Over the past year our work in the regional communities has focused on meeting three key objectives:
Jewish Federation is the central planning organization for the local Jewish community.
Our Planning Council has been restructured under the new title of Planning and Community Engagement Council to facilitate greater engagement in the community planning process. As part of its new role, the Council is committed to hosting an annual forum about an emerging issue in order to solicit new ideas and suggestions to address community challenges.
The Planning and Community Engagement Council convenes task forces to develop viable and sustainable action plans to address key community issues that are broader than the scope of any single organization. Each task force has a specific mandate to identify gaps, consult with key stakeholders, and present recommendations to the Jewish Federation Board. These recommendations are expected to align with Jewish Federation's 2020 Strategic Priorities and are intended to guide our funding decisions.
This year, we convened the Jewish Food Security Task Force, in partnership with Jewish Family Services. The Regional Communities Task Force and the Jewish Education Task Forces both completed their work, presented their recommendations to Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors, and transitioned to become committees.
One unique component of our regional communities programs has been the involvement of the Shinshinim, teen emissaries from Israel who spend a year volunteering in our community to help children form meaningful connections to Israel. They add a very important element of Israel engagement to the wide variety of activities they participate in, which has been especially meaningful for many of the youth who have had little exposure to Israeli culture and traditions.
Our Connect Me In initiative is playing an increasingly important role in the regional communities, delivering over 36 programs and events over the past year. Recognizing that a significant barrier to participation in Jewish programming among young families and youths is not knowing anyone else in attendance, efforts have been made to provide activities that not only expose participants to Jewish culture and traditions but also create opportunities for them to form new friendships. A wide array of programs has been offered ranging from potluck Shabbat dinners to family-friendly holiday celebrations to Hebrew-language programs for children that attract a range of people and help them build community where they live.
With the introduction of the Connect Me In Community Engagement micro-grants, we are providing financial assistance to community members who want to pilot new programs or activities to address community needs. This year, grants supported parents in Langley and separately in Squamish to deliver six-week Jewish education and Hebrew-language programs; delivery of a six-week adult education program at a coffee shop in New Westminster; and a program for new Hebrew-speaking mothers in North Vancouver and the Tri-Cities.
PJ Library offers free, high-quality, age-appropriate Jewish children’s books and music to families on a monthly basis. This year, PJ Library delivered more programs and had more families with children attend events than ever before. We saw further evidence of the program’s success in their participant survey results:
A joint initiative of Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Services, the task force was an outcome of the 2017 Affordability Summit. Their mandate is to raise awareness of available healthy food options and to recommend food security strategies to ensure dignity and promote healthy food choices for people in need.
The task force is documenting community needs, reviewing best practices in other jurisdictions and considering various solutions to address the need to access affordable, nutritious and safe food on a consistent basis. They have met with a variety of key informants including rabbis, youth, communal professionals, food security experts, seniors’ advocates and community leaders from the Tri-Cities and Richmond. Their work has already raised the profile of the issue in our community and has generated funds to undertake one or two pilot projects to address some immediate needs.