A few weeks ago, over 3,000 members of our community came together to launch the 2023 Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign, singing and celebrating Jewish life with Israeli artist Omer Adam. Attendees represented a true cross-section of our community - Israeli, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, non-religious, religious, and Chassidic, from all geographic areas of Montreal. A genuine celebration of Jewish life where all our baggage and shtick were left at the door, and with the sound of the Shofar, we ushered in a new Campaign season in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah. 

We also asked our audience members to #StandUp if they have been impacted by the work of Federation CJA. They were asked to stand (literally) if they participated in a March of the Living or Journey of Hope program; if they attended Jewish elementary or high school; if they attended Jewish camp, volunteered, or benefited from MADA or the Family Store; and so on and so forth. 

By the end, every single person in the audience was standing when we turned on the lights at the Sir Wilfrid Pelletier Hall. 

What an incredible moment to recognize the power of our community and the centrality of Federation CJA in the lives of a (relatively large) sample of our community, where each and every one of the over 3,000 audience members has been touched and impacted by the work of Federation CJA. And all thanks to the extraordinary generosity of over 12,000 donors who fuel the annual Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign.

We are entering an incredibly powerful time in the Jewish Calendar: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  A time for reflection and renewal.  It is a time that we take stock of the year that was and connect to our hopes and aspirations for the year to come. It is also a time when we connect even deeper to our Judaism and Jewish community.  A time to ask ourselves, “WHAT DO I STAND UP FOR?”. 

It is all too easy to stand against something.  We are asking our community to #StandUp for something.  #StandUp for a stronger, brighter Jewish future.  #StandUp to ensure that we provide dignity to our Holocaust survivors and seniors and never forget our past.  #StandUp for providing access to Jewish life and that our Jewish experiences are excellent.  #StandUp and be proud of our Jewish identity and #StandUp against antisemitism. 

This year, it would be easy to stand against one side or another of the Judicial reform debate taking place in Israel and across world Jewry. Yet, all that is more important is to #StandUp for Jewish unity, civil discourse, respect and responsibility in our words and actions.  As a community with deep ties to Morocco, we #StandUp to support those suffering and needing help after the devastating earthquake earlier this week.

Our Campaign message echoes powerfully – STAND UP! In a world of uncertainty, it's tempting to focus our energy solely on opposition. Yet, this time, the call rings with a different hue, urging us not to stand against but to #StandUp for something resolute.

As our community reverberates with this clarion call, each of you represents a beacon of hope, making a palpable difference in the lives of those around you. This act, this choice to #StandUp for positivity and change, serves as our collective thank you to each other and the world.

Let this Rosh Hashana 5784 be a year of renewal for the Jewish people and our community.  Let us #StandUp for a strong and vibrant Jewish life here in Montreal.  Let’s #StandUp with our support for the Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign, which is responsible for caring for so many here in Montreal and around the world wherever Jews are in need. 

#StandUp once again and be counted – Hineni, I am here! And to continue making this the greatest Jewish community!

(hashivenu adonay elekha venashuvah Hadesh yamenu kekedem)
"Help us turn to You, and we shall return. Renew our lives as in days of old." 

Wishing you and your loved ones a Shana Tova U’metukah, and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life once more – G’mar Chatima Tova.  May the brightest days of this past year be the darkest of 5784.  I wish you continued health, safety, and peace.

Yair Szlak, LL.B
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Federation CJA
Shabbat Candlelight
September 22  6:34PM
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