Giving a year of my life to Combined Jewish Appeal

By: Martin Schwartz
Combined Jewish Appeal 2011 General Campaign Chair

When the executive of Federation CJA asked me to chair the 2011 Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign it did not take me long to accept. I was honoured to be asked and I knew that someone has to be there to get it done. I also knew that there is not much of a line up to take the job. This is a position that is getting harder and harder to fill each year. As long as there is a need in our community, the position of Campaign Chair must be filled.

There are many people in our community who have generously gone to their pocket to help the needy. I feel strongly that just as important are the people who not only donate funds, but also put in the time to help. Sometimes this can be more valuable than just writing a cheque.

I see the needs and the problems in our community and how they can hurt our future. I accepted knowing that the position will take up lots of time.

So, I am just going to have to learn how to stretch the clock!

I became interested in the community after my first mission to Israel in 1993. A group of friends were going and I figured I’ll give it a try. It was only my second trip to Israel. I thought it would be a good mission/vacation. The trip opened my eyes to our community.

Shortly afterwards, as a family, we started to donate to the Campaign and annually we have increased our donations and our involvement.

Why are we donating to the Federation and CJA? The Federation is the vehicle that gets the funds and the help to the community. Very importantly, about 91% of what’s collected goes directly to help the community. This is one of the highest in a long list of major charities.

We went out into the community and saw what was going on and we listened to people about their problems. We saw where there is an ever-increasing need for funds to help fix many problems that exist. These are some of the reasons that our family gift increases each year.

A widely unknown fact about our Jewish community is that approximately 20% of us live below the poverty line. Many people find it hard to believe!

What really bothers me is that there are still children going to school hungry in the morning or Jewish seniors living in apartments infested with bugs and/or rodents. Really, this exists in our community. That’s what gets to me!

I talk to people about seniors living on fixed incomes who are barely making it. And there are many who cannot make it without additional help.

I ask people to come see Le Café, at least once. Come and see what’s happening there. Come and see some of the problems people face and learn about the issues in our community.

The Campaign, dollar-wise, was higher a few years ago. The net collected in the Campaign has slipped in the last couple of years; at the same time the needs rose.

The lines on the graph are crossing in the wrong direction.

I am in a very fortunate position compared to many parents I know. My children are permanently established in Montreal. Many others have their children spread around the globe. Having my children here means that my grandchildren will be here for a long time.

So, in a selfish way, I want to make this community a better place for them to grow up and live a Jewish life.

I am doing this for my family and, as well, for everyone else.

When my mandate ends in November, I want to know that I have done whatever I could to improve someone’s life and make the community a little better.

We welcome your feedback and invite your comments.

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