UJA Federation of Greater Toronto Strategic Plan

Message from the Chair and CEO

Renewal begins now.


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.

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The role of UJA Federation in helping Jewish people help each other

What we do:

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:

  • Caring for the vulnerable 
  • Forging strong connections with Israel
  • Advocating on behalf of Israel, the Jewish People and Canadian values
  • Galvanizing the community whether in times of crisis or celebration
  • Inspiring young generations to embrace Jewish life and to ensure a Jewish future
  • Maintaining Toronto’s position as a leader in Jewish education

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Our mission

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.

Community consultations:
What we heard and what we learned

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:

There is a hunger for change and focus. 

  • The most prevalent comment received during the consultations was that our community must not operate as if it is “business as usual”.
  • The need to adapt to new realities was almost always linked to the need to be focused. The importance of picking a few priority areas to change was emphasized.

Young adult engagement is critical.


  • In an environment where being Jewish is a choice, inspiring young generations to embrace Jewish life must be a top priority.
  • UJA Federation should strive to be a model of excellence in both how it engages young people and how it integrates and retains them in leadership roles.

Pilot new strategies in fundraising.


  • Our ability to raise significantly increased dollars has slowed with the economy. 
  • New strategies should be piloted in order to adapt to an increasingly sophisticated and competitive fundraising environment.

Collaboration is crucial.

  • The complexity of the issues facing the community requires that agencies work together to make a meaningful impact.
  • UJA Federation needs to strengthen its capacity to convene and facilitate muti-agency projects.

Increased attention must be paid to fighting poverty.


  • The increase of Jews living below the poverty line by more than 5,000 people in the last decade must be a catalyst for increased attention to the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Donor expectations are changing.


  • Donors demand tangible results. UJA should emphasize how it increases the impact, efficiency and financial leverage of gifts to its annual campaign.
  • There is increased interest in targeted giving to specific themes and initiatives.

“Distancing” from Israel is a serious concern.


  • Our consultations with students and teens revealed concerns about increasing numbers of their peers not wanting Israel as part of their Jewish identity.
  • The importance of increasing coordination and effectiveness of organizations fighting the de-legitimization of Israel on college and university campuses was emphasized.

Maintaining a strong Jewish Education system is critical.


  • Reversing declining enrollment in Jewish Day Schools must be a priority.
  • Supporting the rapid expansion of Jewish educational programs, like supplementary schools, camps, Israel programs, is vital to maintaining high participation rates in Jewish education.

More than 1,700 people participated-- 400 in-person interviews and over 1,300 through online submissions.

Six Essential Community Priorities

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

Caring for the vulnerable:

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.

Forging strong connections with Israel:

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

Advocating on behalf of Israel, the Jewish People and Canadian values:

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.

Galvanizing the community whether in times of crisis or celebration:

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.

Inspiring young generations to embrace Jewish life and to ensure a Jewish future:


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.

Maintaining Toronto’s position as a leader in Jewish education:

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.

Enabling a strong organization 


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:

  1. Brand: We will develop, deliver and communicate UJA Federation’s value as a trusted Jewish leader with unique leverage and influence.
  2. Fundraising: We will grow UJA Federation’s annual campaign from $55 million to $75 million by 2020 through the use of new strategies and technology.
  3. Collaboration: We will strengthen the UJA Federation’s capability to promote coordination, collaboration and greater effectiveness both internally and among Jewish community organizations.
  4. Under 40: We will dramatically expand and deepen the involvement of young adults in the organization. 
  5. Human Resources: We will optimize a strong and vital pipeline of volunteers and professionals who will lead the process of renewal.
  6. Education & Identity Programs: We believe that renewal in Jewish Education and Identity is so essential to the future of our community that it is both one of the six essential community priorities as well as an area where we must build our internal capacity to facilitate change.
  7. Financial Stability: We will manage and eliminate our debt through current and future planning.

Detailed “Action Plans” with clear goals, tactics, measurable outcomes and accountabilities have been developed for each internal priority.

Implementing the plan for renewal 


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.

The strategy for raising the start-up investment has three components:


  1. Internal reallocation of budgets
  2. Strategic cuts to allocations
  3. Fundraising

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.