by Stacey Leavitt-Wright
(AJNews) – Since I was a teenager, I have always believed that we create the community we want to live in. For this reason I have always felt compelled to volunteer in the Jewish community. Ensuring that my children could have a strong, supportive Jewish community has also been a primary motivation for my volunteer activities. Now, more than ever, we need young, Jewish women to get involved in leadership positions and community building so that the continuity and growth is brought to the next generation.
It has been a true honour to get to know our seasoned and senior volunteers but we have relied on them for many years. I hope to continue to work alongside them for many more years, however, it is time to start mentoring younger community members as many are eager to pass the torch of community forward. Our strategic planning process is intendent to give us the focus we need to engage new volunteers in areas that are meaningful to them while ensuring that the community needs are met.
Emerging from the pandemic many of us are re-evaluating personal priorities; trying to sort out where we want to expend philanthropic and volunteer efforts. Academic studies show that women are more likely to lead through inspiration, aligning people with meaning and purpose, than men are. I raise this point because, as your CEO, I endeavour to find volunteer roles that are meaningful to each and every one of you. I also endeavour to lead from a place that is tied to strong Jewish values including tikkun olam and klal Yisrael.
One need only look around our community agencies to see that there are many bright, capable women in leadership positions. From Executive Directors to Board Presidents, it has been gratifying for me to build professional relationships in this network of women and seek opportunities of collaboration for the betterment of the community.
Values based leadership is often thought of as a feminine leadership style and this has influenced my leadership through the pandemic over the last six months. We established a Covid Relief Fund via fundraising and seeking grants in order to be able to support the newly vulnerable in our community and to strengthen our beneficiaries as we emerge from the pandemic. We reinstated PJ library and PJ Our way programs this spring to bring children together from across the community and connected them with an Israeli Shlicha (counsellor) to bring the connection to Israel a step forward.
After a year of hibernation we knew that people were thirsty for opportunities to reconnect, and so we established a summer series of events to appeal to a broad audience. With a large number of pregnant women ‘swelling our ranks’ we developed a new Shalom Baby program to connect and support the parents. None of this could have happened without the efforts of our community volunteers, and for that we are grateful. This is in addition to our many other events and programs that are a source of pride for all of us, including the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival and our upcoming Heritage Days.
This past year has seen a rise in antisemitism of alarming proportions. Global in scope and evident across all political spectrums, the pernicious nature of this ‘jewhatred’ has been a concern to many of us. The proliferation of antisemitism in many forms on social media is alarming and will require a multi-pronged approach, both from the grassroots and at the policy levels.
While combatting antisemitism has united us in recent months, I feel that it should not be allowed to define us or make us hide our identities. Now, more than ever, we need to live proud and public Jewish lives. I hope you will join me in doing so, as the strength of our community will determine the strength and quality of our recovery. Step into a volunteer role with the Jewish Federation of Edmonton and help create the community that you want to see as we move forward.
Stacey Leavitt-Wright is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.