Community comes together for the 10th anniversary of Mitzvah Day

By Joseph Hutt – 

For the tenth year running, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa (JFO) is bringing their annual Mitzvah Day celebration to the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (JCC).

Simply put, Mitzvah Day is a chance for the greater community to come together and participate in various acts of charity meant to benefit those in need. This year, however, the JFO is hoping to do just a little bit more.

Tamara Scarowsky, chair of Mitzvah Day
Tamara Scarowsky, chair of Mitzvah Day. Photos by Ivanette Hargreaves

“We also wanted to focus a little more on the Jewish aspect,” says Tamara Scarowsky, chair of the event. “Some of the activities this year focus on mitzvot, which technically means ‘commandment from the Torah.’”

Colloquially, mitzvot is used to refer to good deeds, of which there will be plenty on this Mitzvah Day. There will also be a workshop about honouring parents to “help build good citizens of the world, by emphasizing these intergenerational relationships,” explains Tamara.

A number of favourite events will still be around. “Many of these events have been very successful in the past and people would miss them if they weren’t there,” says Tamara. “Like doing birthday kits for children who unfortunately have to spend their birthdays in a shelter [or] making sandwiches for the homeless which get delivered to the Shepherds of Good Hope.”

One of the staple events of Mitzvah Day is cutting hair for cancer, which will be done in collaboration with Hair Donation Ottawa, a group that works closely with children experiencing hair loss for various medical reasons. In fact, Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper and Mayor Jim Watson will be on hand to cut the hair of a few willing volunteers.

Charity collections will be accepted for various local groups, such as non-perishable, kosher food items for the Kosher Food Bank, gently used board games for the Crossroads Children’s Centre, and jewelry and purses for Dress For Success, a group which helps support economically disadvantaged but business-ready women.

Andrea Freedman, CEO of the JFO, is thrilled to see “the complete range of people who come out and lend a hand, from the smallest of kids to senior citizens.”

Andrea likes to see this range of intergenerational interaction. “Our projects are designed to help a whole host of people,” says Andrea. “It’s all about imaginative hands-on experiences that build a stronger Ottawa across the entire city.”

Of course, none of these acts of charity would be possible without the support of GGFL Chartered Accountants, a local accounting firm in Westboro.

“They’ve been sponsoring the event for about seven years now,” says Tamara. “We wouldn’t be able to run the event without their support. This year, they’re actually given ownership of one of the mitzvah activities and they’re helping run it hands-on.”

The majority of events will take place at the JCC, on Feb. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon. However, there are a number of events taking place off-site. A full list of events can be found on the Mitzvah Day website, at mitzvahdayottawa.com.

While assurances have been made that no one will be turned away, both Andrea and Tamara have asked that anyone interested in taking part to register on the official website. This is especially important if you have a specific mitzvah that you or your child would like to participate in, or if you would like to participate in an off-site mitzvah, in which case registration is required.

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