Practicing good deeds on Mitzvah Day

By Maxine Betteridge-Moes –

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa will host its ninth annual Mitzvah Day on Sunday, Feb. 8 to raise money for local charities and give back to the community.

Mitzvah Day will be held at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre and the day begins with a free breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by the opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m.

Jeffrey Miller, a partner with Ginsberg Gluzman Fage & Levitz (GGFL) Chartered Accountants, pictured here with Ariel Fainer, last year’s Mitzvah Day Coordinator. Photo by Alex Sarna
Jeffrey Miller, a partner with Ginsberg Gluzman Fage & Levitz (GGFL) Chartered Accountants, pictured here with Ariel Fainer, last year’s Mitzvah Day Coordinator. Photo by Alex Sarna

The event is an opportunity for members of Ottawa’s Jewish community to come together and perform mitzvot, or good deeds, in the spirit of charity and kindness. The Federation says the event is a fun-filled day of activities for the whole family. Activities will include making sandwiches for the homeless at the Ottawa Mission, preparing and serving meals at Shepherds of Good Hope, and braiding challah bread for the Kosher Food Bank. Participants can also prepare “warmth packages” of gently used hats, gloves and scarves to distribute to the city’s homeless through Jewish Family Services.

More than 600 people participated in Mitzvah Day last year and organizers hope to draw another big crowd with a wide range of activities. Last year’s ‘extreme football challenge’ will be repeated this year to raise money for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada. A new event will be a dance-a-thon workshop run by the Capital City Dance Team as well as an activity to create care packages for Canadian troops serving overseas.

Tamara Scarowsky, a committee member from the Kitchissippi area, says she is very excited to be involved with the planning of the event this year. Scarowsky volunteered with her husband last year but she said she is especially looking forward to spending some time at a challah baking activity.

“We hope the event will both inspire people to do mitzvot throughout the year and to educate our own community about the emphasis our tradition puts on giving back,” says Scarowsky.

She adds that her two young children are also excited to make crafts to decorate the rooms of residents of the Hillel Lodge, a long-term care facility on the Jewish Community Campus.

Mitzvah Day is being sponsored by the accounting firm Ginsberg, Gluzman, Fage & Levitz, LLP for the sixth consecutive year. “We’ve always felt that part of our responsibility as accountants is to give back to the community, and what better way to do that than by doing good deeds?” says Jeffrey Miller, a partner at the firm. Miller says he wants to encourage more involvement, and would love to see Mitzvah Day grow into a citywide event.

Donations of canned fish, canola and olive oil, jam, nut butters and toiletries will be accepted for the Kosher Food Bank, as well as new toys for the Make a Wish Foundation and dish and laundry soap for the Ronald McDonald House. For a full list of activities and to register, visit mitzvahdayottawa.com or contact Rena Garshowitz at 613-798-4696, ext. 241.

Jewish Federation of Ottawa CEO brings a fresh face to campaign

By Anita Grace –

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa is putting a fresh face on their annual fundraising campaign. Jeff Miller, a partner at GGFL Chartered Accountants on Richmond Road and Chair of the annual campaign, is hoping to capitalize on the Federation’s new president and CEO, Andrea Freedman. “This is a new opportunity, a new person who really has a lot to offer,” he says.

Freedman has built a career in Jewish organizations in Montreal and Toronto. Prior to assuming this position, she was the Vice President of philanthropy and operations at Mount Sinai Hospital. When she moved to Ottawa, she found a home in Westboro and says she has quickly fallen in love with the city and neighbourhood.

Andrea Freedman, the new president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. Photo by Anita Grace.
Andrea Freedman, the new president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. Photo by Anita Grace.

“I’m super excited about the campaign,” says Freedman. “The potential of its success is very exciting for me because of the good that can be done with the cherished donor dollars.”

The Federation’s annual campaign is a long-standing tradition in the local Jewish community. Last year it raised $4.2 million through fundraising events and individual donations from 22,000 people. Corporate sponsorship comes from TD Bank, the Ottawa Senators and GGFL.

“Our goal is to increase our campaign [contributions] by five per cent,” says Miller. The campaign runs from September through December and he hopes more people will engage with and support the Jewish community in town and in Israel.

“All gifts are really appreciated,” says Freedman. She explains that the funds raised through the campaign are “meeting the needs of the Ottawa Jewish community and taking care of our most vulnerable members.”

Local organizations that are supported through the campaign include Tamir, a support organization for youth and adults with special needs, and the Jewish Community Centre, which is situated on Kitchissippi’s doorstep.

Although Freedman says that the majority of the funds stay within Ottawa, some of the money also supports the people of Israel. Funds are directed to social programs, services and infrastructures there.

Freedman has personally spent a lot of time in Israel, having been there about 20 times. “I have an incredibly strong connection with Israel,” she says. “It is the Jewish homeland.”

“There is culture, history, tradition and religion juxtaposed against modernity. The combination and vibrancy is incredible.”

Her connection with communities in Israel and at home is evident as she speaks about the campaign. “For me, the concept of community is layered,” she says, noting that it encompasses the Jewish communities in Ottawa, Canada and beyond.

“I think about partnership with other people and organizations to make sure that each and every community is as vibrant and meaningful as it can be.”

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Annual Campaign kickoff will be held on Sunday, September 14 at Centrepointe Theatre, at 7:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream empire. Tickets are $20 and are available through Centrepointe Theatre at centrepointetheatre.com.