Annual General Meeting Welcomes New Chair


NOVEMBER 30, 2010

HONOURED RABBIS, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, AND FRIENDS:

I STAND BEFORE YOU THE GRANDCHILD OF IMMIGRANTS – WITH ADMIRATION AND APPRECIATION FOR THEIR COURAGE AND FORESIGHT. MY GRANDPARENTS TRAVERSED A CONTINENT TO COME TO CANADA AS TEENS IN THE EARLY 1900S, ALONE, SPEAKING NO ENGLISH, AND WITH FEW CONTACTS. THEY BUILT A NEW LIFE IN A COUNTRY WHOSE DEMOCRACY HELD PROMISE FOR THEIR FREEDOM AND ENABLED THEIR GENERATION TO BUILD A JEWISH COMMUNITY.

I STAND BEFORE YOU THE PROUD DAUGHTER OF COMMUNAL LEADERS: MY FATHER, RAY WOLFE, ZICHRONO LIVRACHA AND MY MOTHER ROSE. I HAVE THE UNIQUE PRIVILEGE TO FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF TWO PARENTS WHO BOTH CHAIRED THIS ORGANIZATION. I AM GRATEFUL MY MOTHER IS PRESENT TONIGHT, AS I WAS PRESENT WHEN SHE BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN TO SERVE AS CHAIR IN 1973. MY FATHER WAS RECOGNIZED AS A LEADER OF CANADIAN JEWRY WHO WAS ALSO DEEPLY COMMITTED TO  THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF AN EMERGING ISRAEL. MY MOTHER’S WORK AS A SOCIAL WORKER WITH JF&CS RESETTLING HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS PARALLELED HER FAMILY’S ROLE PROVIDING REFUGE FOR RELATIVES FLEEING EUROPE, AND EVOLVED INTO A LIFETIME DEDICATED TO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY. OUR HOME WAS A CONSTANT STREAM OF UJA LADIES OF THE 60S, COMMUNITY PROFESSIONALS, ISRAELI DIPLOMATS, POLITICAL LEADERS AND BUSINESSMEN. GROWING UP, IT SEEMED TO ME THAT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY WAS THE FAMILY BUSINESS.

I STAND BEFORE YOU AS A WIFE AND MOTHER WITH GRATITUDE TO MY HUSBAND PAUL, FOR LENDING ME HIS STRENGTH AND WILL, AND FOR HIS ADVICE AND COUNSEL.  TO PAUL, AND OUR CHILDREN, JAIMIE, RYAN, NIKI AND ADAM, ZAC AND GILL, THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING AND ENCOURAGING ME, AND FOR UNDERSTANDING WHEN I HAVE COMMITMENTS ELSEWHERE AND DINNER IS, ONCE AGAIN, TAKE OUT.

I STAND BEFORE YOU A PRODUCT OF HOLY BLOSSOM TEMPLE, HAVING BEEN INSPIRED BY ITS RABBIS AND TEACHERS TO PURSUE A LIFE OF MEANING AND ACHIEVEMENT, WITHOUT LIMITATION. I HAVE SPENT MY ENTIRE ADULT LIFE ENGAGED IN COMMUNITY. IT IS THE JEWISH VALUES WHICH I WAS TAUGHT AND BY WHICH I HAVE LED MY LIFE THAT CALL ME TO ACCEPT THE HONOUR AND ASSUME THE RESPONSIBILITY TO SERVE AS CHAIR OF UJA FEDERATION OF GREATER TORONTO.

THE GENERATIONS WHO PRECEDED OURS RECOGNIZED THE IMPORTANCE OF ESTABLISHING ORGANIZATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS THROUGH WHICH THEY WOULD SUPPORT EACH OTHER AND NURTURE  A GROWING JEWISH COMMUNITY. THROUGHOUT MY LIFETIME, FEDERATION, WITH ITS PARTNER AGENCIES, HAS SERVED THE NEEDS OF JEWISH TORONTO.  FEDERATION IS THE VOICE OF OUR CONCERNS AND  OUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE. IT IS THE VEHICLE BY WHICH WE ENHANCE OUR TIES TO ISRAEL AND BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE WE NEED TO STRENGTHEN OUR IDENTITY IN TORONTO. IT IS THE EXPRESSION OF OUR DONORS’ GENEROSITY AND OF OUR COLLECTIVE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO CANADIAN AND WORLD JEWRY.  

IMAGINE TORONTO WITHOUT FEDERATION AND WE IMMEDIATELY UNDERSTAND ITS SIGNIFIGANCE. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT RAISE THE DOLLARS TO PROVIDE FOR THE NEEDS OF ITS MOST VULNERABLE WITHIN A JEWISH CONTEXT. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY WITH DISPARATE AGENCIES THAT DO NOT HAVE A MECHANISM TO COORDINATE INITIATIVES OR ADVOCATE FOR IMPROVED FUNDING AND SOCIAL CHANGE. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY WHERE SCHOOLS OPERATE IN ISOLATION AND WITH NO FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR TUITION. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY WITH NO FUNDED JEWISH  PROGRAMMING ON OUR UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY THAT DOES NOT RAISE MONEY FOR ISRAEL, DOES NOT ENCOURAGE OR PROMOTE ISRAEL ENGAGEMENT, AND DOES NOT ADVOCATE ON ITS BEHALF OR RALLY IN ITS SUPPORT. IMAGINE A COMMUNITY THAT COULD NOT RESPOND TO ATTACKS OF ANTI-SEMITISM, OR TO THE MOUNTING CAMPAIGN TO DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL. FEDERATION ENABLES US TO LEVERAGE OUR STRENGTH THROUGH COMBINED EFFORT, IN PURSUIT OF OUR COMMON PURPOSE.

TONIGHT IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CELEBRATE OUR SUCCESSES. TO TED, AND TO ALAN AND HIS PRECEDESSORS, WE OWE A DEBT OF GRATITUDE FOR THEIR VISION AND DETERMINATION. THE TOMORROW CAMPAIGN HAS AS ITS OBJECTIVE THE ENGAGEMENT OF JEWS THROUGHOUT THE GREATER TORONTO AREA. THROUGH THE INCREDIBLE GENEROSITY OF OUR DONORS, WE HAVE RAISED 300 MILLION  DOLLARS TOWARD THE CREATION OF FACILITIES AND PROGRAMMING THAT ARE ALREADY ATTRACTING A NEW GENERATION AND DRAWING IN NEW SEGMENTS OF OUR COMMUNITY, INCLUDING RUSSIAN AND ISRAELI JEWS. SINCE ITS INCEPTION, THE TOMORROW CAMPAIGN HAS RE-INVIGORATED OUR ANNUAL CAMPAIGN, WHICH HAS INCREASED FROM 33 TO OVER 60 MILLION DOLLARS, TO MEET CRITICAL NEEDS BOTH HERE AND ABROAD. IT HAS FOSTERED INVESTMENT IN OUR FOUNDATION, WHICH HAS GROWN TO OVER $200 MILLION DOLLARS WITH EXPECTANCIES OF EQUAL  AMOUNT, TO HELP SECURE THE FUTURE OF OUR JEWISH COMMUNITY.  OUR SUCCESSES, HOWEVER, CANNOT BE MEASURED IN DOLLAR TERMS ALONE. WITH FEDERATION SUPPORT, JEWISH TORONTO HAS BECOME  PERHAPS THE MOST VIBRANT, ENGAGED AND CARING JEWISH COMMUNITY IN NORTH AMERICA, WHICH ATTRACTS NEWCOMERS FROM CANADA AND AROUND THE WORLD, AND WHICH, THROUGH OUR PARTNERING AGENCIES, IS MEETING THE NEW CHALLENGES THAT WE FACE TODAY.

IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER THAT WE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT INITIATIVES IN AND ON BEHALF OF ISRAEL. WE PROVIDE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO ISRAEL, NOT BECAUSE IT IS A POOR RELATIVE IN NEED (ALTHOUGH NEEDS CERTAINLY EXIST), BUT BECAUSE ISRAEL IS FOUNDATIONAL FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE. WE PROMOTE A NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH ISRAEL THROUGH PROJECTS THAT STRENGTHEN THE BONDS AMONG INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS, AT THE SAME TIME ENCOURAGING PHILANTHROPIC FUNDING FROM WITHIN ISRAEL. THROUGH THESE EFFORTS FEDERATION, IN CONJUNCTION WITH UNITED ISRAEL APPEAL FEDERATIONS CANADA, HAS BECOME THE MEDIUM FOR OUR VOICE TO BE HEARD IN ISRAEL, AS AN INSTRUMENT TO CONVEY OUR IDEALS AND ASPIRATIONS FOR THE JEWISH STATE.

ISRAEL TODAY FACES THREATS TO ITS EXISTENCE UNPRECEDENTED IN ITS MODERN HISTORY. IT IS VULNERABLE INTERNATIONALLY, WITH DEMANDS FOR BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS EMANATING DAILY FROM CAMPUSES AND CORPORATIONS, THROUGH THE MEDIA AND SOCIAL NETWORKS, AND FROM NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS, THE U.N. AND GOVERNMENTAL BODIES IN ALL CORNERS OF THE EARTH.  THE DEMONIZATION OF ISRAEL HAS AS ITS OBJECTIVE THE DELEGITIMIZATION OF JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY, THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AND ULTIMATELY OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. AS FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN, JOSE MARIA AZNAR, SAID EARLIER THIS WEEK, ISRAEL IS A WESTERN COUNTRY IN THE MIDDLE EAST, AND IS THE WEST’S FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE AGAINST FORCES THAT SEEK TO DESTROY IT. A FAILURE BY WESTERN DEMOCRACIES TO SUPPORT ISRAEL WILL WEAKEN AND THREATEN THE WESTERN DEMOCRATIC WORLD.

IN CANADA, WORKING DIRECTLY AND THROUGH OUR VARIOUS CIJA ADVOCACY AGENCIES, WE SUPPORT ISRAEL WHENEVER ITS LEGITIMACY IS CHALLENGED. WE CAN STAND PROUDLY AS CANADIAN JEWS, AFFIRMING THOSE FUNDAMENTAL IDEALS WHICH CANADA SHARES WITH ISRAEL.  PRIME MINISTER HARPER HAS BEEN FORTHRIGHT AND UNWAVERING IN HIS SUPPORT OF ISRAEL, RECENTLY REITERATING THAT CANADA HAS A  MORAL OBLIGATION TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST PERNICIOUS ANTI-ISRAELISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM.  IF WE ARE TO EXPECT OUR GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE TO STAND AS ISRAEL’S STRONGEST ALLY, WE MUST CONTINUE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT SAME COMMITMENT. WE MUST STAND TOGETHER FOR THE RIGHT OF ISRAEL TO EXIST AS A JEWISH, DEMOCRATIC STATE. WE MUST STAND AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM AND AGAINST THE TOLERANCE OF ANTI-SEMITISM.

IN AN AGE OF INDIVIDUALISM AND GLOBALISM, WHERE UNIVERSAL VALUES FREQUENTLY TRUMP ANY PARTICULAR COLLECTIVITY, EVERY JEW IS A JEW BY CHOICE. MANY JEWS OF OUR YOUNGER GENERATION FEEL THAT THEIR PERCEPTION OF ISRAEL CONFLICTS WITH THEIR WESTERN, DEMOCRATIC VALUES AND THUS THREATENS THEIR JEWISH COMMITMENT. WE MUST BETTER EDUCATE THEM TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE SHARE WITH ISRAEL THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM, JUSTICE  AND THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE, AND THAT THE ORIGINS OF THESE VALUES ARE EMBEDDED IN JEWISH HISTORY AND TEACHINGS. WE MUST BETTER EDUCATE THEM TO UNDERSTAND THAT A THREAT TO ISRAEL IS A THREAT TO THE VALUES THEY HOLD DEAR. 

THE JEWISH PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED SOLELY BY CRISES OR BY OUR ENEMIES. AN ENDURING, VIBRANT JEWISH PEOPLE MUST BE DEFINED BY THE DEPTH OF OUR VALUES AND MEANING, BY OUR ETHICAL PRINCIPLES, BY OUR COMPLEXITY AND PASSION FOR CONFLICTING IDEAS, BY THE RANGE OF OUR POLITICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES, AND BY OUR PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE AND BETTERMENT OF THE WORLD.

JEWISH IDENTITY THEREFORE, MUST  BE OUR COMMON GOAL. WE MUST SUPPORT THE SERVICE PROVIDERS WHO PROMOTE JEWISH IDENTITY LOCALLY: OUR RABBIS, EDUCATORS (BOTH FORMAL AND INFORMAL), SCHOLARS, JEWISH COMMUNAL PROFESSIONALS AND LAY LEADERS. AS DEMANDS INCREASE AND PHILANTHROPIC DOLLARS MUST BE STRETCHED, IT IS MORE ESSENTIAL THAN EVER TO RECOGNIZE THAT COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS ON ALL FRONTS ARE NECESSARY TO ENSURE THAT WE HAVE THE SKILLS AND RESOURCES REQUIRED TO BEST MEET THE NEEDS OF OUR COMMUNITY. BY ENCOURAGING OUR LEADERSHIP TO SHARE BEST PRACTICES AND EXPLORE NEW INITIATIVES IN CONCERT, TOGETHER WE CAN INCREASE OUR IMPACT ON EVER LARGER SEGMENTS OF OUR COMMUNITY.

SOMEONE RECENTLY ASKED ME: “IN HOW MANY COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD DO JEWS REPRESENT 1% OF THE POPULATION?” THE ANSWER IS THREE: ISRAEL, THE UNITED STATES, AND CANADA (FOUR IF COUNT GIBRALTOR). OUR NUMBERS ARE STRIKINGLY SMALL: 14.5 MILLION IN A WORLD OF ALMOST 7 BILLION; EVEN IN CANADA, UNDER 400,000 IN A COUNTRY OF OVER 34 MILLION. IN A WORLD WHERE JEWISH NUMBERS ARE BECOMING PROPORTIONATELY FEWER AND COMMUNITIES ARE COMPRESSING, WE ARE ONE OF THE FEW BENEFITING FROM DEMOGRAPHIC GROWTH. THE GREATER TORONTO AREA IS HOME TO OVER 50% OF THE JEWISH POPULATION OF CANADA AND THAT PERCENTAGE IS INCREASING. CONSEQUENTLY, WE RECOGNIZE THAT OUR ROLE GOES BEYOND THE LIMITS OF OUR CITY. OUTSIDE TORONTO, OUR INFLUENCE IS FELT THROUGHOUT CANADA, OUR LEADERSHIP IS RECOGNIZED IN THE UNITED STATES, IN THE KEREN HAYESOD WORLD, AND IN ISRAEL. OUR STRENGTH IS IN OUR COLLECTIVITY. WHAT WE ACHIEVE IN TORONTO EXTENDS BEYOND OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY. WE MUST CONTINUE TO WORK WITH OTHER CANADIAN JEWISH COMMUNITIES TO AMPLIFY OUR COMBINED EFFECTIVENESS. WE KNOW THAT A THRIVING JEWISH COMMUNITY IN TORONTO TRANSLATES TO A STRONGER JEWISH CANADA AND A MORE SECURE ISRAEL.

WE FACE INCREASING CHALLENGES IN THE YEARS AHEAD. THESE ARE NOT CHALLENGES THAT CAN BE MET OR OVERCOME BY ANY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL OR ORGANIZATION. I LOOK TO OUR PROFESSIONAL STAFF, WHICH IS SECOND TO NONE, TO OUR DONORS AND TO THE LAY LEADERS OF OUR COMMUNITY FOR THEIR GUIDANCE AND LEADERSHIP. I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH ALL OF YOU.  TOGETHER, THROUGH FEDERATION WE WILL BUILD NOT ONLY FOR THE PRESENT, BUT ALSO FOR A STRONGER JEWISH FUTURE, THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY, VISION AND LEADERSHIP OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM.

THANK YOU.

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