TORONTO — It’s the start of a new era for Jewish Vocational Service Toronto.
Lorie Shekter-Wolfson was officially named president and CEO of JVS at its 66th annual general meeting in late September, held at Beth Torah Synagogue.
Shekter-Wolfson, who was most recently assistant vice-president at George Brown College, said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s really exciting,” Shekter-Wolfson said. “As I had said in my [introduction] speech, I’ve known of JVS for years and had the privilege of working with them as a partner when I was dean at George Brown and have been involved in the Jewish community on a volunteer basis.
“This is really my first opportunity to actually be a paid executive and work in the Jewish community, and it’s very exciting to be able to put a stamp on that and be part of the future of this organization.”
Shekter-Wolfson was formally introduced at the annual event, which also saw an appearance from York Centre MP Mark Adler and a keynote address by United Way president and CEO Susan McIsaac.
“I was honoured to be invited to come up,” McIsaac said. “I have been up to the JVS on many occasions and worked with the staff and volunteers, and I feel that they are an amazing partner to United Way.”
McIsaac spoke of some of JVS’ and United Way’s combined efforts across Toronto.
“There are still so many gaps across our city, people for whom opportunity isn’t real,” McIsaac said. “I think the work JVS is doing on the ground, in the community and in particular, in some of our priority neighbourhoods, is fundamental in terms of helping people get a hand up.
“When I think about youth, newcomers and neighbourhood, those are three key areas of priority for JVS,” McIsaac added. “We [at United Way] are so aligned in our work that it’s been at the base of our partnership for years.
“[JVS] is so important in helping to give opportunities, the kind of opportunities that can help someone be successful in life.”
McIsaac said she was also impressed hearing many stories at the meeting of individuals whose parents or grandparents were helped by JVS or someone who would go on to work or volunteer there.
“I think there’s a cultural aspect to the work they do,” McIsaac said. “We heard stories of people [getting help] postwar [JVS opened in 1947], and I think that’s something unique in the city, something that’s part of the heritage and pride of JVS, as it should be.”
Shekter-Wolfson says JVS reflects a key component of Judaism.
“It’s the Jewish response to tragedy, it’s the Jewish response to need,” Shekter-Wolfson said.
“The Jewish population has always been so successful at that, and I think that it’s tremendous to have a Jewish organization be at the forefront of helping people, regardless of their background.”
She said she’ll oversee JVS as it tries to keep its programs functioning properly in the face of financial pressures.
“It will [involve] continuing with the level of service, diversifying the services and [working on] revenue sources,” Shekter-Wolfson said.
“Governments don’t have the money they once had, money that these services used to rely on. That means organizations such as JVS have to think differently about how they’re going to do their services when finances are clearly a piece of that, in order to make up [for that] with all of the challenges ahead.”
JVS also handed out a number of awards to staff, volunteers and individuals who have sought out their services.
Ilya Gilan was given the Joseph Skolnik Award for New Canadians, having used JVS’s help when he came to Canada a couple of years ago. The Betty Skolnik Award for emerging professionals went to Aaron Herman, who now works in accounting. Cronos Consulting Group earned the David Mouckley Outstanding Employer Award for providing special initiatives to clients with barriers to employment. Arrathiyah Thirrukkumaran won the Manny Mitchell Volunteer Award for making a significant contribution to JVS over the past few years.