Inspiring change comes naturally to Dorothy Reitman, “I have always been a social activist,” says Dorothy proudly, “Not only have I always wanted to change things where necessary, but I always worried about the most vulnerable amongst us.” And change things she has in over 50 years of dedicated service to the Jewish and greater communities both locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. So it is fitting that we feature Dorothy Reitman as we approach this year’s International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8, with its theme of ‘Choose to challenge’.
Celebrated initially in Western Europe with a small number of countries in 1911, International Women’s Day has grown into a worldwide organization celebrating women and their accomplishments touching all spheres of women’s influence. Assuming leadership roles in industry, politics, education and equal rights, participants have been become increasingly well-placed impacting policies affecting women on the world stage.
Reitman has consistently broken through the glass ceilings of multiple organizations traditionally shepherded by men serving as the first woman president of Canadian Jewish Congress in 1982 then extending her reach to many sectors working closely with the Minister for the Status of Women, Sheila Finestone, to representing Canada in the United Nations World Conference on women in 1985. She is modest in saying that her continued focus on the advancement of women is hard to measure but she takes pride in knowing that she has impacted the lives of countless Canadian women with the many programs she has had a hand in creating.
Reitman’s involvement with the Cummings Centre began from its inception raising funds to help the then Golden Agers expand from several synagogue locations to a central home, “I knew we needed a dedicated Centre for our seniors,” says Reitman. As President of the Council of Jewish Women at the time, she forged ties with Federation to set up the first central Golden Age Association in a donated duplex on Côte Ste-Catherine Road. Dorothy maintains her role as an active member of the Cummings Centre sitting on both the Board of Directors of the Agency as well as the Foundation Board. She sponsored the Boutique in the Capital campaign and she is a Gold Governor and generous donor to so many of the Centres programs including Mitzvah meals, Sports Celebrity Breakfast and so much more.
Reitman has always prioritized forging ties beyond the Jewish community, “As Jews we should not work in isolation- it is very important to reach out to women of other faiths especially in times of racial inequity and combat any form of discrimination.”
Reitman seems to find herself just where she is most needed, “Through many management training programs and hands-on volunteer work, I feel I was trained to observe unmet needs and find the best ways to answer those needs,” says Reitman. This can be seen in so many of her accomplishments. She was a founding member of the Portage Drug Addiction Rehabilitation Centre, “Our children were approaching their teenage years and we knew there was a need for a rehabilitation program for our Jewish youth and all youth in Montreal,” points out Reitman. Dorothy was instrumental in developing the Kosher-meals-on-wheels program impacting seniors’ ability to remain as autonomous as possible. The list of her accomplishments is long and varied.
Her work has not gone unnoticed as she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997 amongst numerous honours locally and internationally. She has also lent her expertise to both McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital, Lady Davis Institute and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto supporting cutting edge Alzheimer’s research.
A proud mother of son Joel and daughter-in-law Jill and two grown grandsons, Reitman has no thoughts about slowing down, “Stand up for what you believe in and keep moving forward!”.
The Cummings Centre’s mission is to empower and enhance the quality of life of adults age 50 and over by providing dynamic and innovative programs, social services, and volunteer opportunities in a vibrant, respectful, inclusive and compassionate environment. Building on its Jewish heritage, Cummings embraces people from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
As the hub of Montreal’s 50+ community, the Centre touches the lives of 10,000 people on an annual basis.
For more information, please contact us by phone at 514-343-3510, online at www.cummingscentre.org or in person at 5700 Westbury Avenue.