Jewish Federation invests strategically in areas that are vital to building a strong future for our community. Complex initiatives, like Jewish education and community security, benefit from Jewish Federation’s unique set of strengths in collaborative community planning and fundraising, and from our role as a facilitator.
With the high cost of living in the Lower Mainland continuing to put pressure on families, and forcing them to make difficult choices about whether they can afford to enrol their children in a Jewish day school, we undertook two reviews. The first was an analysis of subsidies distributed to families across the six day schools, which indicated that approximately 35% of school families receive no subsidy, 50% of families receive some subsidy, and 15% of families receive a subsidy of between 90% and 95% of the total school fee. Second, recognizing the burden that this level of subsidy puts on both schools and donors, we reached out to Prizmah, the North American Jewish day school organization, to explore issues of financial sustainability among the schools, determine opportunities for shared services, and make recommendations toward a more viable funding model. One of the outcomes was a recommendation that Jewish Federation take on a more strategic role with the schools. In January 2019, our Board approved the formation of a new committee, the Jewish Day Schools Council, chaired by Hodie Kahn. The council began its work in April 2019.
Community Security continues to be a high-priority, and we received strong leadership from our Community Security Advisory Committee and support from our Director of Security. Over the past year, our director has connected with all 29 stand-alone agencies in our community and has provided strategic security advice to individual organizations. Our director has also taken the lead in developing and overseeing the security plans for high-profile community events. The growing awareness among our partner agencies, and the strengthened relationships with law enforcement departments around the Lower Mainland were apparent during the immediate hours after the Pittsburgh tragedy. Work is continuing to develop a cadre of volunteers who can provide support both to their own organizations and for larger community events. Over 50 individuals have expressed interest in becoming part of this volunteer network, and training has begun. Another success this year has been the increase in the number of agencies approved for a grant through the federal Security Infrastructure Program.
This past year, we undertook several funding initiatives to support the supplementary schools. We launched our new Innovation Grant program focused on increasing recruitment and retention of students in the existing supplementary school programs, and were pleased to approve two grants. One grant went to a joint application submitted by Beth Israel, Beth Tikvah and Har El congregations to organize a Shabbaton at Camp Solomon Schecter for supplementary school families. The other grant went to Temple Sholom to develop a low-sensory classroom to support students with special needs. Two other schools benefited from the small schools subsidy: Or Shalom received additional funds to support their Shabbat programming for young children, and the Peretz Centre received funds to design a community Klezmer program. Funds were also set aside this year to support supplementary school educators to attend a North America-wide professional development conference.