The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto held a special annual general meeting on Dec. 7 at Beth Tzedec Congregation, to celebrate its centennial and honour over a dozen past presidents and board chairs.
UJA Federation was founded in 1917 by community leaders Ida Siegel, Edmund Scheuer and Abraham Cohen. In its first year, the organization, which was then known as the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto, raised $25,300, about $418,000 in today’s money, which was an incredible amount for the community at that time.
“They instinctively knew that to build for future generations and to build Jewish continuity, they had to find, with their limited resources, funds,” said Julia Koschitzky, the past chair of Jewish Federations of Canada who was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2015.
“Today, we are all beneficiaries of their faithfulness and foresight to do what needed to be done.”
This year, UJA Federation raised a total of $148 million, with $58 million coming from its annual campaign.
Fundraising has always been distributed according to the greatest needs of the time. One hundred years ago, health, hygiene and orphans were the primary concerns. Seventy years ago, it was Israel and infrastructure – this is the era when Baycrest, Mount Sinai, the Bloor and Spadina Jewish community centre and Associated Hebrew Schools all broke ground.
Thirty years ago, it was helping to resettle Soviet Jewry. Today, the focus is on rebuilding that aging infrastructure, strengthening ties to Israel, poverty relief for seniors and increasing enrolment in Jewish day schools.
For the 2017/18 fiscal year, UJA Federation allocated 34 per cent of its funds to forging stronger connections with Israel and advocacy, 31 per cent toward Jewish education and 16 per cent toward caring for the vulnerable.
We have a “collective drive to always be improving the condition of our community. It is our greatest strength and it is also a virtue that must be harnessed over the upcoming years,” said Adam Minsky, UJA Federation’s president and CEO.
In the spring, UJA Federation announced a $15 million donation to reduce tuition at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto from almost $28,000 to $18,500, starting this school year. The northern TanenbaumCHAT campus, which was located on the Lebovic Campus in Vaughan, Ont., closed due to declining enrolment and merged with the original campus on Wilmington Avenue.
Minsky said that the goal of allowing more “middle-income families” to send their children to TanenbaumCHAT has already bore fruit, with 40 new students enrolled in Grade 9 this year.
UJA Federation defines middle-income families as earning a household income between $150,000 and $350,000.
UJA Federation research shows that families “who do not access the traditional tuition assistance, but struggle to afford full tuition, are most impacted by the rise in tuition and, some, unfortunately, are exiting the day school system as a result,” Dan Horowitz, director of corporate communications, writes in an email.
“Our strategic plan calls for us to launch middle-income interventions, like that at TanenbaumCHAT, to ensure that these children can benefit from a Jewish education.”
The hour-long meeting honoured 54 past presidents and chairs of the board of directors, including Ronnie Appleby, Sandra Brown, Donald Carr, Jack Chisvin, Charles Diamond, David Engel, Leslie Gales, Bernard Ghert, David Koschitzky, Morris Perlis, Jack Rose, Herb Rosenfeld, Alan Sandler, Ralph Shedletsky, Joseph Steiner, Richard Venn, Alan Winer and Elizabeth Wolfe.
The meeting closed with the hope that in another 100 years, UJA Federation will be celebrating its bicentennial annual meeting, to advance the cause of a thriving Jewish community.