By Kathy Lempert, Chair, West Island Executive Committee & Maia Cooper, Director, Federation CJA West Island
Bringing the Jewish community of the West Island together is the objective of Federation CJA West Island. We opened our branch in the Westpark district of Dollard-des-Ormeaux in 2006 because we recognized the need for more services and a thirst for more Jewish-themed activities within one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in North America.
Every week, we receive calls from people who can’t afford to feed their families, pay their rent, send their children to Jewish day school, or provide a summer camp experience to their children. The people we help every day are our neighbours, our relatives, our friends. They are people who come to community in the hope that they are not alone. And what they discover is that they are, in fact, not alone at all. As a Jewish people, we are one, and we are for one another.
We harnessed all the strengths of Federation CJA’s resources, consulted with West Islanders to learn what they were seeking in a community network, and moved to provide it for them. Today, we serve as a catalyst, offering a full slate of programs and wide array of services directly to West Islanders from a location close to where they live. This has encouraged more people to become involved in our community, to connect with their Jewish identity, and to reinforce their sense of belonging to something that is genuinely special.
Our approach is to respect each individual’s personal approach to their Jewish identity and to support their efforts to connect with our community.
Along with our family of agencies, we are also reaching out to more seasoned West Islanders, people who moved to the area decades ago, raised their families, and have retired here. Furthermore, there is a growing number people aged 50+, who are moving to the West Island to be closer to their children and grandchildren. For them, there is an exciting initiative called Prime Time, which serves seniors of all ages and walks of life. Interestingly, the West Island population between the ages of 65 and 74 has increased by 126% since 2001, many of whom are still extremely active. Those who are less active now have access to resources that have long been available at our traditional location in Montreal.
Our building at 96 Roger Pilon has become a hub for Jewish life on the West Island. From here, we partner with other institutions and provide a warm welcome to all.