“Let’s make it easy, not just to be Jewish, but to feel part of the community. We have to make it easy and we have to find ways of connecting,” Alex Cristall told the Jewish Independent in a recent phone interview.
Cristall is general chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign this year. The fundraising effort has so far “been really, really good,” he said, noting “it looks like our numbers are ahead of where they were last year.”
At the centre of the current campaign is the community’s 2020 Strategic Priorities. “We have some key areas that over the next few years we are trying to focus on,” explained Cristall, such as “affordability, accessibility, seniors, engagement and connectivity, and security. And, this year specifically, we have set up a matching program,” so that every new donation and every donation increase is matched, with the funds being allocated to security initiatives, to “set up a good, long-term security plan for the community.”
Bernard Pinsky is the chair of the community security advisory committee, said Cristall, and “they’ve laid out a whole framework of things to get us up to date and to get us more centralized and focused, and to continue on with things we’ve done over the years and improve on them. So, this year we have set up a match[ing program] and I think we are almost at $300,000.”
In addition to the 2020 priorities and the focus on security, donations to the campaign fund social services performed by 40 partner organization, including seniors programs, Jewish education, arts and culture, community building, and youth and young adult services.
“Federation has access to so many different things that are going on in the community and, to help those institutions every year, it takes a lot of [fundraising] pressure off them,” said Cristall. “The major selling point is the reach the Federation has … your dollar touches so many different aspects” of the Jewish community.
“In terms of the number of people who benefit, it is in the thousands,” said Becky Saegert, Federation’s director of marketing and communications, in an email interview.
“We want to make being part of our community easy for our constituents and our community members,” reiterated Cristall.
The community has valuable capital infrastructure in the Oak Street area, he said, “but engagement and accessibility … for underserved areas – that is a huge part of our future. And that has to grow more and more. We have to be very creative.”
This outreach is part of the 2020 plans, he said, “for example, supporting White Rock JCC, supporting Burquest JCC.”
“With regard to the regional communities,” added Saegert, “the campaign currently provides funding to five different regional community organizations. Our Regional Communities Task Force, which is currently exploring ways to enhance Jewish community life outside of Vancouver, will be presenting their recommendations to our board in February 2017. We anticipate that the recommendations will increase funding for a number of initiatives in the regional communities. This past year, with the increase in our overall campaign result, we were able to increase our funding to all of our regional community organizations and fund some new initiatives, including a very exciting partnership between Richmond Jewish Day School and Congregation Beth Tikvah.”
While this year’s campaign is well underway, Cristall said, “We cannot have enough canvassers.… We are probably the easiest organization to get involved in. If someone wants to come on and be a canvasser, we’ll give them training. I hosted a meeting at my house to train people and to welcome people…. It’s a very welcoming environment and we welcome all comers to join.”
To participate in or contribute to the campaign, call the Federation office at 604-257-5100 or go to jewishvancouver.com. For more about Federation’s 2020 priorities, visit ourcommunity2020.jewishvancouver.com.
Zach Sagorin is a Vancouver freelance writer.