Volunteer Spotlight: Isabelle Benhamou


Isabelle Benhamou moved to Ottawa from Montreal in November 1994. Her husband was offered a position with Nortel and they had a plan - move to Ottawa for a year, make a million dollars and go back to Montreal. Needless to say, that never happened.


Here she is to share her story. 


Well... we never made that million dollars, but Ottawa and all its charms stole our hearts. We discovered a beautiful and welcoming Jewish community and here we are over 20 years later!


I am the proud mother of three amazing children, who are my oxygen. My husband is my rock and my soft place. I battled breast cancer six years ago, and the support I got from my friends and this community was incredible. I call them my angels, as I know that they were sent from Hashem to reassure me that all will be alright. I truly believe in my heart that you get 10 times what you give when you volunteer. It can truly be a blessing.


Making Connections


Moving to Ottawa and leaving our families left a big void for us during holidays and Shabbat. Through volunteering and my involvement with the community, I have made so many friends that the volunteer hours have become social hours to me. Knowing that we can make a difference in someone’s life, or bring someone closer to the community is my constant fuel.


After having my children, I got involved and chaired the board of Talmud Torah Afternoon School (OTTAS) for almost 10 years. It was important for me to find other young families in the community and make connections for my children. It’s been almost 15 years and those families have become our family.


This is how I became president of the Sephardi Association. At the time, I joined to support Clemy Srour who was the president then. I had met his family through OTTAS. His vision and the foundation he wanted to build really spoke to my heart. I was introduced to members whose passion and dedication continue to inspire me. After his term, I took over and continued the vision and the mandate of the Sephardi Association.


My Inspiration


I am a very proud Moroccan Jewish woman, I am proud of our traditions and our way of life. Joining the Ottawa community allowed me to learn more about different Jewish traditions. It opened my heart even more to our beautiful religion which is so diverse and yet so connected. All of us, working together, create this beautiful Jewish community.


Eli Wiesel was and will always be my inspiration. We need to build and get people engaged in our community. Indifference is not acceptable.


“I came to a conclusion that the peril threatening human kind today is indifference, even more than hatred. There are more people who are indifferent than there are people who hate. Hate is an action. Hate takes time. Hate takes energy. And even it demands sacrifices. Indifference is nothing, but indifference to hatred is encouraging hatred, and is justifying hatred. So what we must do — I mean your peers and mine – is fight indifference.”  ~Eli Wiesel



Thank you Isabelle, for sharing your journey with us! 



If you’d like to recommend someone who is doing amazing things for the community, contact Lindsay at: lgottheil@jewishottawa.com

Isabelle Benhamou