Jewish Federation of Edmonton refutes unsigned letters to the editor

by Ellery Lew, President Jewish Federation of Edmonton

– A “letter to the Editor” was published in the Edmonton Jewish News on March 10, 2016 under the headline “What’s going on at Talmud Torah Society?”.  In it, the anonymous writer claims, amongst other things, that the Edmonton Jewish Federation has taken over the Talmud Torah Society.

That claim is unequivocally untrue.

That article goes on to say that the Edmonton Federation:

1.Bullied the entire board of the Talmud Torah Society into resigning

2. Is negotiating “with itself”

3. Intends to “take over” the Talmud Torah land.

All of these claims are inaccurate and baseless.

Anonymous writer (“caring community member”): it is a shame you did not speak with some of the members of the Talmud Torah Board (past or present) before putting pen to paper.  You would have heard the truth.

I cannot speak for the members of the Talmud Torah Board.  From what I have observed , the vast majority are committed, caring community members themselves, trying to ensure what is in the best interests of the Talmud Torah School, Society and, most of all, the children who attend.  Your article fails to give them the credit they deserve.

The Integrated Bursary Program was announced recently in the Hakol community publication dated February, 2016 and further details can also be found on the Federation website. The program addresses how Federation funds are to be applied for the purpose of providing subsidies to families in financial need.  It does not apply to Talmud Torah Society Funds.  Decisions about those funds are for the Society only.  Federation has no authority to determine how Society funds are or may be used.

Conflicts of interest, if any, should be declared and addressed by each organization.  If Federation has concerns with conflicts of interest of its Board or Executive, Federation addresses those concerns, and will continue to do so.  Neither organization can tell the other what it can or should do about conflicts of interest.  Neither organization does.

The Integrated Bursary Program and negotiation in respect of the Talmud Torah lands are unrelated.  The first meeting of the negotiating committees from both the Edmonton Federation and Talmud Torah was recently held.  The meeting was productive and constructive.  The committee made decisions as to the process the negotiations will follow and the decisions were nearly all unanimous.  To those present, it was patently obvious that the Talmud Torah Society was and is represented by individuals independent of the Federation whose primary concern is, as I said above, the welfare of the Talmud Torah School and Society.  None of those representing the Talmud Torah Society in those negotiations would permit the Federation to “take over” the Talmud Torah lands (even if Federation did wish to do so, which it does not). It is obvious that both sides intend to work towards an agreement to build  a JCC on Talmud Torah lands if the parties are able to come to a fair and equitable arrangement.  Federation wants the same result, no more, no less.

In particular I would like to thank Rebecca Asbell for her 10-year long and continued commitment and service to the Talmud Torah School and the community in general.  I personally believe your letter did her a tremendous disservice.  Rebecca remains an active member of the Board of Directors of the Talmud Torah, and has not resigned from her post on that board.

The Board, Executive and staff of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton wish for nothing but a strong, viable, healthy Talmud Torah School, literally one of the pillars of our community.

We also continue to be mindful of our obligations to our donors to ensure Federation funds are used effectively.  We will continue to work with our beneficiaries to achieve the proper balancing of both the objectives of providing financial assistance to those in need, and ensuring responsible, effective use of donor funds.   We will continue to do so with the help of the Talmud Torah Society and the Federation’s other beneficiaries.

On behalf of the Board, Executive and staff of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, we wish the Talmud Torah and its Board continuing success and look forward to constructive negotiations.

Ellery Lew

President, The Jewish Federation of Edmonton

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