Karen Soussan

Women's Philanthropy Campaign Chair 2012-2013

Incoming President, Women’s Philanthropy

1) How did you get involved in the Federation CJA – and why?

I started getting involved in the Federation CJA after a mission of the Presidents of the Combined Jewish Appeal. In spring 2002, my parents and I participated in a mission in Israel. My expectation was a simple trip to Israel, but that was nowhere near what it was. The mission was breathtaking, full of emotions, joy, sadness, bonding, pride and solidarity for our community in Israel as well as in Montreal.

On my return to Montreal, my perception of our community was no longer the same. I had to know more about Federation CJA.

I returned with determination, passion, conviction and compassion. That was the moment when I realized that I had to dedicate myself to Federation CJA.

2) What is the fondest memory you have today of your time working with Federation CJA?

It’s been close to 14 years that I’ve been involved with Federation CJA and I hope I never stop. Volunteering has become a part of me, my raison d’être. The Combined Jewish Appeal is such a wonderful cause that continues to be dear to my heart.

3) Do you remember a moment or an event in particular that deeply impacted you?

There are so many moments that have impacted me profoundly. If I have to choose one in particular, it would be the Yom Yocheved Clothing Giveaway day. I showed up in the morning to donate my time and at the end of the day, I was overwhelmed with the emotions I felt, especially that of joy and pride.

The invited families are families in need. The goal of this day is to offer them help in a respectful and happy environment. Each family is welcomed by a designated volunteer. This volunteer receives information on the family that they will meet including the number of children, the children’s ages and the number of articles to be donated for each child. With the help of the volunteer, the child/parent chooses their clothes from tons and tons of brand new clothes.

During this wonderful day, I had the privilege of meeting many families, one of which touched me in particular: a single mother with 6 children between the ages of 2 and 16. The excitement on the faces of each child at the idea of being able to choose their own clothes will stay etched in my memory forever!

4 ) What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to follow in your footsteps in the field of philanthropy?

Philanthropy is vital for the future and security of our community. Philanthropy can be defined by a desire to help others, immense generosity and the defense of a cause. Knowing that because of our actions, we have the possibility of affecting and improving the life of a person in need is the greatest treasure there is. Philanthropy is characterized not only by financial support, but also by donating your time. There are so many different levels to giving your time. There is no barometer dictating how much time and money we should give to our community. What counts is taking the initiative to donate for the well-being of our community. Don’t hesitate and don’t be afraid of getting involved in a cause that is dear to you, because every action counts! When you give of yourself, there are always two winners: the person who benefits and the person who gives!

5) What legacy would you like to pass on?

The legacy that I would like to leave my children is that of unity and responsibility.

A united community is a strong and unified community.

Today, unifying our community is more essential than ever. Jews around the world are facing growing intolerance. With terrorism at an all-time high, the BDS movement having achieved unprecedented popularity, as well as the increase in anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, it is essential that the Jewish people are strong and united.

Since they were young, I’ve taught my children the importance of always being there for each other and being responsible for each other. I’ve also taught them that it is necessary to come to the aide of those in need.

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