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Innovative Jewish programming aided by new grants

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The Montreal Shira Choir, founded and con-ducted by Cantor Daniel Benlolo, celebrates inclusion through the power of music.

Over $400,000 has been awarded to 16 community organizations and programs by the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal (JCF), under a new funding initiative designed to encourage creative projects that have a practical impact.

The inaugural Nova Grants are intended to assist “leading-edge” programs that support the vulnerable, promote Jewish identity and culture, and strengthen the institutional framework of Montreal’s Jewish community.

“In launching Nova Grants, we are encouraging agencies, synagogues and community organizations to experiment, to test new or innovative approaches to meeting critical or emerging needs,” said David Martz, who chairs JCF’s allocations committee.

“The initiatives we are supporting do not already receive funding from Federation CJA or other funders and our intention is for our investments to serve as seed money for programs, which will, over the coming years, have a measurable impact on ensuring the vitality of our community.”

Ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, the grants are allocated on an annual basis for either one-time funding for a program to be carried out within one year, or to be used over a period of up to three years.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Agence Ometz for a consultation and referral service for parents, which includes a one-time affordable screening of their child, as well as for a practical work experience program that emphasizes inclusion;
  • BANAV for informal Jewish education for youth with learning or developmental delays, or who are on the autism spectrum;
  • the Donald Berman Bikur Cholim Ladies Association, to raise awareness of the different forms of elder abuse among seniors in the haredi community, many of whom are Holocaust survivors;
  • Chabad Lifeline, to help other organizations that have contact with people who may have addictions;
  • the Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre for its satellite class known as Beyachad Academy, which will work with children in the Belz community with developmental delays;
  • Zera Café and Catering, a start-up offering Israeli-style food, to employ adults with intellectual disabilities and provide them with training for future food service jobs;
  • Congregation Beth Tikvah, to create the Synagogue with No Walls, which will offer Jews of all ages easier access to Jewish teachings and traditions through social media;
  • the Jewish Learning Lab, to develop a musical program to promote Jewish engagement through monthly Shabbat jams and concerts, in collaboration with others, such as YidLife Crisis;
  • the Jewish Russian Community Centre, to further expand its outreach and activities for unaffiliated young Russian-speaking Jewish musicians;
  • the Montreal Shira Choir, whose members have developmental disabilities, to continue to bring together people of all ages and abilities through music;
  • the Museum of Jewish Montreal, to get young adults aged 20 to 40 involved in the community through cultural and research activities;
  • the OSM Experience, to expose Jewish day school students to classical music and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal through chamber music concerts at schools, while also improving their appreciation of francophone culture;
  • the Segal Centre’s Jewish Arts Mentorship Program, for a fellowship program for young emerging “Jewishly identified” theatre artists working on Jewish-themed projects;
  • Mile End Chavurah, to develop a three-year plan with the goal of becoming self-sustainable;
  • Montreal Open Shul, a “post-denominational Jewish spiritual community,” to continue to offer “inclusive, contemplative Jewish practices” in yoga studios, cafes, private homes, the YM-YWHA and other unconventional venues, while also working toward putting itself on a more sustainable footing;
  • Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom’s Building Community-Small Groups at Temple, a program modelled on Rabbi Ron Wolfson’s Relational Judaism, which aims to foster a sense of belonging, while participating in Jewish learning and performing acts of loving kindness.

“We are delighted with the range of the initiatives that have been brought forward and by the diversity of organizations that are sponsoring them,” said Kathy Assayag, JCF’s executive director.

“We are tapping into the creativity and community spirit of Jewish Montrealers and are confident that the Nova Grants will make a significant difference. We look forward to the second round of funding and will be launching the application process in March.”

Anna Sirota of the Jewish Russian Community Centre said the funding will allow its youth orchestra to “spread Jewish culture in Montreal within the Jewish community, as well as without. Our young musicians offer concerts to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions.

“We strive to educate about various Jewish musical traditions, major holidays and the core values highlighted in the celebrations. Through their love of music, they become involved in the Jewish community.”

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