“We’re making our final push toward another record-breaking campaign,” Jonathon Leipsic, chair of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s annual campaign, said when the Independent caught up with him last month, as the 2019 fundraising drive was entering the home stretch.
The campaign’s goals for the year are “to continue to grow to meet the ongoing needs around security, education, affordability and beyond.” The distinguishing message of the 2019 campaign, when it kicked off on Sept. 1, was to amplify the impact of donors’ giving and to “create a ripple effect.”
That amplification can be seen on several fronts, such as affordable housing, the most pressing concern of Lower Mainland residents. In 2007, long before real estate prices reached the levels of the late 2010s, Jewish Federation helped establish the Tikva Housing Society. Tikva serves all those who have been impacted by the high costs of rent – families, young individuals and seniors. The society now manages 98 affordable housing units, 37 of which came about in late September through a joint project with the YWCA – awarded by the City of Vancouver – for rentals at the new Arbutus Centre at 4188 Yew St.
Jewish Federation’s work encompasses all phases of a person’s life by providing community planning expertise, developing partnerships and raising funding for critical programs and services throughout the region. These are delivered through its many partner agencies, including programs that support seniors, Jewish education, arts and culture, and services for youth and young adults.
By 2031, it is predicted that the number of Jewish seniors in Greater Vancouver will double to 6,200. With this comes the challenge of helping them keep living independently and stay engaged within the Jewish community. As part of its strategic planning process, Jewish Federation co-hosted the second annual Changing Landscapes Forum on Nov. 26, which focused on three areas to address the high-priority needs of elderly community members: aging in place, caregiver support and social connection.
As for Jewish education and educational programs, Jewish Federation currently partners with Jewish day schools, summer camps and supplementary school programs across the region. As well, its vision reaches beyond the metropolitan area, to Israel. More than a decade ago, it identified at-risk youth in its partnership region of the Upper Galilee as a group in urgent need. It then invested in tech education, which has allowed other organizations to build on its success. The Israeli government recently selected an international consortium of venture capital groups to develop a food-tech centre in Kiryat Shmona, the Upper Galilee’s largest city. The centre will benefit residents of the region and position the area as a global hub of innovation.
Jewish Federation’s work also extends to eastern Russia, home to some of the most impoverished Jews in the world. Through its partnership with the Joint Distribution Committee, an international rescue and relief organization, Federation provides needed services to 27,000 Jewish children and their families and more than 165,000 elderly Jews. As the nearest federated community to these Jews, Federation’s efforts help bring humanitarian aid in the form of food packages, medicine, heating fuel and home-care visits, among other things.
For his part, Leipsic said, “I am always humbled by the generosity of our Jewish community and the incredible volunteerism exhibited by the army of volunteers and canvassers that give their time in support of Am Yisrael.
“It is a privilege and honour to serve,” he added, in explaining why he took on the role as campaign chair, on top of having a full schedule as a physician, radiologist and professor of radiology. “I try to live my life in accordance with the talmudic saying klal Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh – all of Israel is a guarantor for each other.”
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.