My opportunity of a lifetime

By Deborah Corber, CEO of Federation CJA

In joining Federation CJA, I left behind a career in the field of Aboriginal Affairs, working to settle land claims, establish new governance arrangements and forge modern and respectful relationships between Aboriginal and government partners across the Canadian landscape.  In making this rather dramatic shift, I have been surprised and delighted by the expressions of support from across the Jewish community, including many from people who saw the career change as a natural transition.

Still, I had to explain the move to the Mohawks of Akwesasne, with whom I’d built a special relationship over the course of the past 12 years.  While there is no doubt that an outstanding replacement will be found to head Canada’s negotiating team going forward, the Mohawks were more than a little disappointed that I would be leaving them barely months before conclusion of our agreements.  How could I make them understand the exceptional opportunity that had come my way?

“I really didn’t go looking for another position,” I said.  “But then MY tribe approached me and made me an offer I simply couldn’t refuse: to make me a chief (executive officer)!”

All joking aside, I must say that I view the chance to serve as CEO of Federation CJA as, quite literally, the opportunity of a lifetime.  And, while I recognize that I have a steep learning curve ahead of me, there are a few things that I already know to be true.

I know that I will have much to learn in the weeks, months and years ahead; but I also know that I have countless teachers to help me master that learning and that all I need to do is to ask.

I know that as Jews we come to the table with different perspectives, traditions, aspirations and views; but I also know that we are united in our desire to ensure the brightest possible future for the Montreal Jewish community.

I know that my position at Federation CJA will present me with immense professional challenges; but I also know that with every great challenge comes an equally great opportunity to do good.

I know that this position will require an enormous personal commitment from me; but I also know that my immediate and extended family will always be by my side, will sustain me through the tough moments and will help me not to lose my footing.

And finally, I know that I take on this responsibility with two indispensable assets: an outstanding team of professionals, who I can already see have the talent and the dedication to make our Federation the finest in its class, and a group of lay leaders – both past and present – who have the vision, drive and commitment to ensure great things for our beloved Jewish community.

As I write what I hope will be the first of many messages in Tikun Olam, it is the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Like many of you, I suspect, I am in a reflective mood, thinking about the year I leave behind and the one upon which I am about to embark.  I am looking forward to Kol Nidre, with the message and haunting melody that I know will move me profoundly, as they do each and every year.  Yet this year I anticipate that Kol Nidre will take on an added dimension for me, as the concluding Shehechayanu will converge with my own personal beginning as CEO of Federation CJA.  When we recite the Shehechayanu this coming Friday evening, expressing our gratitude to the Lord for having kept us alive to this day, I will also be saying my own prayer of thanks for having been carried to this auspicious moment in my life and being offered the privilege of serving my community.

At the start of the New Year, I offer this pledge to my fellow Montreal Jews, irrespective of your background, your views or your level of involvement in community organizations: I will always be open to hearing what is on your mind and learning what is in your heart, and will strive every day to serve the very best interests of our community.  I wish each and every one of you a Shana Tova U’Metukah and my personal hope that the year ahead will bring us new opportunities to connect with our Jewish institutions and with one another, and to find greater Jewish meaning in our lives.

  • Alain Amzallag says:

    Dear Ms. Corber,

    I am glad that you are at the helm of Federation-CJA… My personal beliefs lead me to acknowledge the different, yet more sensitive and humane, way that women manage complex and elaborate tasks that an institution d’”envergure” entails. Golda Meier, Indra Ghand iand Margaret Thatcher are some of the examples which come to mind readily…

    I contributed a few ideas on the IMAGINE 2020′s Blog, and I had the pleasure to appreciate the fact that some of them have already been adopted and incorporated in the Federation’s way of doing things…

    If you’ll allow me, I would like to contribute additional input as seems to be warranted…

    Respectfully yours–Shana Tova Giveret…
    Alain Amzallag

  • Alain Amzallag says:

    Dear Ms Corber,

    I hope you had a great week and Shabbos… I am writing you as I have in mind a comprehensive project which may accelerate the integration of newly arrived immigrants in our Montreal Jewish Community…

    An in-law of mine, Katia Ohayon is an event planner at the Federation-CJA and she, together with her team and myself as a volunteer could plan and work out the details of these series of events…

    What I have in mind is the following: organize cocktails in Gelbert Hall for Immigrants whose first language is neither French nor english, i.e., Spanish, Riussian, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Modern Hebrew, etc. At these events, booths would be ready to provide information about the available services at the Federation… Moreover, personnel conversant in those languages could help the immigrants navigate through the Federation-CJA’s various Agencies as well as Municipal, Provincial and Federal considerations…

    These coktaiis could be advertised in the Canadian Jewish News, The Suburban, Tikoun Olam as well as on Flyers in the various targeted languages…Flyers could be posted in The Federation-CJA’s elevators, the Public Library, Ometz… Also, the JIAS, could provide us with pertinent information as to names of immigrants and how to inform them of these events (with RSVP)….

    What do you think of the above, Ms Corber…?
    Best regards
    Alain Amzallag, Ph.D. (ABD)

    • Susan Karpman says:

      Dear Dr Amzallag,

      Thanks for the vote of confidence in Ometz’ Welcome Sessions!  This is exactly what we do on a weekly basis, informing newcomers to our
      community about community services, government benefits, public
      resources while providing group and individual supports.  

      Ometz’ Welcome sessions provide our newest community members with a rich curriculum of what they need to know, when they need to know it.  Welcome sessions are run weekly with a rotating agenda, and are offered in French, English, Russian, Hebrew – and whatever else we need.

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