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Combined Jewish Appeal pitches a big tent open to all

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The 2018 CJA leadership team comprises, from left, Mark Brender, Galit Suissa Antebi, Jonathan Goodman, Orly Fayer, Patrick Essiminy, and Sandy Jesion.

Federation CJA is pitching a big tent – literally – to show that it welcomes everyone in the Jewish community.

Instead of its usual gala at an indoor venue, the Federation is officially launching the 2018 Combined Jewish Appeal (CJA) campaign in a huge marquee that will go up in Hampstead Park in the Montreal suburb of Hampstead, Que., the night of Aug. 23.

It’s hoping that hundreds will attend and has slashed the general admission price to a symbolic $18 (plus a minimum $18 donation per adult), which is well below what it was in previous years.

General campaign chair Jonathan Goodman is looking forward to a “family-friendly, haimish” event that speaks to the inclusivity and unity that the Federation values. “We are one community,” he affirmed.

The highlight will be a performance by IDF Chief Cantor Lt.-Col. Shai Abramson and the Y-Studs, an all-male a cappella group from Yeshiva University in New York.

IDF chief cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson and a musical ensemble from Yeshiva University start at the annual CJA launch.

The festive evening is the first of a three-part weekend kick-off, which continues the next day with a Friday night Shabbat dinner in same tent for all ages, when the Federation’s new leadership group, GenMTL, takes charge. The third event, to be held at the Federation’s West Island branch, is a musical Havdalah ending Shabbat.

This is the 101st campaign and Goodman and his fellow campaign leaders are trying to build on the momentum generated by the Federation’s yearlong centennial celebrations in 2017.

Last year’s CJA, headed by Jimmy Alexander, grossed $36.6 million through the mainline campaign, plus $13.5 million in one-time donations designated for specific causes and $3.4 million in one-time donations with no conditions attached.

Over half of the designated donations went to a fund created for needy local Holocaust survivors.

There were just under 15,000 donations it total.

Drawing on campaign dollars and other sources of revenue, the Federation allocated $37.4 million in its 2018-19 budget. Almost $21 million of that was spent locally under two general categories: “caring for the vulnerable” and “strengthening Jewish life & continuity.” The remainder is earmarked for Israel and elsewhere overseas, as well as national Jewish organizations in Canada.

In addition, the parallel Centennial Campaign surpassed its initial goal, securing commitments totalling $194 million via such vehicles as endowments, capital gifts and future bequests.

This CJA is being dubbed the “chai campaign,” as it’s the 18th year of the current century.

As is customary, Federation CJA did not announce a goal for the campaign, which wraps up in November.

However, Goodman noted that the money Federation raises on an annual basis “consistently place(s) the Montreal campaign among the top three, and sometimes two, per capita among federated communities.”

He acknowledged that it is a challenge, after so much hoopla last year, to get people excited about yet another fundraiser.

“Unfortunately, the needs are still there,” he said. “Twenty per cent of the Jewish community lives below the poverty line. People understand that and want to help.… There’s no question the Montreal community punches above its weight.”

While its fundraising campaigns always do well, CJA has seen a decline in its donor base over time.

To encourage more people to give this year, an anonymous benefactor will match first-time donations, as well as increases over previous donations. In other words, if a donor contributed $50 last year and raises that to $75, the additional $25 will be matched, increasing the total donation to $100.

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Philanthropy comes naturally to Goodman, who is dedicating this campaign to the memory of his mother, Rosalind Goodman, who passed away four years ago. She was a lifelong community volunteer who chaired the CJA women’s division and served a myriad of other causes.

“She would always say: ‘We are not put on this earth to take up space, but to make a difference,’ ” he recalled. “She always reminded me how blessed I am.”

His father, pharmaceutical magnate Morris Goodman, is still a prominent charitable figure, inside and outside the Jewish community.

The younger Goodman, who is in the same industry, said, “This is my family business; I sell drugs and tzedakah.… I love making money and equally love giving it away to help people.”

His personal interests outside CJA range from the Jewish General Hospital’s annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, to building the new Herzliah High School.

Goodman, who stressed that this is a team effort, is joined by chairs Galit Suissa Antebi (Women’s Philanthropy), Patrick Essiminy (Sepharade Philanthropy), Mark Brender (The Network), Sandy Jesion (West Island) and Orly Fayer (GenMTL).

 

To purchase tickets to the events, visit federationcja.org/launch2018, or contact Elise Abecassis at 514-345-2645 ext. 3379 or elise.abecassis@federationcja.org