past and will be here for the future is a powerful statement from current Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman. It’s a reminder that the work that was started so many years ago, continues today and will continue tomorrow. The Jewish community is its own best ally.If one were asked what Federation is known for in one word, many would say that Federation fundraises. If that were all the Federation did, our ongoing role might be in question. Many of our partner agencies are excellent at raising funds. However, there is so much more to the Federation story. 

In a nutshell, Federation has a compelling, inclusive vision for all of Jewish Ottawa. Federation supports meaningful Jewish experiences and journeys, where Jewish life is vibrant, and no one is left behind. By understanding how personal each individual’s Jewish journey is, Federation ensures there are varied services and exciting programs to meet all needs and interests. 

And Federation does fundraise. Through the annual campaign, “Federation carries out community fundraising to raise capital to be able to meet the goals outlined in our strategic plan and to fulfill our mission and vision. This includes meeting the needs of the local Jewish community, and also to help support Jews across Canada, Israel, and around the world,” explains Sarah Beutel, VP of Community Building.

“What makes our campaign successful is not the amount of money raised, but that there is a grassroots and volunteer-driven nature to the Annual Campaign. Our canvassers help foster relationships between community members and they build community relations skills that can benefit other communal organizations,” says Micah Garten, VP of Development. Federation creates community.

Federation leverages the skills, talent, and funds of our community to build a better, stronger, and brighter future. Through a network of volunteers and community professionals, Federation uses its donated dollars to build and sustain. For example, through PJ Library, free books are delivered monthly to Jewish children in Ottawa. However, Federation pays the Harold Grinspoon foundation for the subscriptions and has a volunteer committee and professional staff member who plan events and create opportunities for families to more deeply engage. What starts as a “free” book, can end years later with the next Chair of Federation, community rabbi, or top philanthropist. Federation is funding the future.

Our support to beneficiary agencies like Jewish Family Services, the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge, and Tamir allows them to enhance the lives of their constituents and grow programmatic offerings. They are secure in the knowledge that Federation will be there to help them keep the lights on and provide core funding so they can do they work they do best. Federation is here for today.

Outside of Ottawa, Federation supports developing communities in the North of Israel, including Kiryat Shomna and Metula.  We work with the mayors of these development towns to identify their needs and create a plan to strengthen their populations and build resiliency. This involves both financial support and sending delegations from our local community to build a stronger bridge between Ottawa and Israel. Federation is creating a lasting connection to Israel.

When the community faces antisemitism, Federation works with the local law enforcement, CIJA, politicians, and others to denounce the action, educate the Ottawa community about the dangers of hate, and work to make Ottawa safe for all marginalized peoples. Federation builds bridges with general Ottawa community and defends the Jewish people.

At the center of it all is a large, prominent campus of which we are quite proud. Federation manages many of the buildings on the Jewish campus. “With a team of dedicated volunteers and professionals, which includes everyone from our Campus Chair and Facilities Manager to the security guards and custodians who are familiar faces around campus, we make sure that the Jewish Community Campus of Ottawa is a safe and secure hub of Jewish activity in Ottawa.” Says Rena Garshowitz, VP of Operations. Federation makes the Jewish community visible and safe.

Jewish life in a small city can be more difficult. Securing kosher food and supporting restaurants and caterers is paramount to ensuring Jewish diversity and opening the door for continued growth. The Federation oversees the Ottawa Vaad Hakashrut (OVH). Operations works closely with Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum, OVH Director, as he certifies and supervises kosher food in Ottawa. With a team of skilled mashgichim (kosher supervisors), they ensure the kosher standards of caterers, product facilities, bakeries, and host fun programs like the popular pop-up restaurant series. Federation makes Jewish life in a small city easier for everyone.

In summary, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa is a small organization with a big mission. It is the glue that keeps the community together and the work of the Federation ensures that when there is a crisis or tragedy we can mobilize quickly and send support where it is needed most. The Federation is also there for life’s celebrations and moments to remember. Within the Ottawa Jewish community, the answer to “Who are you going to call?” is Federation. This has been true for almost 90 years, and it will continue to be true into the future. 

To learn about the full breadth of functions of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and who to call when you have a question, click here.