Strengthening Jewish identity in Montreal

The Montreal Jewish community is constantly evolving. As part of these ongoing shifts, Federation CJA is revolutionizing the way in which community members can foster meaningful personal and collective Jewish identities through its new Passport to Jewish Life initiative.

Through various mechanisms, the initiative is designed to create highly individualized Jewish experiences based on one’s interests, by offering a variety of high-quality programs and a wide range of entry points into Jewish life.

As part of the initiative, Federation CJA is unveiling a ground-breaking two-year fellowship this winter, which will provide 25 of Montreal’s top experiential educators, leaders and facilitators from a wide variety of backgrounds with highly specialized training and tools to enhance their work and cross-community alliances.

The fellowship is led by Federation CJA and powered by a funders collaborative made up of five major family foundations and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal. The partners – which include the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation, the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation, the Morris & Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation and the Alvin Segal Family Foundation – are all deeply committed to the continued success of Montreal’s Jewish community.

Passport to Jewish Life is an extension of the Generations Fund, which was started 12 years ago by the same family foundations, and which focuses on strengthening institutions, such as schools, camps, accessibility programs and PJ Library. This new addition is the next step of the program, which looks beyond strengthening organizations, to enhancing Jewish connections at a more personal level.

“This initiative is much more focused on putting the customer at the centre and offering them a myriad of opportunities that will engage them in Jewish life,” says Natana Shek, the director of Passport to Jewish Life and the Generations Fund at Federation CJA.

“It’s about connecting more Jewish people to more Jewish things more of the time. We realize today that everybody’s needs, wants, desires and interests are different. There has to be a huge forum of high-quality programs, events and engagement opportunities that are happening in the community so that this diverse cohort will be able to choose from the best.”

The fellowship will be led by the Israeli-based M2 The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education. The fellowship will offer participants consistent and ongoing professional training and development through intensive seminars, team coaching and one-on-one counselling.

In addition, the supervisors of all the participants will take part in training, in order to ensure that the ideas generated are brought to fruition. “We understand that part of making system change includes both the participation of the educators and the support of their supervisor, executive director and organization in general,” says Shek.

While Shek and Lindsay Eiley, Passport to Jewish Life’s program manager, acknowledge that Montreal’s Jewish community is thriving, they say that by looking at patterns in other cities, Federation CJA has been diligent in recognizing the need to act proactively.

“Change is happening at an unprecedented speed and it’s landing on the shores of the St. Lawrence as we speak,” says Shek. “If we don’t expose our spiritual and educational leaders to the best practices and tools that exist, we risk falling behind. Passport to Jewish Life is a proactive approach in addressing a change, while we are a relevant, strong and vibrant community.”

Look out for more exciting Passport to Jewish Life developments in the coming months.