A message from Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO Jewish Federation of Edmonton

Jewish Federation of Edmonton CEO Stacey Leavitt-Wright

by Stacey Leavitt-Wright

(Edmonton) – Zahava has lived in Kiryat Shmona all her life. Her parents were forced to leave Iraq and Kurdistan and came to Israel as refugees. Zahava, along with 23,000 other residents of Kiryat Shmona, was evacuated, scattering her community across Israel. She has remarked that despite having a sovereign state of Israel, she too is now living as a refugee, as her parents had before her, being displaced from her own home as they were from theirs.

The uncertainty of when it will be safe enough to move back to the northern periphery of Israel looms; moments before I was told Zahava’s story, I received a WhatsApp about our coast-to-coast partnership friend and lay leader Shaul, whose home was hit by a missile. Fortunately, he was not inside.

The residents of the north have been aware for years that it was Hezbollah’s intention to have what happened on October 7 to their communities. I am proud that Jewish Edmonton is partnering with the Calgary Jewish Federation and Camp BB Riback to bring the Jewish Agency Partners2Gether program to Alberta, where we will welcome a group of teens from Metullah for respite and fun amidst these challenging times.

As our community’s CEO, I am delighted and thankful for the philanthropic efforts displayed by our members. Your dedication to supporting the community through the United Jewish Appeal campaign, to programs such as the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival and the Israel Emergency Fund has allowed us to be part of the Canadian story of support and commitment to Israel. We, in Canada, have collectively raised $140 million.

The first wave of funds went to urgent crisis and emergency needs. The second round of funding is being released. This includes requests that come to the allocation committees and Coast to Coast CEOs via our representatives in Israel. They have an ear to the ground by interacting with regional council heads and mayors. It took years to strengthen our partner region, only for it to be devastated. We are now in discussions about rebuilding this region. One light of hope is that Tel Hai College has now received university status and will become the University of the Galilee.

As our director general, Sarah Mali has put it so eloquently: Philanthropy is an expression of love; no matter how big or small, we donate to express our concern and love. It is a giver of hope, it says, “I’m with you”. This commitment to Israel and her people is acknowledged, knowing that Israel is not alone, and that world Jewry stands with them.

As Shavuot has just concluded, a pilgrimage holiday marking the harvest of wheat, we are reminded of G-d’s unconditional love. Moses received the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai, becoming a nation committed to serving G-d. We read the Book of Ruth, known as the book of chessed. The message that acts of loving kindness can heal heartbreak and solitude resonates this year. Chessed has a redemptive quality. It transforms tragedy into a kind of celebration and despair into a potent manifestation of hope.

On this joyous occasion of Shavuot, let us reaffirm our dedication to philanthropy as an expression of love. By working together, we can amplify the impact of our endeavors and create a brighter future.

Reach out to us on social media or by emailing info@edjfed.org.

Stacey Leavitt-Wright is CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.

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