It has been my greatest honour and privilege to serve as President of Federation CJA for these last two years. When I embarked on the role of a lifetime, I never could have imagined the challenges we would face as a community. No one could have predicted the ravages of a worldwide pandemic followed by the eruption of conflict in the Middle East 15 months later, resulting in antisemitic hate reaching levels not seen in 75 years.

And yet, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, we quickly picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off, and adjusted to the new reality we faced, pivoting to meet the needs of future generations and positioning the community for long-term success. Working under exceptionally difficult conditions and unimaginable stress, we dealt with the most pressing needs and vulnerabilities resulting from the pandemic. As an organization, we were able to resume our strategic planning process with a restored sense of its importance and relevance in ensuring the survival and resilience of our great community. I have never been prouder of the interconnected network of community partners and agencies who make up the fabric of our community, and who have worked together to address the most important challenges we faced. The pandemic along with the renewed antisemitism faced in the last three months has, in so many ways, united us as we faced the unknown together.

Today, we know that the pandemic is not going away any time soon. We do know that moving forward, there will be greater demand for subsidies for rent, Jewish education, Jewish camping, and most notably, mental health services. Food security will continue to be a challenge with our most vulnerable populations. Thanks to your generous contributions, Federation CJA is well prepared and well-positioned to meet these ongoing needs and to provide the support that is so critical.

At the same time, as we learnt since the month of May, the safety and security of our community now require additional investment.  Following the conflict in the Middle East, acts of antisemitism have exploded worldwide and Montreal has been no exception. We have witnessed an increase in anti-Jewish hate, which has at times turned violent.  With the work of our Community Security Network and our strong relationship with the SPVM, we have seen 19 arrests in Montreal relating directly to online antisemitism or physical violence. Recognizing the changing nature of the world's oldest hate manifesting itself in vehement social media hatred against Jews requires us today to increase our investment in and adjust our strategy to address antisemitism.  

We need to unpack this current expression of antisemitic hate and vitriol to properly understand how it is different, to appreciate its scope and scale in order to craft the appropriate strategic response. We need to understand the impact that social media has had on the battle being waged. And specifically, the amplification effect of the algorithms used by social media platforms to disseminate false and unsubstantiated information and ensure a constant biased feed to its users.

Antisemitism in its various forms and disguises has existed for over 5,000 years and successive generations have been unable to eradicate it, and neither will we. But we cannot afford to be complacent—we need to push back and push back hard—we all know too well the horrific results of antisemitism that is allowed to go unchallenged.  We need to continue our advocacy efforts with our investment in CIJA in order to continue the work of educating and influencing politicians and government officials at all levels.  And we must combine that with a fully articulated plan of activism!  We cannot stay silent. We must respond strategically to these attacks and, perhaps more importantly, we must ensure we are prepared for the onslaught that will result from the next trigger.

The journey has begun, and the road is uncertain, but losing is not an option. We must ensure that our children can live safely, proudly, and freely as Jewish members of Quebec society. 

As my term as President comes to an end, I am humbled and so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve the Montreal Jewish community in this capacity helping to ensure we meet the future healthy, vibrant, and strong. But it is not a role I have accomplished alone. Community leadership is a team sport and I have been surrounded by the most dedicated and selfless group of volunteer and professional leaders who have worked with me and have always supported me. A very special thanks to the members of the Federation Board of Directors who worked tirelessly under difficult personal conditions.  Thank you to the entire Federation CJA staff for your outstanding partnership over these past two years. Thank you for your guidance, your wisdom, and your heroic efforts in providing strategic leadership during such a challenging time. You have all made my job a lot easier and we have so much to be proud of.

We have all been affected by the extraordinary events of these last 18 months.  Our lives and our reality have shifted in unexpected and unusual ways. Though physically distanced, the challenges we faced and the expressions of support, commitment, and acts of loving-kindness we have witnessed have brought us closer together and unified us as a community.

My greatest hope for the future is that the lessons of community cohesiveness and unity endure. As we move forward, I know that under Joel Segal's leadership, our community is in great hands, our important work will carry on, and we will continue to go from strength to strength.

With deep gratitude,

Gail Adelson-Marcovitz
Immediate Past President
Federation CJA

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