Sept. 17, 2020 – By SHAKED KARABELNICOFF
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commended the Jewish community for its strength and unity as he joined volunteers in preparing Rosh Hashanah bundles at the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank on Thursday morning (Sept. 17).
“There is nothing if not adaptability and resilience from the Jewish community over the centuries and millennia,” Trudeau said to the mask-wearing group of community members who gathered at Ottawa’s Kehillat Beit Israel Congregation before heading to the food bank in the same building.
“As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the spirit of helping each other out and being there for one another is more important than ever before,” added Trudeau. “In the midst of a global pandemic, I can’t think of a better moment to talk about tikkun olam and the need to really reflect on what each of us can do to contribute to a better tomorrow.”
Trudeau was joined by Ottawa-area Liberal MPs including Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna (Ottawa Centre) and Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West-Nepean) as they packaged apples and honey with a group of six volunteers.
The food bank, which serves around 100 families each month, has seen increased demand due to the impact of COVID, explained manager Dahlia Milech. That’s why volunteers are more important now than ever, she said.
The increased need matched with the new reality of COVID has meant the food bank had to provide an array of new services, such as home-delivery to those without a vehicle.
“We have about 30 to 40 deliveries every month and it’s all volunteers doing that,” Milech told Trudeau, Vandenbeld, and McKenna as they toured the facility.
It’s the people who were suffering before the pandemic who are hurting even more now, explained Vandenbeld.
“The way the community is coming together to meet the needs [of the food bank] and help those that are suffering more is incredibly important,” said Vandenbeld. “The Jewish community has always had a strong tradition of giving and charity… It’s an example to the rest of the community.”
As synagogues across the province await Premier Doug Ford’s announcement about the potential rollback of social gathering limits, which will affect High Holiday services, Trudeau had an uplifting message for the Jewish community.
“How things are going to happen this weekend is still up in the air,” he said. “But we will adapt and be together. What I see here, and what you have demonstrated throughout these past months, is extraordinarily important to Ottawa and to the rest of the country and the world.”
The underlying slogan of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Emergency Campaign, Michael Polowin, Chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, told Trudeau, was that “the choices we make individually in our community today, will define the community that we will have tomorrow.”
In response, Trudeau light-heartedly referred to next week’s much anticipated Speech from the Throne.
“Well it sounds like you guys have seen a draft of the Throne Speech!” Trudeau exclaimed. “We’ll be talking about a lot of those messages.”
Shaked Karabelnicoff reports on a range of subjects including religious affairs, politics, diaspora Jewry, and Israeli life and culture. Born in Jerusalem, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she studied Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.