By Jeremy Appel
(AJNews) – The United Jewish Appeal has kicked off its annual fundraising campaign for a year like no other.
The campaign kicked off Sept. 13, with a virtual show dubbed “A Celebration of Federation: Canadian Rosh Hashanah,” which was put together by 11 Jewish federations across the nation and hosted by Just for Laughs co-founder Andy Nulman.
Beginning with a video on the federations’ response to COVID, the kickoff included kids from across Canada revealing what Rosh Hashanah means to them, including Edmonton’s own Jeremy Toubiana, and Nava and Lexi Shafir. There was an “Advice for Bubbies” segment, in which Edmontonian Paula Weil gave tips on baking an apple challah. And the show wrapped up with a celebration of life from Holocaust survivors, where Edmonton’s Anna Linetsky gave a hopeful message for the New Year.
The virtual show was an upbeat way to start the new year and launch this year’s UJA campaign.
“We start our community UJA Campaign this year in a period of unparalleled moral and economic upheaval and yet, we are hopeful,” said Edmonton UJA 2020 Chair Howie Sniderman.
“In the face of the monumental challenges caused by the pandemic, there has been an incredible outpouring of kindness, solidarity and philanthropy in Jewish communities throughout Canada and around the world.”
“We believe that our Edmonton Jewish Community will continue in this spirit of generosity, through support of this year’s UJA Campaign. Over the past four decades, we have invested together in UJA, building a vibrant and robust organization that is the backbone of Jewish Edmonton.”
Sniderman says it’s more important than ever for those who have the means to make a contribution, to do so, for those who cannot.
“This particular year is one where many people have suffered extraordinarily, (in terms) of health due to the pandemic,” said Sniderman. “And we’re all facing – every last one of us – ripples throughout the economy, not the least of which is so many people out of work, so many people not having the actual means to support themselves and their families in the way that we normally would expect ourselves to.”
A major fundraising issue this year is that some people who have contributed in past years are no longer able to do so, due to these economic circumstances.
“To the extent that people have the means, it’s going to be important for them to step up.”
“I’m guessing that over the next month or so, we’ll start seeing the extent to which there has been an impact on our individual donors,” said Sniderman. “That’s why, to the extent that people have the means, it’s going to be important for them to step up. It’s always important for people to be counted and be part of the community in that sense, but this year there’s a special reason.”
On Aug. 31, canvasser training occurred over Zoom, rather than the usual BBQ, with special guest Daniel Larson, who was described in Hakol newsletter as a “Jewish fundraising maven.” Larson, a former director of development at the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, is the assistant director of annual giving and alumni relations at Brandeis University in Boston.
“This year I came back to my roots, as it were, and was able to give a presentation to the volunteer fundraisers for this campaign, to share with them some fundraising best practices that they could employ as they raise money for the UJA campaign,” said Larson.
“I was speaking to them about the importance of acknowledging the current reality in their fundraising, also emphasizing how, as fundraisers, they also have the opportunity to get a sense of how community members are faring amidst all this.”
It’s especially important to be empathetic to community members’ varying circumstances throughout the pandemic, while also emphasizing the importance of giving at this time for those who are able, he added.
The federations’ work is ultimately beneficial to the entire community, so it’s crucial for members to assist the collective in these trying times.
“Even after the pandemic has passed, these organizations will still be around to serve our community, so we community members need to be there to support them now so they can continue to support us down the road as well,” said Larson.
As always, funds raised during the campaign will go towards various local initiatives, as well as those elsewhere in the Diaspora and Israel.
“Even as the pandemic pulls us towards other needs and concerns, we must continue to invest in this vision of Jewish community and Jewish life that is so important.”
“Through UJA, we fund key programs and services that reflect our Jewish values,” noted Sniderman. “We care for the vulnerable, advance Jewish Education and Culture, forge connections to Israel, advocate for Jewish interests and inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life. Even as the pandemic pulls us towards other needs and concerns, we must continue to invest in this vision of Jewish community and Jewish life that is so important.
“When we take a look at our overseas commitment, they include a number of Israel-based initiatives. One of the most important has been the connections of our young people with their counterparts overseas.”
At this point, of course, these international connections are being made solely through Zoom, but eventually it’s assumed that our youth will be able to travel abroad, he added.
“It will just be, like everything else in the world, a little bit more creative, a little bit more imaginative,” said Sniderman. “We’ll adapt. Investing in UJA will make us more vibrant, more connected and more resilient to the great challenges we face during these times. Please join me by making a gift to our 2020 annual UJA Campaign.”
Jeremy Appel is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Jewish News.