Ottawa Rabbi Reuven Bulka dies, leaves a legacy of kindness

·2 min read

OTTAWA — The Jewish Federation of Ottawa says beloved Ottawa Rabbi Reuven Bulka has died at the age of 77.

He died Sunday morning in New York City where he had moved to spend time with his five children after being diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic and liver cancer in January.

Bulka was the rabbi, and then rabbi emeritus, at Ottawa's Congregation Machzikei Hadas for 50 years but his constant presence at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa helped earn him the nickname "Canada's Rabbi."

On June 3, federal legislation creating Kindness Week in the third week of February each year was given royal assent.

The bill was inspired by Bulka's Kindness Week, created in Ottawa 14 years ago to celebrate and foster community acts of kindness.

Bulka's funeral will be livestreamed from New York at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Tributes immediately flooded social media for the rabbi, who championed causes like organ and blood donation and spearheaded many events aimed at promoting tolerance and understanding among people of different faiths.

"My heart aches this morning over the passing of Rabbi Reuven Bulka," tweeted Sen. Jim Munson, the initial sponsor of the Kindness Week legislation.

"But in death as in life we always have to reflect on the Good things. Thanks to the dear Rabbi, we have a Kindness Week in Canada. Humbled to have played a role in getting it done. We did it Rabbi. We did it!"

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rabbi Bulka," said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. "He was an outstanding community and religious leader who spent a lifetime bringing people together and fighting racism while looking for kindness in one another."

Bulka received the key to the city in Ottawa, which also named Rabbi Bulka Kindness Park in his honour.

He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2013 for "dedicated service to the community, notably in promoting interfaith dialogue, health and humanitarian causes."

He was also awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service "for inspiring sermons, venerable presence and meaningful messages to Canadians during the national Remembrance Day ceremonies."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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