HAMILTON — UJA Federation of Hamilton fears it will have to reduce funding to its beneficiary agencies at a time when they need help more than ever.
Like Jewish federations across Canada and the United States, Hamilton has experienced a decrease in campaign contributions this year. And even prior to the current economic downturn, almost one in five Jews in Hamilton, about 800 people, were living in poverty – among the highest of any Jewish community in Canada. As well, 22 per cent of Jewish children in the community were poor.
Incoming Hamilton UJA president Larry Levin says donations are down about 10 per cent this year.
“The general economic climate made it difficult for a lot of people to have it business as usual,” Levin said, adding that interest on investments has also been lower than expected.
Last year, the UJAcampaign raised $1.14 million, and organizers had been hoping to raise $1.5 million this year, an 18 per cent increase that was set before the scale of the downturn became evident.
But the campaign has only raised about $1 million so far, and organizers are seeking to raise an additional $150,000 in a top-up drive, said Christine Nusca, assistant campaign director.
“Some donors went above and beyond, and some weren’t able to. We understand,” Levin said. “But we expect more families to be in need this year, and we want to be prepared to offer our support at their time of need.”
Carol Krames, director of Hamilton Jewish Social Services, says more people are using the kosher food bank and unemployment is rising.
“I keep careful records of the people I have resettled over the past 32 years. Of the newcomers from Israel, South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union, between one-third to one-quarter have at least one member of the family who has lost their job. In some families, it is both husband and wife. This is not just in Hamilton, but in many of the smaller cities across Canada,” she said.
“We also have an increase in people coming from other countries claiming refugee status, which tells us that things are so difficult in their native country they are hoping for a better life here. Let’s all hope they are not disappointed.”
Locally, the federation supports Jewish Social Services, including the food bank, as well as the Jewish Community Centre, Hamilton’s Jewish day and afternoon schools, the Midrasha High School, McMaster University Jewish Students Association and the Hamilton Jewish News.
The campaign committee is asking anyone who has not donated to consider doing so, and for those who have to give an additional 10 per cent.
“For some of us, this is small, but it will make an enormous difference to those who need it,” Levin said. “What a wonderful opportunity to be able to share our good fortune with those less fortunate.”
To donate, call Nusca at 905-648-0605, ext. 306.