The Presidency of Mark Kakon

2008-2013 by Elias Levy

Since their massive arrival during the 1950’s, the Sephardim have played a key role in the heart of the Montreal Jewish Community. Influenced by the city’s culture and traditions, the community had no choice but to change its discourse and way of doing things. This heightened diversity reinforced the bilingualism of the Montreal Jewish Community, while promoting its integration into the rest of Quebec society.

Marc Kakon leaves the presidency of the Communauté Sepharade Unifiée du Québec (C.S.U.Q.) with a sense of accomplishment.  Under his leadership, the C.S.U.Q. carried out a host of large-scale community projects.  During his five consecutive years as president, he faced a number of challenges.

WHAT WERE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES FOR THE COMMUNITY?

MK: My vision for the community was centered on four main priorities: the poor, the elderly, children and culture. The C.S.U.Q. defined its action plan and developed new programs, which incorporated the growing needs of the poor and low-income families, the elderly and children.

DURING YOUR PRESIDENCY, YOU IMPLEMENTED SOME LARGE CULTURAL PROJECTS WHICH HAVE EXPERIENCED GREAT SUCCESS

MK: Yes, Sephardic culture has always been a top priority for me and for the C.S.U.Q.  Under my presidency, we undertook a series of initiatives that were considered necessary to reinvigorate the cultural life of our community. In the past, the Festival Sefarad de Montréal took place every two years; however, we proposed another cultural vision, which was considered bolder and less conventional. The Festival Sefarad de Montréal has now become an annual cultural event on a provincial, national and international scale, with the participation of renowned artists and creators from Montreal, Israel, Morocco, France, and across Europe.  Other successful events include the recent Soirée de gala, which highlighted the 50th anniversary of the Sephardim in Quebec.

A COMMUNITY SUCCESSION PLAN IS ANOTHER MAJOR CASE WHERE YOU ARE GREATLY INVESTED

MK: Yes.  Without engaging today’s youth, our community has no future. If young people do not get involved in our volunteer community, its future will be bleak.   In a way, we decide to have families, so that one day our children can ensure the survival of our community.

THE C.S.U.Q. NOW OFFERS YOUNG SEPHARDIC ADULTS A COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP PROGRAM. PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS INITIATIVE.

MK: Our leadership program for young Sephardic adults has led to very encouraging and concrete results.  It was conceived as part of the Continuité sépharade project, which was initiated and directed by Salomon Oziel, the former president of the C.S.U.Q. and current president of l’École Maimonide. The goal of the community leadership program is to ensure the survival of Sephardic culture and identity, and to motivate young adults to get involved, by providing tools for reflection, analysis, and action. The majority of participants who have completed the program are now involved in the work of the C.S.U.Q.  as well as Federation CJA, or they volunteer on executive committees.

STRENGTHENING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE C.S.U.Q. AND FEDERATION CJA WAS ONE OF THE MAJOR OBJECTIVES OF YOUR PRESIDENCY.  HAVE YOU ATTAINED THIS GOAL?

MK: Yes. We have built a solid partnership with Federation CJA. Today, the C.S.U.Q. is an important and recognized component of the Montreal Jewish Community. Many young Sephardim want to evolve and find fulfillment in the larger community environment, which means the barriers between Sephardim and Ashkenazim are fading. They define themselves first and foremost as Jews and not solely as Sephardim. In the years ahead, we will have no choice but to build one community, at the heart of which the characteristics of Sephardic culture are preserved and highly valued.

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