Federation Report: Ensuring meaningful education grounded in Jewish values

Federation Report: Ensuring meaningful education grounded in Jewish values

By Leila Ages

Board President

Ottawa Jewish Community School

I have received many congratulatory remarks over the past month as I share the news of my official appointment as the new board president of the Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS). What has inevitably accompanied the genuine praise is a registration of surprise followed by a question: “Why would you take on this responsibility at a time when you are at the tail end of your family’s chapter at OJCS?”

This is certainly a reasonable question, as my personal connections to OJCS runs deep. My father-in-law is a proud graduate of the very first Hillel Academy graduating class of 1956. He was followed by my husband, and my children – two graduates and the youngest to graduate this year.

This legacy of commitment is precisely why I am privileged to take on the role. I want to ensure students within our community benefit from the OJCS experience as my children did. I look forward to continuing the work of the previous president, Michael Polowin, and the board who successfully led the school into a position of stability. As a board, we are responsible for holding OJCS and its mission in trust for future generations of the Ottawa Jewish community and, as such, we will continue on this clear path to ensuring long-term sustainability. This includes our commitment to establishing an endowment fund capable of securing OJCS’ permanence as a leading Jewish Ottawa institution.

To maintain the calibre of excellence over the coming term, we will continue to work on succession plans to guarantee a board leadership development pipeline. We will particularly focus on strengthening board member engagement and the personal commitment to the ambassadorship of OJCS.

It is an exciting time at OJCS with Jon Mitzmacher entering his third year as head of school. The performance metrics are on an upswing, as is the general positive feeling in the building and in the community. OJCS has solidified its particular and unique way of doing things, guided by our “North Stars.”

As a board, we are working to internalize these guiding principles so that they seamlessly align with our strategic planning. The board regards and values OJCS as a critical and vital resource in the Ottawa Jewish community. This significant responsibility pushes us to work towards the highest standards and to hold ourselves accountable to both the OJCS family and the greater Ottawa Jewish community. We strive to make valuable connections and partnerships within the community as “we learn better together” (one of six North Stars) as a strong OJCS can only contribute to a strong Jewish Ottawa.

I am honoured to be part of this journey to secure a meaningful education grounded in Jewish values for our future leaders. The next time I am asked why I accepted the role of board president, my simplest reply will be the words of Rabbi Hillel: “If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14)