Rabbi Reuven Bulka, beloved Ottawa community pillar, dies at 77

OTTAWA — Beloved Ottawa spiritual leader Rabbi Reuven Bulka has died.

The Congregation Machzikei Hadas announced Rabbi Bulka, 77, passed away in New York on Sunday, just over five months after disclosing he had been diagnosed with cancer.

“It is with profound sadness that we inform you that Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka passed away early this morning, Sunday, June 27,” said a note from Rabbi Idan Scher.

In January, Bulka informed his congregation that he had been diagnosed with cancer following an extended stay in hospital.

“Without getting into unnecessary detail, they found advanced cancer in the pancreas and liver. Needless to say, it came as a shock,” Bulka wrote in a letter to his congregation.

Bulka travelled to New York to be with his family.

Rabbi Bulka was a Rabbi with Congregation Machzikei Hadas for more than 50 years. He is a member of the Order of Canada and received the Key to the City of Ottawa.  

Tributes flooded social media Sunday morning following news of Rabbi Bulka’s passing.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rabbi Bulka,” said 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.”

Retired Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said, “Rabbi Bulka was a pillar in our community and changed our country for the better. He was always there for Ottawa Police and a proud supporter of the men and women who keep Ottawa safe.”

Bruyere Foundation President Peggy Taillon said, “Heart broken to receive the news that our dear friend Rabbi Bulka passed away this morning. He is such blessing and a builder.”

Rabbi Bulka was the founder of Kind Canada, an Ottawa-based charity committed to spreading kindness, particularly through Kindness Week. Earlier this month, a bill to proclaim Kindness Week in Canada received Royal Assent. Kindness Week will be held during the third week of February.

On Twitter, Senator Jim Munson said, “My heart aches this morning over the passing of Rabbi Reuven Bulka. 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!” said Munson.

In 2019, the Rabbi Bulka Kindness Park was named in his honour. The park is located on Virginia Drive.

CHEO president Alex Munter called news of the Rabbi’s passing a “sad day” for Ottawa.

“Such a big presence at CHEO for decades – at public events supporting child health, in quiet moments helping families. Let’s honour his memory by answering his call to ’embark on a life of kindness and giving,'” said Munter on Twitter.

CTV News chief news anchor Lisa LaFlamme said the passing of Rabbi Bulka leaves “an enormous void” in our country.

“He was a man who built bridges and inspired goodness. A healer in a divided nation. I will miss our personal conversations and his public Remembrance Day benedictions.”

Move 100’s Stuntman Stu Schwartz paid tribute to Rabbi Bulka on Twitter.

“A huge loss for our community. Our paths would cross at many events and didn’t matter what faith you were, he accepted everyone,” said Schwartz.

The funeral in New York will be live-streamed here on Sunday at 4 p.m.

A private burial for family will be held in Israel.

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