Karen Soussan: A chair’s vision for the future

Karen Soussan is the 2012 chair of the Sepharade Campaign (Photo: Vadim Daniel)

Karen Soussan, lawyer by profession and mother of two children, is the 2012 president of the Sepharade Campaign.  A volunteer for the past ten years, she represents a new generation of Sephardi professionals who have the future of the community at heart -  according to her, a future intimately linked to the quality of the new guard of community volunteers.  Karen was happy to answer a few questions for Tikun Olam.

Tikun Olam – What especially motivated you to get involved with the community?

Karen Soussan -  It was ten years ago: I participated in a mission organized by Federation CJA to Israel, which was experiencing a very difficult time just then during the second Intifada. I could see on the spot the indestructible link that exists between our Montreal Jewish community and the state of Israel through its people. After such an experience, one feels extremely motivated to get involved in the community.

T.O. – A changing of the guard at the community based on young and vibrant leadership is one of the essential elements for Jewish continuity. What should be done, according to you, to attract more young people to get involved with the community?

K.S. -  I can bear witness, from my personal experience, that our young people here in Montreal are much more involved than we think.  That said, we need to sensitize them about community problems and then we need to get them involved in motivating projects.  One of the best examples is Le Café.  By participating as a volunteer at Le Café, we witness not only the needs of Montreal’s Jewish community, but we also demonstrate the difference we can make in the lives of the most vulnerable among us.  Knowing that we can touch the life of a Jew in need is so gratifying that it motivates us to do more, to involve ourselves and to involve others in this indispensable mission of always being there for one another.  I think that one of the ways to attract young people is to get them involved one by one, through their friends, their colleagues, their acquaintances, through community events, etc.  To give you an example, during this campaign, there was an initiative to attract new donors, so I explained to professionals, of my generation and the next, that they should take the time to contact their colleagues, their network of friends, their acquaintances, other professionals like them, in order to sensitize them to our community’s needs and also to involve them by inviting these contacts to come to events, to sit on committees with them, to encourage them to make calls, etc. We mustn’t forget that engaging the next generation has two components : that of encouraging them to give to the annual Campaign, and also that of giving their time as a volunteer.  But we need at the same time to continue to put leadership training programs in place and to adapt them to the present realities.

T.O. – Can you tell us about a few leadership programs?

K.S. – Having participated in the program, I can name the Leadership Development program of YAD Montreal, set up by Federation CJA, as one of the best examples in this field, with its wide array of activities all year round, as well as the Jewish Chamber of Commerce, and of course Gen J which targets the reinforcement of the Jewish identity of our young people. There are also conferences and various missions, like the one to Ethiopia and Israel that we are preparing with our young people.  I sincerely think that sharing emotions, making new friends, and above all, living unique experiences will be the glue that binds these young people together, and that will ensure their future engagement in the community.

T.O. – Has your involvement in the Campaign allowed you to better grasp the importance of getting other young professionals involved ?

K.S. – This is obvious.  While I think that  we still have a lot of work to do, we need to proceed by steps. We have to make our young professionals understand that they need to approach the question of volunteering as one of privilege, that of making a difference, that of making connections that will endure… Despite the numerous challenges that our community is confronting, like for example the aging of our population and demographic changes and their consequences, I remain confident that our young people will know how to face them in an effective and responsible way. I’m convinced we will find these young people involved in a dynamic way in the various committees of our community. They are the ones, after all, who hold the keys to the future.  I know for sure, being an optimist, that as for myself, my journey with the community will continue, all the while passing the message to my children, because after all they will be the new guard of tomorrow.

We welcome your feedback and invite your comments.

Leave a comment

Reader comments are the opinion of the comment writer, not Federation CJA

Comments that make false or unsubstantiated allegations will not be published, nor will comments that contain defamatory, inaccurate, rude, distasteful, disrespectful, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented or threatening language.

Comments that use hearsay or are based on reports where the supposed fact or quote is not a matter of public knowledge also may not be permitted.

Federation CJA reserves the right to withhold from publication comments that are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted. Comments that include personal attacks on other people taking part in this website and/or are invasive of another's privacy may also be withheld from publication.

Spelling and grammatical mistakes will not be corrected.