By Victor Rabinovitch, Board Member
Jewish Federation of Ottawa
Imagine the largest meeting room at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) on the evening of January 8, packed with 60 activists and leaders from 14 community organizations, who had gathered to talk about the new challenge of “legacy giving.”
Picture these volunteers and staff from across Ottawa’s Jewish spectrum, with different ages and personal backgrounds, yet working together to master the concepts of a different approach to sustainable funding. Imagine their energy and enthusiasm as these groups committed to working together as partners for this amazing initiative.
This important January session happened because of a great decision by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to include Ottawa in the “Life & Legacy Initiative” for communities across North America. So now we have made the decision to launch our local “Life & Legacy Initiative,” led by the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, in March.
Legacy donating is not entirely new, but it has not been widely used for many communities or organizations. Part of our Ottawa challenge is to break down a barrier in understanding by explaining the practical good sense of legacy giving.
Making a legacy gift means using a person’s will or life insurance policy. Its deep spirit goes beyond donating money because it creates an opportunity to be remembered forever. It is a way of supporting activities in the Jewish community that are most meaningful to each of us – a school, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, a synagogue, the SJCC, or others – and to do so in perpetuity.
The Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation will devote significant resources during the next four years to help Ottawa agencies and organizations work together on this major initiative. The ideas behind “Life & Legacy” should become widely known across our community. As this initiative expands, the words “Life & Legacy” will be seen and understood across our many community locations – such as walking into a synagogue, working with a Jewish social service agency, or attending a Federation event.
All the organizations that are taking part in this initiative are special for our community. They have touched Jewish lives in unique ways. Here are some typical examples:
-So many Ottawans enjoy circles of friendship that first formed when they were kids attending our own Camp B’nai Brith.
-So many Ottawans are consistent supporters of our Federation’s Annual Campaign, with donations that are modest or large. Their actions sustain loyal connections to the great variety of Jewish activities taking place here.
-Or, you may happily recall your Sunday mornings and Summer Day Camp at the old downtown JCC on Chapel Street. But time moves on and it’s your son now playing in the Jewish men’s basketball league, while your daughter swims laps at the SJCC.
-Or, you may be a first, second or third generation Ottawan, with your kids getting their vital Jewish education at day school or supplementary school, while your family continues its membership in one of our synagogues.
-Or, you may be a volunteer at one of our network of social service organizations, helping to care for our elders and vulnerable community members.
These are just examples of typical Ottawa memories and connections. While some families have long roots here, so many of us came in the 1970s and more recently. We immediately got the benefits from what had been carefully built by the founding generations.
There are 14 agency partners in the Life & Legacy Initiative, with the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation helping all of the partners. Each one reflects core parts of our shared values as Jews. Each one needs legacy support.
Legacy giving is a great financial equalizer in philanthropy. Many of us can only donate modestly when we are still spending heavily to care for families and ourselves. But through our wills and similar financial tools, our ability to donate a significant gift in the future is much greater because we can leave a legacy portion to be taken from our lifetime savings. (Any accountant or financial professional can explain this better than me.)
Thanks to the Ottawa Life & Legacy Initiative, my wife and I are discussing a legacy gift to several Jewish organizations. This will be a practical way of helping Jewish Ottawa and it will be a perpetual gift that will endure forever – even though our own children and grandkids now live in other cities.