Twice a month, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa will be sharing a Shabbat greeting from a member of our Board of Directors. This Friday, we are pleased to share this personal message from Ian Sherman.
Dear Friends,

The festival of Purim, which begins next Thursday night, commemorates the divinely-orchestrated salvation from extermination of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” Long story made short, the king was looking for a new queen and a young Jewish woman named Esther entered the competition (under the nudging of her uncle Mordechai) and by becoming queen ended up saving the Jewish people from the evil decree of Haman, the king’s right-hand man. In a twist of fate, Haman was sent to the gallows that were intended to terminate the Jewish people. It is a true Jewish “underdog” story of triumph over evil: the world was out to get us, we persevered and did not shy away from our Judaism and tradition, and as a result, we survived!
There is, of course, a much deeper message of Purim that teaches us to be proud of who we are as Jewish people and not to shy away from our Jewish identities even when “the going gets tough.” The true takeaway message of Purim is that we will face situations in our lives where our strength will be tested in the face of adversity. Purim also teaches us that each one of us has the power to stand up for ourselves and for others and to create incredible change in the world: for our family; our friends; our community; our people.
As Jews have done for centuries, the holiday of Purim celebrates the survival and resiliency of the Jewish people. Purim 2021 marks one year since our lives have been taken over by the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 2.4 million tragic deaths globally, it does not seem like the time to celebrate. And yet we must. 

Purim has traditionally been a masked holiday with people dressing up, donning disguises, and celebrating that our people survived. For the past year, the wearing of masks has acquired new meaning and deepened urgency. Masks make it possible for health care workers to care for the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable and for first responders and essential workers to do their jobs. Most importantly, masks remind us that we need to think about others. Mask-wearing in the age of COVID is an example of altruism, a physical reminder of what we owe to each other and what unites us against a common threat. Similarly, Purim reminds us that in Jewish tradition we are all responsible for one another, Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh, and that we can all play a part in supporting our community and improving our world.
For Purim, several organizations and synagogues in our community are hosting outdoor, socially distanced celebrations or creating celebrations online. Your Federation is extremely proud of the community’s creativity and innovation in creating unique Purim events, several of which are supported by microgrant allocations funded by the generosity of our community’s donors. View the list of community events here.

Speaking of creativity and innovation, earlier this month, my aunt and uncle, Zelaine and Sol Shinder performed a “COVID-pivot” and transformed their annual Boca Raton Super Bowl Party into an “online” Super Bowl pool that became a Mitzvah Day fundraiser. As a result of the generosity of the “party-goers,” $2,790 was instantly raised as additional support for our community and its programs. I mention this as a simple example in the context of celebrating Purim and the messages we continue to embrace from our ancestors - the perpetual generosity of community and the pervasive attitude of constantly being responsible for each other. This is the essence of Judaism and our heritage - Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh; we are all responsible for one another. 

Thank you, Aunt Zel and Uncle Sol for your “forever” mentorship and subscribing to both the theory and practice that all of us have the power to pick our moments to inspire and enhance the Federation’s work on behalf of our organizations and agencies and to nurture and nourish our community. We all have the power to make a difference and as the pandemic enters its second year, now more than ever we need more “helpers.”
From my family to yours, we wish you and your families an upcoming Chag Purim Sameach, Happy Purim, and Shabbat Shalom,

Ian Sherman
Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors
Jewish Federation of Ottawa
P.S. In honour of its 50th anniversary, the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation is hosting a special Speakers Series. Join the first event on March 3 at 4 pm with Naomi Azrieli who will be talking about "A Family Legacy of Philanthropy and Resiliency." Register here.