by Diana Kalef
(Calgary) – What a crazy year!?!
When this issue of Alberta Jewish News lands in homes, it will be one year since Alberta went into lockdown and our lives changed. I know that one of the most difficult aspects, in the beginning, was the unknown – how long would the lockdown last? How will we get through Pesach without our families? Little did anyone realize that a year later, we would be looking to celebrate another Pesach via Zoom! I was amazed at how Jewish Calgary immediately set to work to ensure that our students at Halpern Akiva Academy and The Calgary Jewish Academy were able to continue learning; the Paperny Family JCC kept its members virtually active, and JFSC continued to provide support to their clients.
Federation pivoted to offer online programming for PJ Library® families, Kesher members, and our Holocaust Education department delivered virtual commemorations and offered the Annual Holocaust Symposium via pre-recorded videos and Zoom. None of these organizations can do what they do without the support of loyal donors and funds raised through the annual UJA Campaign.
Going into my 16th UJA Campaign during COVID was a little nerve wracking to say the least.
You may think that COVID is Jewish Calgary’s biggest challenge, but in fact, the changing face of Jewish philanthropy is an obstacle that we are going to continually navigate now, and into the future. Historically, an expectation to give to the communal kuppah was without question. As far back as Exodus, the annual Half-Shekel Campaign provided for the community’s needs. It was an obligation and a mitzvah where the rich were not to give more than a half shekel and the poor were not to give less. Everyone had an equal responsibility for the community’s needs.
Today, there are many important causes, Jewish and secular, all competing for our tzedakah. We need to ensure that Jewish Calgary remains relevant so that our community can continue to thrive. Thankfully, there are donors who consistently maintain their annual giving knowing that they are supporting something important and necessary.
So, did I need to be worried about the 2020 campaign? Not at all! Jewish Calgary stepped up and made it happen by not only renewing annual gifts but for those who could, increased donations were made enabling Federation to provide extra COVID resilience support to our agencies through the Jewish Together Fund. Federation was also a partner in the Shaw Birdies for Kids program in support of IBP, and we received matching dollars from Jewish Federations of North America as part of the Human Services Relief Fund to support COVID-related financial challenges.
I am grateful to not only work in a generous community, but I’m proud to be part of the kehillah that works to make a difference year after year. To say thank you to our donors, you will see a series of donor honor rolls being published over the next few months, starting with those who have given for 25+ years consistently. These donors are giving at all levels, from $18 and up. This is a reminder that EVERY GIFT COUNTS and that Together WE CAN continue making an impact now and into the future.
Wishing you and yours, Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach.
Diana Kalef is Director of Development, Calgary Jewish Federation.