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Thursday, March 26, 2015

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Ottawa federation CEO steps down

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Mitchell Bellman

OTTAWA — After 15 years as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa (JFO), Mitchell Bellman has decided to step down and seek a new career challenge.

 “I believe it is the right time for me to move on to something new. I also believe that the community would benefit from the opportunity to search for a successor with adequate time and planning so it can make the best decision regarding its future,” said Bellman in his letter of resignation to the board of directors.

Bellman had been director of communications and public affairs for the federation for two years before assuming his present position. When the position became available, he was appointed acting executive director (the title was later changed to CEO) and encouraged to apply for the permanent position. The chairman of the board of directors at the time, the late Lawrence Greenberg, discouraged him from doing so, telling the then 29-year-old Bellman he was simply too young and inexperienced for the job.

 “I stubbornly applied for the job anyway,” said Bellman, “and was successful. He and I were neighbours and often took walks together. He later told me he regretted what he had said and was glad I had the job. We worked well together.”

For 15 years, Bellman has worked well with both JFO staff and volunteers. JFO chair Debbie Halton-Weiss speaks highly of his skills in leading the community. “Mitchell led the federation through a period of incredible growth. He joined the organization just as a capital campaign was being launched to raise funds to build a new campus. He oversaw the development of the new Jewish community centre and long-term care centre and the move of the community’s institutions to the new west-side campus,” she said.

 “He also oversaw a significant growth in the funds raised in the federation’s annual campaign and led the community through two emergency campaigns to raise funds for Israel during the Second Lebanon War and the terrorist assault of suicide bombings. In 2002, Mitchell led the community in organizing a national rally on Parliament Hill in support of Israel that attracted nearly 15,000 people from across Canada.”

Bellman says he leaves the JFO with mixed emotions, but “15 years is a long time and both for myself and the organization, it is time for a creative change.” He will stay with JFO until his replacement is found.

He doesn’t know where his career path will lead next, but Bellman says he is seeking a change. “I am interested in doing something interesting. I want to move somewhere that I can make a good contribution, where I can be challenged,” he said.

 “I am going to miss working with this Jewish community. The job kept me very connected with Israel, where I have made many, many good friends, and I hope that in some way I will be able to maintain those connections. Whatever comes my way, I intend to remain involved in the Jewish community and with Israel.”

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