A widening community
Alex Cristall, general chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign, has pledged $250 for every new donation this year or donation from someone who didn’t donate last year. (photo from JFGV)
The hashtag for this year’s Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver annual campaign is #WeCan’tAffordToLoseThem. “We want to make everybody feel needed and part of the community. For the health of our community, we need everybody,” explained Alex Cristall, general chair of the campaign.
“Last year, due to the times, we focused on security. This year, it’s about affordability and connectedness,” he said. “If you live in the core, where we have a lot of infrastructure, it is extremely expensive, even people of means struggle. When you add being Jewish on top of that – sending your kids to Jewish day school, going to summer camp – it’s costly. It’s also very expensive for seniors. People are making decisions that it’s too expensive to be Jewish. That’s a big issue. We want to make it easy to live a meaningful Jewish life.”
For this year’s campaign, Cristall has pledged $250 for every new donation or donation from someone who didn’t donate last year, a fact he’s eager to get out to the community. “The last couple of years, we’ve had some real success with the growth of our campaigns, but we’ve also had a number of donors that we’ve lost,” he said. “We want people to know that every donor counts, no matter what the dollar value is, because when people get involved and give, that’s how you grow community.”
Federation has been working to expand its reach to the Jewish communities developing in regions outside of the city. “This is the first time that half of our growing population lives outside of Vancouver,” said Cristall. “We have to figure out a way to get services out to Surrey, Burnaby, Langley, the Tri-Cities, North Vancouver. We’re going to see continued Jewish growth in the suburbs. The big push is to help our partners reach these people and connect them to the community.
“To that end,” he said, “the Federation has had events in Port Moody, [and supported] a camp out in the Tri-Cities, with kids coming in from Langley. We’re increasing our subsidies to schools, camps, the JFSA [Jewish Family Service Agency], so that everyone who wants to participate can find a way to participate. If you live in the city, we want to make it affordable and accessible and, if you live out in the suburbs, to make them feel part of the community and to embrace them.”
This is the second year of Cristall’s time as campaign chair. “I have a great cabinet with me,” he said. “We’re all equals but, for these two years, I’m the voice of the campaign. The core message we’re trying to convey is ‘building community,’ helping people to live meaningful Jewish lives.”
Despite the centrality of fundraising to the Jewish Federation’s activities, giving money is not the only way to help Federation serve the Jewish community.
“Volunteering, reaching out to more donors, canvassing, boards, different agencies, coming to events – our job is to fundraise for these agencies, give up some time. There is a spot for everybody to help,” said Cristall.
Asked how he got involved serving the community, Cristall pointed to his parents, Lorne and Sylvia Cristall, decades-long philanthropists and volunteers in the Jewish and general communities.
“As a kid,” he added, “I also went to Jewish day school, to summer camp. I was always very involved in the community. I’ve benefited from being part of the community and it feels good to give back.”
For more information about the campaign and to donate, visit jewishvancouver.com.
Matthew Gindin is a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.