When Jason and Aviva Fudem were looking for a new home for their expanding family, they wanted a certain type of community: a place with a neighbourhood feel, a place where their kids could make friends easily, a place with the services and facilities needed by a growing family. They chose a home in Thornhill Woods.
“This is a huge community within Thornhill,” says Aviva Fudem. “Everybody has the same goal, because most of the people moving in are around the same age.”
Almost two years later, they couldn’t be happier with their decision. The one problem: Jewish communal services haven’t kept pace with the growth of the flourishing community.
With a Jewish population of over 60,000, York Region is the third largest Jewish community in Canada - only Toronto and Montreal are home to more Jews. The region is also Canada's fastest growing Jewish community. The steady northward migration of the Jewish community, and the area’s popularity with young families, have contributed to a growth rate of 13 per cent, which is expected to boost the community to 96,000 by 2016.
To help meet the needs of this flourishing Jewish community, UJA Federation - through its Tomorrow Campaign -is building the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus. The $150 million campus will be situated on 50 acres of land on Bathurst just north of Rutherford. The campus is being funded primarily by private donations.
The Vaughan community is embracing the project. "We are looking forward to the building of the new Lebovic Campus in the City of Vaughan,” says Mayor Michael Di Biase. “As well as providing a community centre with activities for all ages, the campus will house Hebrew day schools and many of the social services that are presently only available in Toronto. This expansion of services will benefit the Jewish community of our city.”
The campus’ first phase, expected to be completed by 2008/2009, includes the new Kimel Family Education Building, housing the northern branch of CHAT; The Schwartz Reisman Centre, with facilities for a wide variety of activities covering health and wellness, recreation, culture and social activities, among others; Reena; a Mount Sinai Hospital ambulatory clinic; early childhood education facilities, and multi-purpose rooms for meetings and functions serving predominantly campus agencies and schools.
The campus will serve the concrete needs of the community. The area, for instance, suffers from a shortage of childcare. The Lebovic Campus will include a childcare centre with 170 spaces.
“Daycare, preschool programming would be great,” says Fudem. “If I think of my one-year-old daughter, Yael, it would be great to have a preschool to send her to. Now she’s going to go to somebody’s basement.”
The Fudem's older daughter, Sarah, 3, takes dance classes at the public community centre. When the Lebovic Campus is built, though, Fudem says she’d rather take her there. “She would be surrounded by other Jewish kids from the neighbourhood. It would reinforce the community.”
The Fudems are also happy that the campus will house a plethora of Jewish education options, including day schools, afternoon schools, and after-school programs. They are seriously considering Associated Hebrew School for their two daughters, but many of their friends in the neighbourhood are planning to send their children to afternoon school.
Reena, a non-profit social service agency dedicated to integrating individuals who have developmental disabilities into the mainstream of society, is an excellent example of how the Lebovic Campus will serve the community’s needs. “In our centre currently we probably support 400 families,” says Sandy Keshen, president and CEO of Reena. “Seventy-five per cent of them are from Vaughan. It will be incredibly convenient for them not to have to schlep.”
In addition to serving concrete needs, the campus will also address the need for community. The Schwartz Reisman centre, in addition to providing a fitness centre, child care and after school programming, will be a point of community gathering - a place to hang out, a place to meet friends.
“We moved up here because we wanted to be around other families we’re friends with - Jewish people with young kids,” says Fudem. “That’s the kind of community that’s growing here.”
“To put a Jewish campus of this magnitude near my house reinforces that it’s going to stay this way.”