Dear Friends, 

February is a significant time of year, representing Jewish Disability, Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), Black History Month, and Kindness Week, which became a national celebration in 2021 in recognition of the kindness initiatives launched by Rabbi Reuven Bulka Z”L. The convergence of these events reminds us of our community’s capacity and mission of inclusivity, empathy, and standing against discrimination and hate of all kinds. 

JDAIM, now in its 15th year, provides an annual reminder to renew or increase our efforts to make our community accessible to all. This year, the Committee for an Inclusive Jewish Life chose Planting Seeds of Hope as its theme and there have been several opportunities to come together to plant a pot of wildflowers. The next planting session will take place February 22 in the Soloway JCC Lobby, from 2-4 pm. To learn more about the theme, read the E-Bulletin article and this column by Madelaine Werier.

For more on JDAIM, including webinars and information on the Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network’s annual Inclusion Leadership Contest for Youth, visit here

For Black History Month, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa is proud to be hosting an evening to celebrate Black Jewish Excellence on Feb 29 at 7 pm via Zoom. This will be a panel discussion featuring Annamie Paul, a Senior Fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Rivka Campbell, co-founder of the group Jews of Colour – Canada and the Executive Director of Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Toronto, and Sheba Birhanu, who is the associate director of partnerships at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). The discussion will focus on how being Jewish informed and supported their rise to success and the challenges they faced being from two marginalized communities. Expect to be awed, empowered, and motivated to take a stand against discrimination as you hear from women who would not let the world hold them back! To register visit here.

For Kindness Week, Federation, in partnership with a Labour of Love and sponsored by the Women's Collective Philanthropy Program (WCPP), is preparing care bags filled with essential items to support new mothers and mothers-to-be who are in need. Children are encouraged to join in and to craft supportive greeting cards, adding a personal touch to each bag.

The event presents a chance for families to bond over shared values of kindness and compassion, and for children to learn the importance of generosity.

To donate to the project and to register, please visit here.

On the advocacy front, Federation is grateful to our allies, including MPP Lisa MacLeod, who has championed a movement to denounce antisemitism.

Timed to coincide with the fourth-month anniversary of the Hamas terror attack, a renewed effort to encourage all Canadians to denounce hate and show their support by signing on to the cause at the website called Hate Has No Place, was launched Wednesday.

Please share the site, with your non-Jewish allies, and encourage people to sign.  

Additionally, this week, the Federation’s Shoah committee, hosted “From Darkness to Light: An Interactive Holocaust Education Exhibit,” an installation created by local Shoah Committee member Jasmine Kranat, founder of the Atlantic Canada Holocaust Education Foundation (ACHEF). Over 200 students from both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) visited the exhibit during the week of Feb 5-9. Designed for students in Grades 8 through 12, visitors were taken on a guided tour of the interactive exhibit, where they heard from Temple Israel’s Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg about contemporary Jewish life, and learned from Jasmine Kranat about the history of antisemitism, the rise of Nazism, the Final Solution, and the liberation. While on their guided tour, students concurrently read the story of one person who may have lived or been murdered by Nazis, individualizing the impact of the Shoah through the life of a single human being. 

This exhibit reminds us that Holocaust education is not only about imparting historical knowledge; done well, it has the capacity to cultivate empathy, critical thinking, and inspire a commitment to human rights. 

Then last night, top OCDSB administrators, city counsellors, principals and educators gathered at Temple Israel to view the exhibit and meet with top officials, including the former Minister of Education of New Brunswick, Dominic Cardy, who was instrumental in mandating the ACHEF exhibit was present and taught in all schools across the province. Thank you to OCDSB Director Pino Buffone, OCDSB Trustees Cathryn Millburn and Amanda Presley, Ottawa City Councillor Laine Johnson, Superintendent Mary Jane Farrish, Equity System Principal Juliet Robinson, Jewish Equity Coach Brian Kom, Rabbi Mikelberg, and principals and educators from both the OCDSB and Ottawa Carleton Catholic School Board, who came out to learn how antisemitism neither began, nor ended, with the Holocaust. The presence of our educators reveals their ongoing commitment to ensure our students learn about this dark chapter of history, and serves as a powerful antidote to ignorance, prejudice, and hate. To learn more about the exhibit visit here.  

As you can see, February offers a rich tapestry of observances and opportunities for reflection and action within our community. All these upcoming events remind us of the importance of inclusivity, empathy, and standing against discrimination and hate of all kinds. As we engage in meaningful discussions, events, and advocacy initiatives, let us continue to foster understanding, and compassion – Together, we are making a difference

Shabbat Shalom, 

Sarah Beutel 

Interim CEO 

P.S. Applications are now open for the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation’s scholarships and grants, including the GJ Cooper Scholarship, Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award, the Women’s Collective Philanthropy Program and Steven & Ilana Rubin Scholarship. For more information visit here