From the Pulpit: Parting shouts – Thank you, Ottawa Jewish community

By Rabbi Howard Finkelstein, Beit Tikvah

As I contemplate retirement after a career in the rabbinate and Jewish education, the last 28 years in Ottawa, I make the following observations looking at the past and thinking of the future.

I have been privileged to be rabbi of an amazing congregation, Beit Tikvah, whose members have taught me a great deal and who have been a source of inspiration. The shiurim and chavrutot that take place daily in my shul are a testament to the dedication and love of Judaism of my congregants. The project of Beth Shalom West manifesting itself today as Beit Tikvah is a tribute to the families that created a synagogue in the Craig Henry-Centrepointe areas.

I had the privilege in the last several years to work at the Ottawa Jewish Community School as dean of Jewish Studies and I admire the teachers and administration for their amazing dedication to the students and to the profession. Most importantly, the students I have had the pleasure to meet and teach are sophisticated, articulate and possess excellent character traits.

Collegially, I have benefitted from working with the various rabbis, committees and organizations in Ottawa’s Jewish community. My sole bittersweet experience in Ottawa was the opening and closing of Yitzhak Rabin High School, where I had the honour of serving as head of Judaic Studies in its 20 years of existence.

Looking back at Rabin, I think of the many who increased their knowledge and love of Judaism through their study of Torah, Talmud, Halachah, Jewish history, Israel, and Hebrew, in addition to excelling in secular studies. I think of those who had the Rabin experience who continued on to yeshivot, seminaries, schools of advanced Jewish learning, and I think of those who lead Torah-imbued lives today.

Rabin developed a cadre of Jewish leadership, which marks itself in our community and beyond. Its graduates have excelled in the secular world, and are contributing greatly to the betterment of society in the endeavours they have chosen to follow.

At present, there are supplementary high school programs available to high school students, and I urge these programs to imbue and inspire these young men and women with a love of Yiddishkeit through the study of texts and through experiential opportunities. I hope and pray that Ottawa Torah Institute and Machon Sarah can grow, and provide yeshiva and seminary education to more and more students as they enter adulthood. I also pray our elementary day schools in Ottawa continue to grow and provide Jewish learning and a love of Yiddishkeit. At the same time, I encourage the afternoon and Sunday Jewish educational programs in Ottawa to continue to engage their students in meaningful, life inspiring Jewish experiences.

Ottawa’s Jewish community is indeed a special and blessed one. But it has to continue to build and grow, a project of importance indicated in the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Jewish Superhighway endeavour. Federation carries a heavy responsibility, along with its various agencies and communal institutions in providing for Jewish continuity and preservation in Ottawa.

Thank you, the Ottawa Jewish community, for giving me, my wife and family the opportunity to share in your history as you build for the future. May Hashem bless the Ottawa Jewish community.