Twice a month, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa shares a Shabbat greeting from a member of our Board of Directors. This Friday, we are pleased to share this personal message from board member and past chair Michael Polowin.

Dear Friends,

I have, over the last few years, written a number of these messages. I always try to find something uplifting to speak about. This message will be published only 41 days after October 7. I will try to be uplifting, nonetheless. 

As is common, there are aspects of our faith associated with the number 41. Yeshayahu, Chapter 41, Verse 6, says: “They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” And that is the uplifting theme of this message; we have done that, and we are doing it. 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Z”L said: “Religion creates community, community creates altruism, and altruism turns us away from self and toward the common good. . . . There is something about the tenor of relationships within a community that makes it the best tutorial in citizenship and good neighbourliness.” 

A few things to note: the Jewish community of Ottawa represents between .21% and .25% of the Jewish population of the U.S. and Canada (depending on whose number we use). Yet in the Federation Emergency Appeal for the People of Israel, Jewish Ottawa punches about our weight, contributing .55% of the $600M total so far, more than double our share by population. Our gratitude and congratulations to our community, on our help to our Israeli cousins, is boundless. 

Yet I must mention that in addition to the Emergency Appeal, we need people to make contributions to the Annual Campaign. It is this Campaign that allows all of us to help our immediate neighbours, and to look after the vulnerable in our community. Please make your pledge as soon as possible.

In the spirit of helping local neighbours, Federation on your behalf, along with Rise Up Ottawa held an important Q & A security webinar “Know Your Rights” with human rights attorney Lawrence Greenspon and Ottawa Police Services Sgt. Ali Toghrol, of the Ottawa Police Hate and Bias Crimes Unit. This session covered many pressing subjects like what a hate crime is and how to report it. 

Federation has transcribed and summarized the information here.

A video of the session may be viewed here.

Also, this past week, Federation held several meetings with grassroots groups and is in the planning phase for several community-wide events in support of Israel. Please stay tuned for more details. You may also have begun seeing billboards in the city reminding the public of the plight of the hostages in Israel. Federation is proud to have provided a Microgrant to have funded this project. 

On top of the many initiatives, (read a listing here), being undertaking to support Israel, raise funding for the community, advocate against antisemitism, and ensure our community security, Federation continues to provide ongoing programing. For the Federation’s PJ Library Program alone, there are four upcoming events from a musical Havdallah next weekend to a Chanukah party on Dec. 10. Read here for all the details, (including info on how to talk to children about the war in Israel.) 

Federation’s Young Adult division is busy providing important opportunities for young people to get together. From an upcoming challah bake to the annual Chanukah Ball, get all the info here.

We must look after ourselves as well. I remind you that Jewish Family Services is still providing single session counselling services for those who are struggling with the impacts of the terror attacks and war in Israel. Visit here. 

None of this is fun, or happy. But we can take solace in the fact that we, as a community, are working together to help our neighbours here, and in Israel.

From my family to all of yours, we wish you a peaceful and warm Shabbat, surrounded by love of family and friends. This is the blessing that we all have. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Michael Polowin

PS. Join Jews around the country to come together this weekend for a Shabbat of Unity. We ask that all Jews light a memorial candle in honour of those who were murdered in Israel and those who have sacrificed their lives fighting for the Jewish State. We also suggest that you light an extra pair of Shabbat candles, that you recite prayers for Israel and the hostages, and that you end Shabbat by reciting Psalm 121.