Building a community from the ground up takes patience. The Chabad representatives serving the Barrhaven suburb of Canada’s capital took many community-building steps before crowning it with a $4.5 million edifice that garnered the Mayor’s City Builder Award.
Arriving seventeen years ago, Rabbi Mendel and Dina Blum, the only Jewish leadership in the area, chose to create a Jewish infrastructure where there was none. The Ottawa Torah Center Chabad is the first synagogue building to be built to Ottawa in three decades.
When the Blums arrived, their activities took place in the basement of their home. When that space was too small, they moved to a larger home, using the basement for all their events. Soon they moved to a store front and then they expanded to two store fronts. It didn’t take long before they outgrew the 2000 sq foot space.
Ten years ago they began searching for a larger location. They learned of a new development and approached the developer about selling them a large parcel of land at the center of the project. A deal was struck and now the plans for the development included the synagogue.
In the interim, while plans for the new building were in development, the Blums expanded their space to include several storefronts, and moved several trailers on the property where they conducted classes.
At the groundbreaking in the summer of 2013, the community turned out in large numbers to support the new endeavor. The building, completed in September, finally gives the community the space it needs with more to grow.
“This is an exciting time for the Jewish community. This is the first synagogue for Ottawa in thirty years,” Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson told the crowd. “We are fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant community in Ottawa, as we see here tonight. This beautiful new facility is wonderful news for our community.” Rabbi Blum, said the Mayor, will be the recipient of Mayor’s City Builder Award “for his contributions to Ottawa’s Jewish community and to the community of Barrhaven.”
At the opening in September, community members were proud of the large turnout.
“Rabbi and Dina met person by person, family by family in their non-judgmental connection, no matter their background or affiliation. This is the foundation on which the center was built,”said Perry Medicoff, a member of the community
Rabbi Blum is looking ahead. “We remain focused on how much more we can accomplish. As joyous and as glorious as this day may be, let it not only serve as a celebration for how far we have come, but also as a communal recognition of where we have yet to go.”