by Stacey Leavitt-Wright
(Edmonton) – Imagine a room brimming with the energy of 32 adults ranging in age from 20 to 35, some new to the city, others having returned after university or living here their whole life, looking to reconnect with the Jewish community and meet new people. Among them are two emissaries from the Jewish Agency for Israel, holding space for their questions and concerns about Israel, our Jewish homeland.
It is no stretch of the imagination. This event actually took place this past month with the new young adult cohort we have established this year, called Genesis. We eagerly anticipate more events, volunteer opportunities, and engagement of these young adults. With the newly launched microgrants program, we can foster connections in ways most meaningful to them and continue to reach out to unaffiliated Jews in Edmonton.
In February 2021, we set out to ask the community a few questions; what was top of mind? What was important to you, and how should the Jewish Federation of Edmonton refocus as it emerged from the pandemic? Given our restricted capability and resources, where should we centre our efforts?
The strategic plan identified both capacity and content priorities. Building the capacity of staff and volunteer talent has allowed us to expand our reach and build upon the foundations of successful programs and events that we have supported for many years. Genesis is one example; Holocaust Education is another, where we are now offering a program to junior high schools. We are further developing relationships with the Edmonton Public School Board and the Edmonton Public library to ensure that awareness and education have a broad reach. The award-winning Shine A light Mosaic will tour city schools with a teacher resource guide (generated by staff and a teacher advisory board) once it has completed the library tour.
One of the principal aims of our strategic plan, revealed in December 2021, is to engage with unaffiliated groups who are not yet part of the community. Shalom Baby is in its second year and Genesis is growing. We have connected and supported many young adults and families with each other, synagogues and Talmud Torah school. As a professional who got her start in community volunteering, it gives me great pleasure to welcome so many new volunteers to events and programs.
Establishing a leadership pipeline is another priority of our strategic plan, while engaging seasoned volunteers who can mentor newer ones. We are seeing this both at our board and subcommittees, and look forward to instituting a leadership program for people across our community later this year.
The strategic plan survey revealed that we needed to work on communications. We have been establishing a strong and diverse communication strategy, with a sophisticated approach to telling the Federation story across all platforms. This has been a key area of focus that we are continuously building and improving upon.
We have enhanced connections with the media and elected officials across all levels of government, ensuring the Jewish Federation of Edmonton is seen as a trusted partner and resource on local issues of concern to the community. Providing opportunities for community members to take part in advocacy is an area we have been addressing and I am excited about travelling with many of you to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ Face It, Fight It conference in Ottawa this October. If you are concerned about antisemitism in Canada, this is your opportunity to be more informed and to act alongside hundreds of others from across Canada. Please contact Jacqueline or myself to find out more about the conference and what subsidies may be available for you to attend.
Of the many questions our strategic plan set out to answer, the one capacity priority I am asked about frequently is facility. Will we have a community gathering place, and what are the plans for the Federation offices? Now that we are at the midway point of the implementation of the strategic plan, we are taking measured steps towards establishing a facility plan by the end of the three years.
While in its early stages, the board has established a facility and space committee, chaired by Karen Leibovici. This committee has been tasked with finding an actionable recommendation to bring to the board that will meet the space needs of the community. This new group has been meeting regularly this spring to review prior considerations and consider and explore potential options. We are eagerly anticipating to informing you about their progress once their work has advanced further.
The Torah emphasizes the importance of leadership grounded in humility, honouring established leadership structures, and promoting unity. When personal agendas overshadow the greater good, it disrupts the harmony we seek within a community. True to our values, I endeavour to work with each of you, with grace and humility, in a transparent, accountable, and collaborative manner for the betterment of our community. It is a privilege to work with passionate volunteers and committed colleagues from across Jewish Edmonton to ensure a strong and thriving Federation and community.