If 2016 was a big year for UJA’s annual campaign, the current one could be even bigger.
Last year – in what was billed as the Centennial Campaign, to mark the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s 100th anniversary – the organization raised around $60 million in unrestricted gifts, targeted supplementary giving and corporate donations.
This year, it expects to do even better with Campaign 2017. In the unrestricted gift category, which makes up the largest single pool of money, the campaign goal is to raise $57.4 million, compared to $57 million last year, said Steve Shulman, UJA campaign director and counsel.
That will continue a recent trend of constantly increasing campaign numbers, he added.
UJA Federation officially launched its current campaign on Sept. 10, with a gala event at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. Some 2,300 donors attended, including 600 who made their first-ever contribution to the campaign.
Political commentator Rex Murphy delivered the keynote address, discussing Israel and its contributions to the wider world.
Lighter fare was provided by The Late Late Show host James Corden, who delivered a stand-up comedy routine before he was joined on stage by CP24’s Jamie Gutfreund. Corden was asked about his career, and Gutfreund challenged the British comedian to identify and sample Jewish foods like kishka and gefilte fish.
Israeli Consul General Galit Baram spoke about the connections between the Toronto Jewish community and Israel, noting the local involvement of shinshinim – young Israelis who volunteer at synagogues and schools – as well as the ties between Canadian Jewish communities and the Israeli cities of Eilat, Sderot and Bat Yam.
Shulman said that about 30 per cent of the money raised in the campaign goes to Israel, while funds that remain support more than 100 UJA partner organizations in Canada.
Among the beneficiaries of campaign funds are Jewish Family & Child Service, JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services), Zareinu Educational Centre, Chai Tikvah and JVS Toronto, all of which deliver services to the Jewish community.
Funds raised in the annual campaigns help provide services for seniors, including Holocaust survivors, and provide subsidies and grants for Jewish education.
“Everybody in this country is personally affected by what we do,” he said, noting that campaign dollars support March of the Living, Birthright, PJ Library, Jewish camps and other programs.
Despite competition for charitable money from other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, UJA continues to attract philanthropists’ dollars, Shulman said.
“We have upped our game in terms of getting our message out. It’s no accident that we have the third largest annual campaign in North America, after New York and Chicago,” he added.
UJA Federation has been enjoying steady growth in its annual campaigns over several years, with the Centennial Campaign marking “the biggest jump in a number of years,” Shulman said.
This year’s UJA campaign is chaired by Jack Frieberg and Lori Rosenthal, while the chair of UJA’s Women’s Philanthropy is Carol Grubert.
The campaign is supported by the efforts of 600 volunteers and it receives 17,000 separate gifts. From one-quarter to one-third of Toronto-area households contribute to the annual campaign, Shulman said.
Adding to the impressive overall numbers was a capital campaign to fund Phase 2 of the Sherman Campus on land where the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre once stood, which has raised $50 million over several years. Ground breaking for the new facility is expected on Oct. 15, Shulman stated.