I hope you are healthy and doing well during this very challenging time.
As a leader in our community, you play an invaluable role in strengthening Toronto Jewry. It is no coincidence that our city is home to one of the most robust and dynamic Jewish communities in the Diaspora. It is a direct result of the incredible work of Jewish organizations across the city.
Like all Canadians, our community’s resilience is now facing an extraordinary test which will become more difficult in the coming days. Jewish institutions throughout our community – from shuls and day schools to social service agencies and grassroots community groups – have risen to this unprecedented challenge in an awe-inspiring way.
Schools and shuls have seamlessly transitioned to online programming. Agencies and volunteers have mobilized to help seniors and the vulnerable. Leaders are offering incredible support to protect the mental health of isolated or distressed community members. And at a time when it is impossible to gather as we usually do, community connections are being maintained in creative and remarkable ways.
Thank you. For every late night you may have spent getting the technology set up. For every difficult and stressful conference call you may have had. For every act of leadership and reassurance you demonstrated to anxious members or clients. For every measure you put into place to protect public health, no matter how inconvenient or perhaps even unpopular at the time.
Our community’s institutions have been a model for how the imperative to protect life – a paramount Jewish value – must override all other interests at this time. To serve our community is an extraordinary responsibility. Jewish professionals and volunteers throughout our city have lived up to that responsibility with incredible dedication and ingenuity this month, as always.
As events have been evolving rapidly, I also wanted to keep you updated on all that we have been doing to help our community cope with this crisis. Here at UJA, we have cancelled all events, our ShinShinim have returned to Israel, and – like many Jewish organizations – our staff are working remotely.
While the way we work has changed, we continue to operate at full capacity to deliver the services our community needs. A summary of our activities may be found here, including our work to mobilize volunteers and donors to help isolated seniors and at-risk community members. If your organization would be interested in participating, please connect with my colleague Steven Shulman at the earliest opportunity as we would love to partner with you in this vital effort.
Just as important, we want to know your insights into how this crisis is impacting your stakeholders and how, together, we can strengthen our community during this terrible pandemic. This is one of those moments that the crowd-sourcing of solutions among our community’s leaders is most needed. When you have a few spare minutes, I encourage you to email us to share any ideas or thoughts.
We are here to help you in any way that we can. This includes sharing information, which is why we created a COVID-19 Community Resources page. Please let us know if you have any announcements you would like us to add to our page.
In closing, I want to draw your attention to three key items:
- The Government of Canada has announced it is launching a wage subsidy to help small businesses and non-profits over the next few months, which will no doubt prove very helpful to many organizations in our community. Our advocacy agent CIJA is continuing to advocate for our community during this crisis, calling on government to provide meaningful support for non-profits and charities as part of any broader pandemic relief measures.
- The Ontario Chief Medical Officer has issued an urgent call for all places of worship to cease in-person services to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As Toronto Hatzoloh rightly warns, we all have a responsibility to heed this call, recognizing that our healthcare professionals may soon be inundated with emergency cases in the coming weeks.
- CIJA, COR, and kashrut certification agencies across Canada have consulted with food suppliers, distributors, and retailers. They report that the supply and availability of Kosher for Passover food will not be affected by the pandemic, and encourage consumers to exercise moderation in shopping behaviour to ensure those without means to stock up are not disadvantaged.
Thank you again for all that you are doing to keep our community strong.
President & CEO
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto