Helen Levy

Women's Campaign Chair, 2004-2005

My involvement with Federation CJA began after a life-threatening bout with cancer at the age of 29. I felt an urgent need to give back in gratitude for simply being alive. The Women's Campaign welcomed me with open arms. It's there that I found the place to focus my energy towards changing people's lives. It's there that I found the women with whom I wanted to accomplish these goals.

Countless meetings, superb speakers, amazing teammates, extraordinary event planning and execution, an unparalleled mentor in Bev Ashmele and I was off and running. I loved it!

There were so many heart-warming memories, but the most life-changing experience was watching a planeload of Russian Jews disembark onto the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Being gently carried down the plane steps was an elderly, infirm Bubbe. I knew that no other country in the world, only Israel, would accept someone incapable of contributing in salary and fully dependent on its medical and social institutions. Only Israel. I thought of my Bubbe, who perished in the fires of the Holocaust, never able to receive such a welcome. If only...

These Russian Jews, our brethren, had been in transit for two days. Still, they kissed the ground and then we rushed forward to greet them, enveloping them in our arms and welcoming them home. We danced a hora of joy, of hope and of new beginnings.

To the young women and men who choose to devote their time to enhance the lives of others, know this: Your gift of giving, doing and sharing will impact your life in ways that are unpredictable and even magical. While you are in it, you are in a unique and special envoy of people, just like you, who care about the welfare of your fellow Jews. What you do will inform your family life, too. Your siblings, your parents, your children and your friends will know who you are, what's critical to you, and they will want to emulate you. Why? Because through this process and by doing good, you will feel good. Those in your sphere will want to feel good, too. It's that simple. So, make a space in your heart and your calendar for community work. You will be gratified.

Hopefully, my legacy exists in the men and women who I have had the privilege of mentoring, who continue to create legacies of their own; encouraged by the honours bestowed upon them. It is personally satisfying and humbling when I witness their contributions. Each of these leaders had "the goods” and it was my great fortune to have been able to help them broaden their vision and equip them with new tools.

The job of a leader is first and foremost to recognize talent and to nurture it.

I am lucky to have been able to assist in this arena and to have helped mentor the next generation who comprise this special, holy club that is Federation CJA.

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