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City Leader Spotlight: Ellie Bass

03/23/2017

Long before Ellie Bass was the Director of the Yetta Nashman Jewish Family Institute in Toronto, she was a globe-trotting dancer. During her frequent performances in Israel, Ellie first became interested in Judaism. Her journey led her to the Village Shul — where she converted to Judaism, met her husband, and currently works. Today, Ellie Bass is a wife, a mother, a JWRP City Leader, and a professional Jewish community organizer. We spoke to Ellie about building strong communities and becoming better partners and parents.

Tell us about your first MOMentum Trip to Israel. 

My first MOMentum Trip to Israel was actually my first time in Israel as a Jew. It was incredible to travel to Israel as a City Leader, and to meet hundreds of Jewish women from all over the world. We were all coming to Israel to collectively understand who we were as Jewish women — and to feel what it was like to be part of a global family. 

What attracted you to your work at the Yetta Nashman Jewish Family Institute?

The JFI provides great resources for our Jewish community at every stage in a family’s life — whether you’re engaged or married, or the parents of toddlers or older children. Our programming is led by fantastic teachers, and is filled with wisdom from both modern psychology and Judaism. We’ve built a thriving and diverse community. 

When I was both a newly married couple and a young mother, I felt like I needed a community of people who were also searching for ways to live meaningful and impactful lives. I wanted to surround myself and my children with role models. So, first I worked on this at a neighborhood level, then at the shul, and then within the larger Jewish community. Now, I do it professionally, too.

Why is meaningful community programming so important for families?

Parenting can be really confusing these days — there are a million different opinions and options and philosophies. As Jewish parents, we try to find guidance that speaks to our core values as Jews. It helps to do that together, and to support each other on this journey. 

Marriage and parenting really do take a village. Now that we often don’t live close to our “blood” families, we need to seek out our “neshama” (soul) families — people who believe the same things that we believe and can help us become better spouses, parents, and community members. Great community programming can help facilitate this. 

What advice would you give to individuals who are seeking meaningful guidance as partners and parents? 

Be ready to learn new skills and build a team of role models and people you trust. Clarify with yourself what your values are and what your end game is, and then make a plan to get there. 

What are your tips for women who want to create a support system in their community? 

More often than not, if you feel a need for something, others do, too. For example, if you need a place to go on Sunday morning because you’ve been up since 5am with your children and it’s too cold to go to the park, trust that feeling, and work to create a solution within your community. Also, ask people, “If you could create a program to support your family, what would it look like?” Then, find great voices within your community — experts in marriage and parenting, for example, as well as people with leadership potential. Get them involved in creating the kind of programming that your community needs. 

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