Our Meet the Community blog column gives Heschel families the opportunity to get to know some of the people who make a difference at The Toronto Heschel School.
This month’s edition features a relatively new member of the Heschel team, Ellen Ostofsky, who joined us in August as our new Director of Development and Community Engagement.
Heschel Hive (HH): Hello, Ellen. Tell us a little bit about your career path before arriving at Heschel.
Ellen Ostofsky (EO): In a way, I have come full circle. I began my career in the field of Early Childhood Education. In the early days of my career, funding for school-based early education programs was readily available and childcare centres were popping up all over the place. Then the funding dried up and I found myself working with communities and parent groups to organize and secure funding for the programs to keep going. I was really lucky to get a job with the Toronto District School Board to bring childcare into the schools. It seemed like a small step from there to a related career dedicated to non-profit fundraising. A few jumps later, here I am – back in a school setting, which I love, doing very similar work. I’m once again supporting a community, parent groups, and volunteers to fund their vision for the best possible education for their children.
HH: You have a dual role at the school. Please tell us what is involved with both areas that you manage and whether the two are related.
EO: As the Director of Development and Community Engagement, I get to work directly with parents, volunteers, and professionals in our school community to achieve two goals: 1. To engage with our community – to develop and support opportunities for the school community to come together in meaningful ways, to get to know each other and the school better, and to become personally invested in our community, and 2. To expand the involvement and investment of families and friends of the school to engage in meaningful philanthropy, raising the funds necessary to ensure that the mission, vision, and values—the very reason that our parents and students have come to Heschel—are maintained at the highest standards. The two areas are definitely intertwined.
HH: What are your short-term and long-term goals in your role?
EO: Short term – to create as many opportunities as possible for Heschel family and friends to support our school community, whether it be with time, talent, and, hopefully, treasure. Long term goal – same! I aim to continue to make those opportunities available for meaningful connections to the school.
HH: What do you like best about Heschel so far?
EO: I love what Heschel stands for – learning and living Jewishly, with integrity, enthusiasm, and creativity! It happens every day here and I think it’s very inspiring.
HH: How do you enjoy spending your time when not at school?
EO: Cooking and baking for my family, hiking, and reading. Laundry never makes it to this list!
HH: What is your favourite book?
EO: One of the great books I read was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s very intense but very good.
HH: What was your favourite class in school?
EO: Language Arts – hands down! They called it English Comprehension when I went to school but don’t tell anyone because then people will know how old I am!
HH: What is something interesting we would not know about you just by looking?
EO: I spent 4½ months in SE Asia, trekking in Nepal and witnessed a military coup in Bangkok! I was standing on one side of the street and on the other side of the street, the military was filing by in uniform with their rifles and tanks, marching to the Presidential Palace to unseat the king. This apparently happens in Bangkok quite regularly, but it caused quite the furor here at home. My parents were watching it take place on CNN and assumed the worst, but it was entirely a bloodless coup.
HH: You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
EO: It’s going to be Banana Chocolate Chip Cake because it covers most of the food groups: dairy, grains, fruit, and chocolate! I make this on a regular basis – it’s one of my son’s favourites. If we were stranded on a desert island, he would definitely fight me for the last piece!
HH: Thanks for your time, Ellen. We look forward to trying your delicious cake in the future!