WINDSOR, Ont. — Jay Katz is coming home.
Katz, who grew up in Windsor but in recent years has been Toronto-based, takes the helm at the Windsor Jewish Community Centre this spring.
In fact, Katz said, this will be the “third time I’m moving to Windsor in my life.”
The Toronto native first moved to Windsor as a child when he was seven, growing up here and leaving at 22. He returned in the 1990s and was hired as executive director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, leaving in 2007 for the same post with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Katz has an MBA from the University of Western Ontario, and has worked widely in finance and real estate in both Canada and the United States. But he also was an antique dealer in Los Angeles and has had extensive experience in arts and non-profit management.
He’s excited about returning to Windsor.
“It’s a community that is close to my heart,” he said. “I grew up there. It means a lot to me. It’s a great opportunity to do something meaningful and interesting.”
Katz lauds the city’s diversity – it’s the fourth-most ethnically diverse in Canada – and the “lifestyle” of a moderate climate and little congestion. He still has a brother and cousins here.
Outgoing community centre director Harvey Kessler is retiring after 15 years.
Kessler, a Windsor native, has had a wide background in the non-profit sector including with the Canadian Hearing Society and the United Way.
Kessler is looking forward to travelling to Israel with wife, Marcia, to spend more time with immediate family.
“Windsor is the smallest organized Jewish community in Canada,” Kessler said. Besides the community centre, there is also the I.L. Peretz House 70-unit senior citizens apartment building.
The Jewish community is notably well integrated with the overall population.
For example, Peretz House is open to all – “only around 15 to 20 per cent of our tenants are Jewish,” Kessler said.
As well, during summer, the federation sponsors Camp Yomee, where 150 children from the entire community attend.
For over a decade, the community centre has also organized the Windsor Jewish Film Festival, “attracting well over a thousand people now,” Kessler said.
There’s also the annual student forum on social justice, which brings together 150 Grade 8 students for workshops on everything from lessons learned from the Holocaust to poverty and homelessness.
“That’s open to all,” he said.
The Windsor area has some 1,500 Jewish residents, a number that Kessler said remains “stable.”
Katz will take the torch from Kessler in another way as well.
“Prior to myself, all the executive directors here had been Americans,” Kessler said. “And I was the first kind of local Windsor boy who took the position. Now, Jay is the second Windsor boy to take it.”