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New president has bold vision for the Atlantic Jewish Council

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Atlantic Jewish Council president Marilyn Chippin Kaufman

Marilyn Chippin Kaufman has added another item to her already busy agenda. The Fredericton woman assumed the two-year mantle of president of the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) at the organization’s annual general meeting in Halifax on Nov. 18.

Kaufman also serves as president of Fredericton’s Orthodox Sgoolai Israel Synagogue, the first woman in that role, teaches Hebrew school and is the Atlantic representative on the board of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

“With the demands of this new role, I’d love to give up the shul presidency,” she smiled, “but no one else wants it.”

Kaufman is the first AJC president from outside Halifax since 1988.

“It’s important we have someone from the smaller communities in the chair,” she said after her unanimous election. “The region needs all of our voices to be constantly heard.”

She admitted that Halifax is dominant because it has the largest Jewish population in the wide-spread region, but she said that, “We want a feeling of Yiddishkeit, religion, tradition and belonging throughout. It’s important people in the region know who we are – as an AJC and as people living here – to understand we’re all Jews who must be proactive to educate our own people, and others, about us and to combat things like anti-Semitism in a meaningful way.”

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She wants to promote more programming in smaller communities throughout Atlantic Canada.

“They want to be included. They want programming. We have to find ways to bring them in,” she said in an interview with The CJN.

She told the meeting that she hoped her board would be open to new ideas and would listen to the concerns of a very diverse and scattered population. She stressed that the AJC must continue to build bridges with people of other faiths, while retaining Jewish solidarity.

Naomi Rosenfeld, who’s completing her second year as executive-director of the AJC, said she was “excited for Marilyn, who brings leadership skills and a knowledge of the national Jewish system to the position.

“We want to take more programming on the road, to the communities outside Halifax, which we are already doing, but we must expand it. There’s no one better to do that than Marilyn.”

Rosenfeld reported to the meeting that, despite a staff of only four, but with an “amazing volunteer base,” the AJC is building a sense of Jewish community by holding events, such as dinners, barbecues and holiday parties. Likewise, it is bringing Jewish identity to the region’s youth through Camp Kadimah and other projects.

Marilyn brings leadership skills and a knowledge of the national Jewish system to the position.
–  Marilyn Chippin Kaufman

PJ Library, for example, has distributed more than 1,000 books to children and their families. Jewish teens have taken part in a leadership training group that has reached out to the broader community. Through Hillel and Birthright, a younger population has been engaged and Holocaust education programs have been disseminated to thousands of school children.

“We’ve connected our community to Israel through art, films, comedy shows,” added Rosenfeld. “Eight Israeli youngsters were subsidized to attend Kadimah. We had a shaliach here for two months and hope to do that program again in the spring. And we’re getting our people to Israel through missions, Biluim Israel and the March of the Living.”

The annual meeting included the Biennial Conference of the AJC. It featured discussion groups on Camp Kadimah, the iconic, 75-year-old summer camp in Nova Scotia, on Atlantic Canada’s relationship to the Canadian Jewish community at large and on retaining and engaging a younger demographic.

* This story has been modified from the original version to correct the date of the AGM.