Neil Pollock, chair of the Jewish Federation annual campaign. (photo from Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver)
There’s just under one month left to contribute to the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver annual campaign, which supports dozens of local community organizations, as well as partner agencies in Israel and overseas. The Jewish Independent spoke to this year’s campaign chair Neil Pollock via email about his reasons for being involved, and the importance of the campaign to the community.
JI: You’ve taken over the general chair position from Harvey Dales. I know you’ve done so much community work, but did he offer you any advice specific to the campaign that you could share?
NP: Harvey is a good friend, and working as his wingman for a few years before succeeding him as campaign chair was a tremendous learning experience for me. Harvey is, as we all know, a terrific leader and great asset to this community. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was at one of his last meetings as chair that Harvey inspired the concept for our new face-to-face incentive, which has been so well supported by donors and canvassers.
This year, every time a donor meets with their canvasser in person, an additional $500 will be donated to the campaign. It’s an important way we’re engaging in genuine conversations about our community and its needs, as well as donors’ values and interests. It’s also a key way in which we’re growing the campaign. If anyone reading this wants to meet face to face, but doesn’t have a canvasser, just contact the Federation office and they’ll set it up for you.
JI: What motivated you to take on the position of general chair?
NP: I thought I might be able to help out the community a little, and I was honored to be asked to serve. My wife, Michelle, and I have made a very conscious effort to live and practise our Jewish values – especially tikkun olam, chesed and tzedakah. We do this through our volunteer work in the community, and in our home with our children. It’s made our kids more aware of the responsibility we all share in building a better, stronger community, and of all of us being responsible for each other.
JI: The campaign theme is “Securing Our Future.” What does that mean to you in terms of the Jewish community?
NP: The theme has a few meanings. In one sense, it’s about community continuity and engaging the next generation – two of the priority areas for our work. We need to continue to fund young adult programming through Hillel and Axis. We also need to support innovative new Jewish education programs that will reach the more than 850 children in underserved areas who aren’t currently receiving any Jewish education. We live in this incredible city, but the cost of living is so high that many people are struggling with how they can stay connected Jewishly. Nearly half of community members are living outside the city of Vancouver, and funding new programs that reach them where they live is critical to their community involvement.
In a very literal sense, it’s about making sure everyone in our community feels safe. Our Federation has been very proactive in terms of security, conducting a community-wide training program and providing grants for security upgrades, but security is an ongoing need in our community. We need to increase funding for our community institutions so they remain safe, and ensure emergency preparedness.
What some people might not realize is that, every year, Jewish Federation receives more requests for support than there is funding available. On top of that, there are critical programs and services that need more funding than they currently receive. If we want to secure our community’s future, we need to close these gaps while at the same time addressing the issues of affordability and accessibility.
JI: Are there any special projects/ causes that the campaign is hoping to fund?
NP: We’re seeing a real shift in our community that’s creating issues of affordability and accessibility. More and more families are moving to underserved communities outside of the city of Vancouver. It’s just too expensive for them here. When they move, they become beyond the reach of most of our community institutions. We need to find new ways to make community accessible for them. For many of those who live close to the centre of Jewish community life, the cost of doing so is creating other barriers, notably affordability. The high cost of living here has a direct impact on the ability of regular families to engage in Jewish life. These are the issues Federation is addressing through the campaign and in coordination with its partner agencies.
JI: What is the campaign goal this year?
NP: Last year, we reached a record result of $8 million – and we are determined to surpass that. As community needs continue to grow and evolve, so must our response, so must the campaign.
JI: Until when does the campaign run?
NP: The campaign runs from September through to the end of November, which is very short, compared to other communities. One of the reasons we’re able to raise funds in such a condensed period is the incredible work of our canvassers. Supporting them in their work is something I’m passionate about, and we’re putting special emphasis on that this year. We’ve worked with a group of generous supporters to develop a new incentive: for every new canvasser who joins our team, an extra $1,000 will be donated to the campaign. Twice the mitzvah!
For more information and to donate, visit jewishvancouver.com.