The two main priorities of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto have always been: helping Jewish people in need today; and building the Jewish people for tomorrow. Throughout the years, we’ve made a real difference by supporting initiatives that have demonstrated the effectiveness of our community when it comes together: a local financial safety net for the most vulnerable; rescue operations to save Jews facing persecution anywhere in the world; a Birthright Israel trip for every Jewish young adult; tuition assistance for thousands of local Jewish Day School students; and sustained funding to communities under fire in Israel.
But times are changing.
The issues facing Jewish Toronto locally, nationally and internationally are increasingly complex and interconnected. While the programs we continue to support through our agencies have enabled us to become one of the most dynamic communities in the Jewish Diaspora, we must not be lulled into a sense of complacency. Powerful local and global trends are altering our landscape.
The 2011 Canadian National Household Survey and a variety of recent studies confirm the significant impact these trends are having on our community. For the first time in a generation: local Jewish poverty is on the rise; global anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel are at elevated levels; approximately 30% of local young Jews are marrying non-Jewish partners; and participation in high impact Jewish educational programs, particularly Day Schools, is decreasing.
It is time for a period of renewal. Together, we have helped build a community characterized by vibrancy, diversity, creativity, tolerance and success-- but we can’t stand still. Jewish Toronto is changing. Now is the time to leap forward and bring our community together to find solutions for the future.
Over the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015, we started a conversation with Jewish Torontonians about the role they want UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to play in strengthening the community. We made a special effort to reach as large and diverse an audience as possible—with over 400 in-person interviews and over 1,300 online submissions. These consultations identified six essential community priorities which will be our focus for change over the next five years:
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Strategic Plan
In addition to the six priorities, we heard that our efforts at achieving large-scale impact by fostering collaboration among agencies resonated deeply—but that we need to do more. More to convene people and organizations from across organizational and geographic boundaries. More to collect, share and benchmark data about key issues in the community. More to leverage philanthropic support from government and private foundations to increase the scope and impact of our work.
We also heard that in order to provide leadership on the six essential communal priorities, UJA Federation must undertake an internal process of renewal. Priority must be given to: growing the organization’s fundraising capacity; expanding and deepening the involvement of young adults in the organization; and enhancing interdepartmental cooperation to optimize efficiency, transparency and strategic impact.
We have begun preparing ourselves to spearhead a process of renewal. Making UJA Federation lean, efficient and focused has been our starting point. More than $2,000,000 has been removed from our operating budgets and our staff team has contracted by 16%. We are now in a position to shift our focus to implementing the new plan.
Our strategic plan is a commitment to do two things simultaneously:
1. We will gather people and organizations from across boundaries, to provide leadership and to foster collaborative solutions that will make a profound impact on all six essential community priorities. We will meet our changing environment head-on and emerge a stronger community for it.
2. We will accelerate the process of renewal at UJA Federation. As our community is evolving, so too must we. Our ability to deliver transformational change in all six essential community priorities depends on it. In order to propel internal changes, this plan also outlines seven priorities that will build UJA Federation’s capacity to provide the level of leadership required to implement the plan.
More than a commitment to renewal, this strategic plan is also an invitation. For our vision to succeed, we require leadership and creativity from a broad cross-section of the community. We believe that actions speak louder than words. That’s why this plan is the result of the input from consultations that went well beyond our traditional stakeholders. It’s how we know that the appetite for change in the community is palpable. With all the diversity among the plan’s interviewees, there was consensus about the importance of the six essential community priorities and our need to renew how we address them.
We will continue to welcome as many new leaders as possible to join us as we shift from developing to implementing the new plan. Our strength is our ability to galvanize Jews to act together in support of our community’s highest priorities. We have proven over the years that there is no more powerful way to make positive change than when we act together.
We are blessed to have generous donors, talented leaders and effective agencies. Nonetheless, there is strength in numbers and this ambitious plan will only work if you accept our invitation to join in renewing UJA Federation and the community it serves.
We look forward to working with you as we take the next steps together on this journey.
Morris Perlis, Chair, Board of Directors
Morris Zbar, President and CEO
UJA Federation unites Jewish Toronto to act as one. It is where the Jewish community combines its collective strengths to fulfill its most important needs and aspirations. Rooted in Jewish values, it is where we bring together our community to fundraise, plan and allocate resources in support of a world-class network of local, national and international Jewish organizations that focus on six essential community priorities:
UJA Federation has the unique capacity to gather people and organizations from across boundaries, to provide leadership, to foster collaborative solutions and to make a meaningful impact on all six priorities. We exist to galvanize Jews to act together as one powerful voice. As an organization whose policies are set by volunteer leaders from a broad cross-section of the community, UJA Federation is part of a global movement of Jewish collective responsibility in Toronto, in Canada and around the world.
UJA Federation uses its size to be efficient and effective. It applies its resources and financial leverage to amplify the impact of donations. Its cross-communal perspective allows it to find opportunities, create efficiencies and enhance service delivery.
As a steward of your charitable donations, UJA Federation commits to:
The Toronto Jewish Community is among the most vibrant, successful and influential in the Diaspora. UJA Federation has been at the core of our community’s strength since its earliest days and requires our support so that it can continue to build strong Jewish communities for generations to come.
UJA Federation’s mission is to preserve and strengthen the quality of Jewish life in Greater Toronto, Canada, Israel and around the world through philanthropic, volunteer and professional leadership.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto began the process of developing a new strategic plan by listening. Over a period of four months, we reached out to those who know us best as well as to many who got to know us through the process.
The input we received was analyzed along with extensive research about trends impacting Jews locally, nationally and internationally. We shared what we learned with our global network of partner organizations and integrated their best practices into our work.
The following are the key themes that emerged:
More than 1,700 people participated-- 400 in-person interviews and over 1,300 through online submissions.
UJA Federation ensures that we are not just a group of Jews living in Toronto, but rather the Toronto Jewish community. Through our strategic planning process, we have identified six essential priorities that we believe are integral to the vitality of our community. This is where we will focus our efforts.
We will bring together Jewish Torontonians to make meaningful change in:
Over 24,000 Jews from Toronto living below the poverty line
According to the most recent census, the number of Jews living below the poverty line has increased by 4,500 in recent years—growing from 19,745 in 2001 to 24,315 in 2011. This represents a 2% growth-- the first time in a generation that the percentage of Jews living in poverty has increased.
We will mobilize the largest ever coalition of Jewish and secular organizations to unite in a collective effort to eliminate poverty in our community. Special attention will be paid to particularly at-risk populations like seniors, new immigrants and Holocaust survivors.
The Toronto Jewish community is internationally renowned for the strength, meaning and cohesiveness it derives from its relationship with Israel. But like Jewish communities worldwide, it has been increasingly exposed to criticism of Israel, as well as attacks designed to undermine Israel’s right to exist. Alarmingly, research indicates that growing numbers of young Jews are distancing themselves from Israel as a result of exposure to such global censure.
In response, we have developed a number of high impact programs that are successfully engaging our future generations with their Israeli peers both in Toronto and in Israel. The Shinshinim (Hebrew for young emissaries) project is but one example.
We will work to ensure that every Jewish young adult has the opportunity to build a positive connection to Israel through a relationship with an Israeli counterpart. At the same time, we will deepen our level of philanthropic involvement in Israel. We will lever the impact of philanthropic work in Israel by expanding it to be an opportunity for engagement for local young adults with Israel.
Every Jewish young adult should have the opportunity to build a positive connection to Israel
Through our international partner organizations, we will strengthen our ties with European Jewry
The Canadian Jewish community can be proud of the fact that Canada is widely considered to be one of Israel’s strongest and most reliable friends in the world. Canadian cross-party support for the people of Israel and the State of Israel is at an all-time high. Acting through our partners at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, our focus will be twofold: maintaining the positive momentum in Ottawa and translating it into wider areas of Canadian society. In particular, combating the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on college and university campuses will be a key focus of our efforts.
We are fortunate that we can live proudly and peacefully as Canadian Jews. Tragically, the situation for European Jewry is increasingly less secure. There is an alarming upsurge in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity across the continent. Renewed vitriol among right-wing fascists and new threats from radicalized Islamists have created a crisis. Through our international partner organizations, we will strengthen our ties with European Jewry in order to help them combat hatred and to support those who want to leave for Israel.
Bringing Jewish Torontonians from across the community together to make an impact is what we do. In this era of uncertainty and change, there is an increasing need for our community to unite not only in response to crises, but also for opportunities for celebration.
We will build our community’s capacity to mobilize—both in person and electronically. We will strengthen our ability to be nimble, efficient and effective at following-up on the momentum that is created when we come together.
For young generations, identifying as a Jew is a choice. Over the last decade, we have invested in an array of compelling Jewish Identity programs designed to capture the hearts, minds and free-time of young adults. Their impact has been impressive with consistently increasing numbers participating in Jewish day and overnight camps, Israel Experience programs, supplementary Jewish schools, Hillels and PJ Library.
We will capitalize on this success by doing three critical things: scaling up the most successful initiatives to reach the full potential cohort of young Jews; linking these programs to each other so that Jewish involvement becomes sustained rather than episodic; and continuing to develop innovative new programs that reach new markets of young Jews.
Half a century ago, UJA Federation’s leadership took audacious steps to strategically invest in growing the Jewish Day School system. To this day, we continue to benefit from one of the strongest, most diverse and unified Jewish day school systems in the world. Our leadership, professionals, philanthropic endeavors, and Jewish character have all been strengthened as a result of UJA’s investment in Jewish day schools.
Unfortunately, growth and expansion in the Jewish education system is at a standstill. The status quo is unacceptable and cannot continue. From 2001 to 2011, tuition increased on average by 62% while household income rose by only 11%. The cost of rising tuition is forcing families out of the system. Over the last fifteen years, enrollment in Toronto’s non-Orthodox schools has dropped by over 20%.
We will make Jewish Education a key focus of this strategic plan in order that our educational infrastructure continues to strengthen our community into future generations. Our efforts will be concentrated on the issues of affordability, particularly for middle-income families, and increasing enrollment across the system.
Our efforts will be concentrated on the issues of affordability, particularly for middle-income families, and increasing enrollment across the system.
We have ambitious plans for the renewal of our community. Implementing them requires that we build UJA Federation’s capacity to effectively lead the change.
Concurrent with moving forward on our six essential community priorities, we will be developing our internal capacity to support the process of renewal.
We have set seven areas that will be the focus of our internal changes:
Detailed “Action Plans” with clear goals, tactics, measurable outcomes and accountabilities have been developed for each internal priority.
While the strategies in UJA Federation’s plan for renewal are designed to be phased in over five years, there is a fundamental starting point. The engine that will drive the plan’s implementation forward is growth in fundraising revenue. As revenue increases, the pace of change will accelerate.
There are five elements that together will be the catalysts for sustained fundraising growth.
They bring together the right people, the right structure and the right technology for the initial three years of the plan. This start-up investment will not only become self-sustaining over the
three years, it will generate new revenue to implement more of the plan and will build expertise about how to grow the campaign.
Just over a decade ago, the Tomorrow Campaign started with the generosity of a group of “Founding Families” who supported the purchase of land that became The Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Community Campus. The plan for the renewal of UJA Federation and the community it serves is no less forward thinking. We will seek a similarly visionary group of philanthropic leaders to invest in launching the plan that will bring our community together to find solutions for the future.