Fay Rotman loves engaging people in the community and spent her entire career doing just that. Fay’s work began as a social worker with Community Living Toronto but has included work throughout the developmental sector, including her work with Reena. Despite having no family connection, Fay was devoted to helping people with diverse abilities. “Some people just develop a strong commitment to the sector,” says Fay, “and I was one of them.”
It was through her project work in the sector that she met Sandy Keshen, Reena’s Founding Executive Director in 1981. “She so inspired me as a person, she was so dedicated to the sector. Sandy spurred on my own personal commitment. She asked me to come and work at Reena…and she asked me to come onto a committee. Eventually I came onto the board and became Chair.”
Fay says the highlight of her work on the board was Chairing Reena’s International Conference on Developmental Disabilities: Equal Rights-Equal Rites in November 1999. “For me, that was an outstanding moment in my career. It was an incredible experience. I loved coordinating the conference,” says Fay. The event was the culmination of a year of celebrations in honour of Reena’s 25th anniversary. The conference, who’s religious stream was headed by Rabbi Joseph Kelman, included more than 50 expert speakers from Israel, the United States and Canada who shared their expertise on various topics including legal and medical rights, education, faith, and quality of life.
As Chair of the Reena Board Fay had the opportunity to work with people who were committed to Reena’s clients. “There is a warmth and acceptance at Reena. The people were amazing…so dedicated and honourable.” Fay also had the opportunity to accompany Sandy Keshen to numerous meetings with government officials advocating for Reena and presenting new proposals. “It was just a fabulous experience working so closely with Sandy,” says Fay. “Sandy was an incredible force for so many people; She was respected. I think because she inspired so many people Reena is so well respected.” While Fay calls being chair of the board at Reena the highlight of her career, she went on to work as Executive Director of an association of 50 agencies in Toronto that were involved in providing services to the developmentally disabled. Later, she worked for a fundraising consulting firm doing feasibility studies across the province, planned fundraising events at The University of Toronto, and sat on several other boards.
Having worked in the developmental sector for most of her career, Fay says she has many changes from deinstitutionalization and the growth of group homes to the move to more community-based living and more partners. “Reena led the change with a lot of those things,” says Fay. “They developed really innovative models for services.” Now retired, Fay Rotman still considers Reena and all that has been accomplished for people with diverse abilities as inspiring. “It’s amazing how it grew from this little Jewish agency to embracing the broader community.”
Fay Rotman served as Chair of the Reena Board of Directors from 2002-2004.