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Baseball isn’t the only thing that brings us together

Blue Jays mascot. WIKI COMMONS PHOTO
Blue Jays mascot. WIKI COMMONS PHOTO

In the end, the Toronto Blue Jays failed to make it to the World Series. Nevertheless, the three months from August to October were tremendously exciting in Toronto (and other cities around the world), as the Jays began an unanticipated run toward the top of the American League.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Jays’ autumn was the way it brought the city together. Fans and non-fans alike were swept up in the passion. It was not uncommon to see total strangers high-fiving or even hugging, in reaction to heroics on the field or at bat. The feeling of unity was palpable.

The Blue Jays’ advance coincided with the principal phase of the United Jewish Appeal campaign, which we have the honour to chair this year. Together with more than 600 volunteers and a group of dedicated professionals, we endeavoured to raise the funds that help more than 100 organizations and schools look after Jews in need today and secure a knowledgeable and caring Jewish community for tomorrow.

UJA’s work encompasses four pillars of activity (that’s three more Pillars than the Blue Jays had):

• We care for the vulnerable and those in need. Twenty-four thousand of us live below the poverty line, and many of our seniors live in isolation.

• We improve access to Jewish education and identity programs. From preschool through campus, we give our young people multiple paths to strengthen their connection to their Jewish roots.

• We improve the quality of life for Israelis and for Jews abroad facing conflict and anti-Semitism. In areas far from the centre of Israel or too close to rocket launchers, we enhance education and health care and help to stabilize communities and create opportunities for growth.

• We speak up for our community and for our brothers and sisters in Israel. The Jews of the GTA have interests and concerns, and we make the case on Parliament Hill, at Queen’s Park, at city hall
and to the media.

And the key is, we do all of it together. The United Jewish Appeal means Jews united to help each other. What brought Toronto together this fall were the exploits of a baseball team. What brings our community together year after year is the pull of a heritage thousands of years in the making, an innate sense of mutual responsibility, pride in the values and culture of a small people with a large profile and determination that the legacy we received will not end with us. What brings us together is the recognition that we are more than a community – we are a family.

Now, it’s true that what our agencies do every single day doesn’t happen in a stadium or in front of television cameras. And there are no cheering crowds. But when a volunteer delivers a meal to a Holocaust survivor living alone, or takes her to a social event; when a young woman learns a new skill and finds a job, or receives an interest-free loan to start a new business; when a child living through a rocket barrage on the Israeli border receives psychological counselling to help him cope, or a newly elected member of Parliament comes to understand that child’s plight – each of these occasions and countless others are worthy of a high-five and a communal hug.

And it is United Jewish Appeal contributions that make it possible. Whether through our overseas partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, or the range of local agencies, schools and other affiliates in the UJA family, including Jewish Vocational Service, Jewish Family & Child, Jewish Addiction Community Services, Jewish Immigrant Aid Services and the Jewish community centres, if you are a donor, you are changing lives. If you aren’t, it’s not too late to join our team.

JAFI, JDC, JVS, JF&CS, JACS, JIAS, JCCs, and so many more. What a lineup. Go “J”s go!

Shoel Silver and Felicia Posluns are the chairs of this year’s UJA annual campaign. Ruth Ekstein is chair of UJA’s women’s philanthropy.