Not even the first big early-season snowfall that blanketed our city Monday night could keep 800 people away from the Jewish National Fund of Ottawa’s Negev Dinner, not when this year’s honourees were well-known and respected community leaders David and Sharon Appotive.
The annual benefit dinner was said to be one of the largest, if not the largest, to date for JNF Ottawa. The evening brought together leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish, from the business and non-profit sectors.
The sold-out dinner was chaired by the honourees’ good friend Jeff Miller, a partner at GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants. The benefit has been held at the Infinity Convention Centre for the past three years.
“Tonight’s attendance represents an outpouring of respect and affection for our honourees, both for what they’ve accomplished and for what they mean to our community,” Miller said during brief opening remarks at the podium with Lynda Taller-Wakter, executive director of JNF Ottawa and Atlantic Canada.
Well-known physician Dr. Hartley Stern, CEO and executive director of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, served as the honorary chair of this year’s Ottawa Negev Dinner. The evening's keynote speaker was former U.S. senator and Democratic nominee for vice president Joe Lieberman (his fanbase included Borden Ladner Gervais LLP partner Duncan Ault, seen with a Gore-Lieberman 2000 button pinned to his lapel).
The evening was held in support of an admirable cause involving Israeli-based international humanitarian charity Save a Child’s Heart. It provides, through its programs, cardiac treatment to children from developing countries — regardless of nationality, religion, race or gender — and trains health care professionals from these countries to have the skills to deliver quality care in their home community.
The organization has saved the lives of more than 5,000 children from 62 countries.
“Children are our everything,” Sharon Appotive said in her speech that night. “They’re our heart and soul. They’re our hope. We shower our children with endless love and opportunities just as JNF has provided endless love and opportunities to Israel.”
The money raised from the Negev Dinner is helping Save a Child’s Heart as it focuses on the construction and equipping of a new International Pediatric Cardiac Centre in Holon, Israel at the Wolfson Medical Centre, which will also serve as a children's hospital. The state-of-the-art facilities will guarantee that Save a Child's Heart will be able to continue with its medical mission. They will also allow the WMC to better serve its local catchment population of half a million people, principally in disadvantaged areas of Southern Tel Aviv, Holon, Bat Yam and Jaffa.
“Tonight is about the heart," said Sharon while expressing her gratitude. "Tonight is about the heart of our family, the heart of our community and the heart of Israel."
Nobody’s hearts were fuller that evening than hers and her husband’s, she told the audience.
The Appotives were joined by their family and extended family. They made a point of thanking their parents for instilling in them the strong values that they continue to cherish.
Both David and Sharon were born and raised in Ottawa, and humbly described themselves as “two very ordinary people” with a love for their hometown.
David’s father, Joseph, worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day, in his Westboro cornerstore. His mother, Sheva, handled the around-the-clock job of raising him and his two siblings. Unfortunately, his father died at age 66 from a heart attack. “A man of few words, he taught by example, showing us a work ethic to strive for, always to do the right thing, and to never take the easy way out,” said David.
Sharon's parents were Sam and Sue Slack and she has a twin sister, Joy. Her father earned a basic living selling men’s clothing in the ByWard Market. “My father was my role model,” she said. “Although he was a man of little formal education … He taught me respect for family and others, and the importance of giving back.”
The Appotives have been champions of numerous Jewish causes, from the Jewish Federation, to the Ottawa Jewish Community School, to Jewish Family Services, to Camp B’nai Brith, to Hillel Lodge, to Soloway JCC. They've also been supporters of The Royal Ottawa Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation and Carleton University Athletics.
David, with his brother, Howard, was part of the success of Howard Fine Jewellers, a family-owned downtown jewellery store located on the corner of Sparks and Bank streets. He now focuses most of his time on the family's financial and real estate holdings.
One thing you should know about the Appotives is: they usually prefer to keep a low-key public profile.
“They really don’t like the limelight,” Miller told OBJ.social. “What’s interesting is that so many people I’ve spoken to have said, ‘It’s because of the honourees that I’m coming. It’s because of the honourees that I’ll give my support or even give more than I might have given in the past'. They are well, well respected."
Miller worked closely with Sharon when they chaired the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s annual campaign together. “She’s soft-spoken in voice only,” he said of her perseverance and commitment to causes she believes in.
He described David as a behind-the-scenes supporter who avoids taking on conspicuous leadership roles. “He’s on a lot of boards where he takes a lot of responsibility and control for things, but he doesn’t want the title, he doesn’t want to be a president.”
The Appotives are also a very health-conscious couple. They like to stay active and are avid cyclists. Miller used to bring Sharon the gift of an apple — a different kind each week — to their JFO meetings. "You run out of varieties after awhile," Miller added, with a chuckle.
It wasn’t lost on the crowd that they were gathering on Remembrance Day, a day for showing respect and gratitude to the serving and previous members of our armed forces who have sacrificed for our country. “It’s great to have you here for what will hopefully be an unforgettable evening following a day to remember,” Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a former honouree from 1986, said as he welcomed attendees.
Both David and Sharon’s fathers served in the Armed Forces.