Spreading the Light to Those in Need

by Adam Minsky, President & CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto

As Chanukah approaches, I am reminded of how our Toronto Jewish community has become a beacon of light and compassion for Jewish communities here and around the world. The unique privilege I have of occupying a leadership role in such a strong, tight knit community is not lost on me, and I am constantly humbled by the trust our donors place in us to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our community.

In just a few days, children and families across the GTA will light the first candle on the menorah. There will be lots of celebrations, and I know in my house the kids are already anticipating eight days filled with games, gifts and delicious food.

Chanukah is a joyful holiday for so many families in our community. But not for all.

For far too many Jewish families living in poverty in the GTA, Chanukah is not a time of miracles, but instead another reminder that they cannot afford to provide their children with daily essentials, let alone even modest Chanukah celebrations.

A 2016 survey found more than 3,500 children in our community come from families that face financial challenges:

  • 1 in 5 do not eat three meals a day.
  • 58% do not have new shoes or boots for winter.
  • 35% do not have access to computer or the internet at home.
  • 1/3 do not have the necessary school supplies.

Through your generous donations and the many agencies that you help to fund, we are making a big difference in the lives of these children and their families.

We do this through food programs and emergency financial assistance provided through Jewish Family & Child to help provide warm meals to those in need, or funds for those who cannot afford to pay their utility bills or school supplies for their children. We do this through rent subsidies through the Kehilla Residential Programme, which allows those living in poverty to have affordable apartments. We do this by helping individuals improve their employability and financial self-sufficiency through services provided by Jewish Vocational Serves.

In these ways, and more, UJA Federation is helping alleviate poverty for the most financially vulnerable in our community.

But, when it comes to serving the community and ensuring it is strong, healthy and vibrant, we believe it is important to look beyond singular problems. While we are focused on initiatives that provide financial assistance to those in need, UJA is also heavily involved in programs that bring individuals closer to their Jewish identity and to the community at large. These span from subsidies for Jewish education to informal Jewish experiences, such as Jewish camps, Birthright and March of the Living, to name just a few.

Our collective power to provide these comprehensive services, which help build a stronger future for the Jewish community, could not be done without your commitment. This Chanukah, I encourage you all to reflect on your own individual powers – and how you are making miracles happen for everyone in the community.

Thank you and chag sameach.