UJA's Strategic Plan to Unlock the Potential in Every One of Us

A woman standing in front of donated school supplies

We invite you to read our 2022-24 Strategic Plan and join us in building an empowered community, together.


The ability to see in crisis not only recovery but the opportunity to strengthen ourselves is at the heart of our history. It’s also one of the keys to a thriving Jewish future. As we have responded to the immense challenges of the past few years, we have learned that a Jewish community’s capacity for resilience – and its ability to emerge even stronger from adversity – is ultimately rooted in that community’s very culture.

Linda Frum
Adam Minsky


UJA Federation’s mission is to preserve and strengthen the quality of Jewish life in Greater Toronto, Canada, Israel, and around the world through philanthropic, volunteer, and professional leadership.


UJA Federation works to address the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish people. Our work encompasses five strategic pillars:

  • Fighting poverty and improving well-being
  • Strengthening Jewish identity
  • Growing Jewish education
  • Strengthening connections to Israel and empowering global Jewish communities in need
  • Preventing and countering antisemitism, and improving community security

The strategic plan outlined in this document focuses on key priorities developed to advance our mission and work in these five areas. These proposed initiatives have tremendous potential to strengthen the ability of the GTA Jewish community to meet immediate challenges – namely the enduring effects of the pandemic and the rise of antisemitism – while building a foundation for a stronger and more secure community well into the future.


UJA Federation works to tackle issues that are of a scale and complexity requiring strategic, community-wide solutions. Through a collective approach, we strive to maximize our community’s resources and talents – uniting the power of volunteers, donors, professionals, and organizations – to achieve results that would not otherwise be possible.

In addressing these challenges, UJA Federation’s approach is rooted in our unique core competencies as an organization, including:

  • A broad lens and collective approach. Through strategic grant-making, we strengthen an entire system of organizational partners to achieve the kind of system-wide impact that no agency or program can deliver on its own.
  • A unique ability to deploy human and financial resources. Through the powerful combination of thousands of volunteers, donors, and professionals working in common cause, we focus the greatest strengths of our community on the greatest challenges facing the Jewish people.
  • Evidence-based solutions. Through extensive use of research, field-testing, evaluation, metrics, and measurement, we work to identify and strengthen community initiatives that are most promising in advancing our priorities.
  • Access to a connected global network. We are directly linked to hundreds of communities around the world through the Jewish Federation system and our partnerships with leading Jewish organizations overseas. This enables us to learn best practices from others while exporting made-in-Toronto solutions to benefit our fellow Jews globally.


We are profoundly grateful for the contributions of more than 750 community members who have helped shape the development of this strategic plan. Through their collective participation in dozens of consultations held virtually in 2021, this plan has been refined and immeasurably strengthened by the perspectives of community members.

This process engaged a range of key stakeholders, including community professionals, leaders, volunteers, and donors. These voices reflected a diversity of partner agencies and sectors throughout our community, including Jewish human services, Jewish education, Israel and overseas projects, Jewish camping, and Jewish arts, heritage, and culture – to name just a few. In addition, a concerted effort was made to gather the insights of unique segments of our community, including Jewish leaders under the age of 40, the downtown Jewish community, and those active in efforts to combat antisemitism.

This process yielded a range of important insights, with the concept of empowerment being a recurring theme. Consultations confirmed there is tremendous appetite within our community for grassroots Jews to have greater opportunities to donate their time to strengthening the full range of our efforts. So too, the recent rise of antisemitism – particularly the worrisome events of May 2021, which occurred in the midst of our strategic planning process – required us to update and enhance the plan to reflect the evolving nature of this heightened threat. The five key initiatives of this plan are the product of this deliberate process of reflection, consultation, and adaptation.

The five priority initiatives of this strategic plan are:

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An empowered community strives to make sure every Jew can overcome vulnerability and participate in Jewish life.


Our community has built a robust Jewish social safety net to assist the roughly one in eight Jews in the GTA experiencing poverty and vulnerability. Through our network of 11 Jewish human service agency partners, we are investing in a holistic approach to elevate the quality of life of those struggling with basic needs. This includes extraordinary programs that go above-and-beyond publicly available services, such as Kosher Meals on Wheels, specialized supports for Holocaust survivors, emergency financial aid and interest-free loans, employment services, supports for people with disabilities and special needs, and addiction and mental health programs – all tailored to the unique needs of Jewish clients. Together, we have created a community in which no one needs to struggle through difficulties and crises on their own.

However, the pandemic inflamed and uncovered growing needs within our community. Our agency partners rose to the challenge in an extraordinary way, with the support of annual and emergency investments from UJA. Over the past two years, demand for UJA-funded human services escalated dramatically, with particularly significant increases in areas of acute need such as Holocaust survivor supports, mental health services, and food relief programs. The pandemic also exposed significant barriers faced by many community members when it comes to accessing services. Through wellness check-in calls by UJA Genesis volunteers, as well as inbound inquiries to UJA, hundreds of community members in need were identified and directed to sources of assistance. Many were unaware of available supports and were at great risk of not receiving help. Sadly, these efforts – however impactful – reveal that many more are in need throughout our community.

The pandemic has also revealed the enormous potential in our community that can be unlocked through system-wide reforms to our Jewish social safety net. In addition to hiring 16 new frontline agency staff, UJA’s emergency funds were deployed to hire four new resilience coordinators – a unique pilot program. Embedded within multiple Jewish agencies, resilience coordinators acted as a single gateway for clients to access a broader array of services than any one agency can offer. Focused on those who have lost jobs or faced hardship from the pandemic, the team prioritized client needs, connected them with the right services, and ensured a higher level of agency coordination. This experience confirmed that, while our partner agencies are deeply committed to clients, we must continue to create a more client-focused system as a whole. The objective is to ensure that an individual’s holistic needs are met as quickly, seamlessly, and effectively as possible through a collaborative model. This is especially crucial in the three areas described above, for which needs have grown more severe and the damaging effects of the pandemic are likely to last for years: Holocaust survivor services, food relief, and mental health supports.


We will work to strengthen our Jewish social safety net to enable our community to help more people in need, more efficiently, and with better individual outcomes. In collaboration with our network of human service agencies, and drawing on research within our community and beyond, we will develop a plan for system-wide change and evolve our funding to align with this vision. This will begin by tackling three urgent and growing needs through new multi-agency, client-centred service models. These priority initiatives will offer proof-of-concept for what we can achieve in reforming our system as-a-whole – and how greater change will mean greater impact in empowering our community’s most at-risk members well into the future.

Holocaust Survivor Services.

It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 Holocaust survivors in our local Jewish community who struggle with quality of life challenges and need support. UJA has long funded dedicated services for survivors through our partner agencies. However, the rising cost of services and growing needs of our aging survivor community require enhanced resources and a new approach. To address this challenge, we will build a Holocaust Survivors Support Fund to enable survivors to live their remaining years with a meaningful quality of life. Leveraging additional funds through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Survivors Fund will fuel a range of critical services delivered by multiple UJA partner agencies, including regular home visits, customized care plans, basic health care items, medicine, and food – as well as grants for rent and utilities.

Food Relief.

Food insecurity has skyrocketed over the past year, posing a challenge that will impact our community beyond the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, the quarterly average of clients served by UJA-funded food relief programs increased from 200 to more than 1,500. While deploying special grants to meet immediate needs, we will work to make the system more sustainable and develop a framework for a unified food security program. The goal is to create a single gateway for clients to access the food program that is the right fit for their needs, as opposed to searching across a patchwork of options. This will also enable effective cross-referral to a range of UJA-funded services, recognizing that those who require food relief often need other forms of support.

Mental Health.

As the pandemic has endured, the impact on mental health has grown more severe – with virtually every household affected in some way. For those with acute needs, early identification and intervention is essential to preventing severe, long-term difficulties. This is particularly challenging for various reasons, including the fact that many community members who are struggling with mental health challenges have never previously required the assistance of our Jewish human service agencies. One of the most concerning issues with mental health is that those in need of assistance may have difficulty identifying or seeking sources of support. To address this, in partnership with Jewish Family & Child Service, we will be developing a training and empowerment program for staff and volunteers at local Jewish organizations, including day schools, part-time schools, camps, JCCs, synagogues, and youth groups. By providing knowledge and tools to those on the front lines of serving our community, we will create a powerful cohort of hundreds of “early identifiers” who will be able to spot signs of mental health distress, offer sensitive and appropriate support, and connect those in need to professional assistance.

A senior citizen
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An empowered community strives to ensure every Jew can play a meaningful role in keeping Canada a secure home for Jews – and a country in which Jews remain leading voices in society.


Toronto is home to one of the safest Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Our relatively high level of physical security – combined with a secure place of acceptance in society – has enabled our community to grow, thrive, and make our unique contribution to Canada’s evolving story. Our proactive efforts to counter antisemitism and strengthen awareness of the Jewish experience with key allies and leaders throughout Greater Toronto and Canada is integral to keeping our community safe and ensuring our voices are heard. This includes a range of impactful UJA-funded initiatives, including the work of UJA Community Security, UJA’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Centre for Holocaust Education, Hillel Ontario – the world’s largest Hillel – and UJA’s advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which is one of Canada’s most active and respected lobby organizations.

Despite these strengths, recent events exposed that we cannot take our security for granted. As Hamas launched a wave of terror against Israel in May 2021, Jewish Canadians experienced a surge of antisemitism. From hate crimes in Toronto and hatred on social media, to boycotts targeting Jewish organizations and toxic voices in the political sector, dangerous developments on multiple fronts offer a glimpse of a future we cannot allow. This is especially worrisome in light of the growing impact of populism, polarized social movements, and technology. Influencers and leaders in Canadian society, who have rightly been the primary focus of our outreach strategy, are increasingly vulnerable to mob pressures. Disturbingly, those who seek to marginalize Jews and delegitimize Zionism – a core facet of Jewish identity – are hitching their toxic agenda to the worthy causes of anti-racism and human rights.

There is a growing danger that antisemitism will continue to move from the margins to the mainstream. It is crucial that we build upon the important work being done by our key partners in this area by adapting our strategy to meet this rapidly evolving threat.


Our plan to strengthen our community’s efforts to combat antisemitism is focused on four key elements.

Community-wide coordination.

We will work to foster a higher level of community-wide unity and collaboration to confront this shared threat, including among UJA-funded and non-funded organizations alike. This will include ongoing tactical cooperation, sharing of research and best practices, and preparedness planning in anticipation of future challenges and crisis scenarios. The goal is to bring to bear the full power of the diversity of organizations involved in this field, with each organization playing a meaningful role according to its unique strengths.

Empowering and mobilizing people.

While continuing high-level outreach to leaders in Canadian society, we will complement this with a mass strategy that equips Jews and our allies with knowledge, tools, and meaningful opportunities to make a difference. In the wake of the events of May 2021, we have increased our capacity to recruit, train, and mobilize volunteers to counter antisemitism. This includes strengthening the ability of UJA Community Security to serve the community, a significant focus of which is training and deploying volunteers to help keep Jewish institutions safe. We have also expanded the capacity of UJA Genesis – our volunteer mobilization arm – which engages community members to take an active role in countering antisemitism through various initiatives, including by supporting the work of CIJA and other key partners.

Building on this work, we will invest in digital advocacy to ensure a modernized and robust approach to combatting antisemitism on social media, with an emphasis on empowering community members online. We will also strengthen our work to prepare the next generation of Jews – through our day schools, supplementary schools, camps, Hillel Ontario, JCCs, and Israel programming – to deepen their knowledge of these complex issues, grow in their Jewish pride, and learn how to push back against antisemitism.

Shifting opinion.

We will leverage the power of Jewish activists, allies, and legal tools to push back and create positive change within key sectors where antisemitism is growing. This includes a dedicated approach to combatting Jew hatred in workplaces, the arts, academia, and other challenging spheres. In this effort, our Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre – to become the Toronto Holocaust Museum on Sherman Campus in 2023 – represents a unique opportunity to reimagine our work in this area, using technology and cutting-edge techniques to both preserve the memory of the Shoah and warn the next generation about the dangers of modern antisemitism. We will also work to ensure that the Jewish experience is properly included – not erased – in diversity and anti-racism initiatives throughout Canadian society.

Changing the public policy landscape.

Whether seeking policy change or a meaningful public stand against antisemitism, it remains crucial to secure support from elected officials and influencers across the political spectrum. We will continue to support the important work of CIJA to engage public officeholders and policymakers at all three levels of government, cultivate an even stronger network of allies of all backgrounds, and propose policy solutions to tackle antisemitism and all forms of hate.

Collegues gathered around a work table
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An empowered community strives to make sure every Jew can have a meaningful Jewish journey, one which deepens Jewish knowledge, spirituality, and pride.


Toronto is home to one of the most highly identifying Jewish communities in the Diaspora. This is due in no small measure to the wide array of strong Jewish institutions in the GTA. We have built a community with some of the highest rates of Jewish day school enrolment in North America, thanks in large part to extensive, needs-based tuition relief. Through a diverse network of part-time Jewish schools and PJ Library Connectors, we are enabling thousands of public school students to grow in their Jewish knowledge and pride. We have created three dynamic hubs of Jewish life through our Jewish Community Centres, which together engage tens of thousands of community members annually – the single biggest gateway to Jewish life in Greater Toronto. And through Birthright Israel and a growing number of longer-term experiences, we enable hundreds of Jewish youth throughout our community to build a powerful connection to Israel every year.

Research demonstrates that it is the compounding effect of multiple experiences – rather than any one program – that creates a strong and active Jewish community. This is why we must seize the current opportunity to remove barriers to meaningful Jewish experiences, in order to enable as many Jews as possible in Greater Toronto to grow in their identity and relationship to community.

Unfortunately, many are struggling to participate in the life of our community. Affordability remains a significant barrier for many, especially in the areas of day school education and Jewish summer camp. For many others, barriers to finding a home in Jewish community life can include a perceived lack of relevance, geographic obstacles, a feeling that current options are not compelling, or a sense that programs are not fully inclusive. And for a significant number of community members who do end up participating in Jewish life, more must be done to ensure these experiences aren’t just meaningful but ultimately empowering – with the goal of creating a more active Jewish identity and a greater sense of ownership for their Jewish journey.


Our strategy to strengthen Jewish education and identity in the GTA consists of three key elements: affordability, reach, and empowerment.


While there was a risk that the affordability challenge would worsen due to the pandemic, UJA’s emergency funding demonstrated that, on a shortterm basis, enrolment in Jewish day school can quickly grow with financial relief – reversing a 17-year trend of decline. It is crucial to ensure that these gains are not temporary and that this lesson is applied to a range of other Jewish experiences. Over the next three years, we will:

  • Ensure UJA’s Generations Trust Scholarship for Jewish elementary day schools continues to be successful in growing enrolment among families that require tuition assistance but did not previously qualify for support.
  • Expand UJA’s Jewish Community Affordability Platform as a single, online entry point for those needing financial assistance for Jewish identity-building experiences, while enabling cross-recruitment from one program to another.
  • Bolster existing UJA tuition relief for various core Jewish programs and extend this support to a broader range of Jewish experiences.


While a substantial portion of our community benefits from Jewish programming, many of the 200,000 Jews who live in Greater Toronto are not yet participating in community life. There is an urgent need to broaden the circle of participation by adapting our approach to engaging these members of our community. To do so, we will:

  • Create new programs and adapt existing ones that can serve as “onramps” for diverse segments of our community that are under-engaged, with particular attention to those who face barriers to participation.
  • Linking programs and elevating our approach to cross-recruitment so that participation in one high impact Jewish experience more readily leads to the next. By using technology, we can make it easy and user-friendly for community members to receive curated Jewish program offerings based on an individual’s demographic, geographic, and lifestyle needs.
  • Strengthen key institutions that play essential roles in outreach to diverse segments of our community, including our three partner JCCs and part-time Jewish schools.


While increasing participation rates in Jewish programs is crucial, the end goal isn’t merely to strengthen one’s affiliation with the community. Our objective is for these experiences to ultimately foster an active and empowered commitment to Jewish life today and in the future. This requires strengthening Jewish programming to ensure that, rather than a passive experience, these initiatives foster a greater sense of ownership and a desire to take on Jewish activities beyond the program itself. Over the next three years, we will:

  • Pilot new measurement tools to better understand and track empowerment as a factor in Jewish experiences.
  • Prioritize Jewish programs – and pilot new ones – that encourage participants to be creators rather than consumers, inspire deeper commitment, and foster Jewish peer groups, with a focus on stages during which individuals make key decisions about the life they plan to lead.
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An empowered community strives to make sure every Jew can be shaped by a meaningful connection to Israel and Jews globally – and in turn play a role in strengthening the people of Israel and Jews worldwide.


Our Greater Toronto Jewish community has a uniquely high level of connection to Israel and world Jewry. Through travel programs like Birthright Israel, we have enabled the vast majority of Jewish young adults in the GTA to experience Israel firsthand, regardless of one’s financial means. We led the Jewish world in being the first community to develop the UJA Shinshinim program, which – in hosting dozens of Israel’s future leaders for a year of service in Jewish Toronto – brings Israel to life for more than 10,000 local community members annually. Through investments in on-the-ground partners like the Sderot Resilience Center, we are making a profound impact in alleviating PTSD, supporting mental health, and addressing significant issues faced by some of Israel’s most challenged communities. So too, by investing in extensive poverty relief programs for Jews living in the Former Soviet Union and other parts of the Diaspora, we are elevating the quality of life of some of the world’s most vulnerable Jewish communities.

These relationships are not just a reflection of our commitment to the Jewish people far beyond Greater Toronto. They also speak to the central – and indispensable – roles that Israel and a sense of connection to global Jewry play in our identity, both as individuals and as a community. For generations, these facets of Jewish life have been among the most inspiring, unifying, and powerful anchors of Jewish identity. But this anchor has been eroding in many Jewish communities worldwide in recent decades, and there is a growing risk of the same erosion developing in our community if action isn’t taken.

The lived experiences of previous generations naturally awakened a deep sense of Zionism and responsibility for our fellow Jews in Israel and around the world. Younger community members have not had these same formative experiences, and many are not involved in Jewish institutions that foster connections to Israel and global Jewry. The pandemic’s disruption of travel has further strained, on a temporary basis, our ability to offer meaningful Israel and overseas experiences. And the rise of antisemitism – often expressed as hatred toward Israelis and Jews who embrace Zionism – threatens to undermine our community’s pride, unity, and commitment to one of the most important aspects of what it means to be Jewish.

In recent years, UJA’s Israel and peoplehood strategy has been two-pronged. First, it has focused on addressing some of the greatest challenges facing Israelis and vulnerable Jewish communities worldwide through UJA’s Israel and overseas investments. Second, it has aimed to strengthen Israel as a pillar of Jewish identity in the GTA, through education and Israel engagement programs that foster authentic and personal relationships between Toronto Jewry and the people of Israel. While we have achieved success in both areas of our strategy, we must seize the opportunity to strengthen and elevate our work to make an even greater impact – recognizing that doing so is essential to secure a thriving Jewish future.


We must gradually unite these two pillars of our strategy to foster an even more interconnected relationship with global Jewry – one that mutually shapes a growing number of Jews in Greater Toronto, Israel, and around the world. The goal is to ensure as many community members as possible experience the inspiring power of a deep and active connection with the people of Israel and Jews worldwide. Our plan includes:

  • Evolving our investments in projects in Israel and around the world to increasingly achieve impact on both sides of the ocean. This requires prioritizing projects that not only strengthen Israeli society and world Jewry, but also foster new and deeper connections between Jews in the GTA, the people of Israel, and global Jewish communities. Emphasis will be placed on programs that develop personal, meaningful, and relevant links to Israel, such as those that connect Jews in Toronto with peers in Israel who share their professional interests for joint career development opportunities.
  • Ensuring a strong return to on-the-ground Israel experiences as travel resumes, while expanding opportunities for young Jews to deepen their connection and contribute to Israeli society. This includes growing existing programs and piloting new, longer-term immersive Israel experiences – including programs offered by UJA’s Jewish Service – that empower young GTA Jews to make a unique impact in Israel, in turn strengthening their Jewish pride and knowledge. New affordability options will also be introduced to ensure these life-changing experiences are increasingly accessible.
  • Expanding our Israel engagement programming in Toronto to achieve greater participation among less affiliated community members. We have built a solid foundation for Israel engagement across the organized Jewish community, including through Israel-related youth leadership programs and by strengthening Israel curricula among our partner organizations. We will continue to bolster these efforts while further broadening our reach to connect with the many young Jews in our city who are not yet involved with the organized Jewish community. This will leverage the success of the UJA Shinshinim program, which brings young Israeli leaders to our Jewish community for a year of service, enabling thousands of Jews in the GTA to develop meaningful, personal connections to Israel. In addition to other pilot projects, we will expand the Shinshinim program to engage community members in settings beyond core Jewish institutions, while maintaining the strong presence of our Shinshinim in day schools, camps, JCCs, synagogues, and other local Jewish organizations.
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An empowered community strives to make sure every Jew is invited and inspired to contribute their time and unique talents to strengthen our community.


The talents, energy, and passion of Jews across the GTA represent some of our greatest assets as a community. Increasingly, community members are seeking to contribute their time in meaningful ways to make our community even stronger. While UJA has been experimenting with volunteer engagement programs through UJA Genesis over the past few years, the power of grassroots mobilization was especially evident during the pandemic.

Since the spring of 2020, more than 7,500 community members have been inspired to volunteer through UJA Genesis in support of our pandemic relief efforts. The added strength of a large volunteer movement enabled us to reach and help even more community members than would have otherwise been possible, whether through wellness calls to 58,000 people, food package deliveries, or initiatives to share essential supplies with those in need. Volunteer activation also allowed us to engage many Jews in the GTA who were not previously involved in the organized Jewish community – a testament to the tremendous desire among our community’s grassroots to become active and make a difference.

This experience has confirmed that we are able to achieve an even greater impact by combining the efforts of organizations with the energy and talents of community members. It has also demonstrated that hands-on activism is a powerful gateway to Jewish life and engagement with UJA, especially for younger community members.

Our current challenge is to ensure that the high level of volunteer engagement we saw during the pandemic becomes a lasting feature of our community rather than a one-time response to a crisis. A community with a large base of active volunteers is ultimately a community that’s empowered, resilient, and invested in building our shared future.


Building on this momentum, over the next three years we will work toward our long-term ambition of creating the most active volunteer community in the Jewish Diaspora. Through ongoing engagement and co-creation with volunteers, we will develop meaningful opportunities to harness the time, talents, ideas, and voices of Toronto Jewry. This will foster an even stronger culture of active engagement with UJA Federation and the foundational institutions of Jewish Toronto, building an even more invested and empowered community. Our plan includes:

  • Expanding the capacity of UJA Genesis to recruit, retain, train, and mobilize volunteers. This includes strengthening our approach to using technology and digital engagement to reach more community members who want to help, while also scaling up volunteer opportunities.
  • While continuing to mobilize volunteers to care for those struggling with poverty and vulnerability, we will expand volunteer options to other UJA priority areas – beginning with our efforts to combat antisemitism. Just as UJA Genesis has worked closely with our partner human service agencies to identify emerging needs and deploy volunteers, we will take a similar approach to supporting our partners working to counter hatred of Jews – be it through advocacy, education, or community security initiatives.
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Our community can take great pride in the way we collectively responded to the pandemic. In many ways, the actions of our volunteers, donors, and community workers led the Jewish world at a time of great disruption and uncertainty. The many impacts of the pandemic and the ensuing rise of antisemitism also offer a moment for important reflection on the type of community we hope to become in the years ahead.

Our current opportunity is to ensure future generations will continue to enjoy a thriving community precisely because we chose to take bold steps in this unique window of time. In advancing the key priorities outlined in this strategic plan, we will build a community defined by a culture of empowerment and dedicated to unlocking the potential of every one of its members.

In such a community, every Jew struggling with hardship is empowered to live well and participate in Jewish life.

Every Jew seeking to grow in their identity is empowered to overcome financial and other barriers to a meaningful Jewish journey.

Every Jew is empowered to play a meaningful role in ensuring Canada remains a secure home for our community, and a country in which Jews remain leading voices in society.

Every Jew is shaped by a deep sense of connection to Israel and Jews globally, and in turn is empowered to contribute to the well-being of fellow Jews worldwide.

Every Jew is invited and empowered to contribute their time and unique talents to make our community a better home for all.

In so doing, we will help ensure that Jewish Toronto continues to grow as a strongly identifying, knowledgeable, caring, active, and secure community. Such a community will remain a leader and model for the Diaspora, while contributing to our city, province, and country through action shaped by Jewish and Canadian values.