Renee Mahfoda

Sepharade Women's Campaign Chair, 2008-2009

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

I’ve always been particularly interested in others. I was raised with this value and I’ve always believed in volunteering. When I was contacted to become President of the Sepharade Women’s Campaign in 2008, I was going through a period of immense mourning. My niece Sandra Harroch left us at the age of 23 in March 2007 after a long and difficult illness, and being involved helped me get through that difficult time. I dedicated my year to helping others in the name of Sandra.
The theme of the Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign for that year was tikkun olam (repair the world).

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

If I were to choose one single fond memory of that year with the Federation to talk about, it would be the mission in Israel which, to my great joy, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the State’s creation. This mission was also an opportunity for me to witness the aid provided to Israel. But I should also add that one of my fondest memories of that year was discovering just how much the Federation contributes to our community and the number of people impacted by it.

The Federation CJA is an institution that, among other things, takes care of our seniors, welcomes hundreds of new Jewish immigrants on an on-going basis, ensures a quality Jewish education for our children and helps our fellow Jews in difficult economic circumstances in which they have trouble finding a job. We cannot forget that this Herculean task requires considerable and revolving funds. These funds make it possible for us to be and remain Jews in new lands.

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

It’s difficult for me to come up with one moment in particular, because what impacted me was the sum of all the testimonies which volunteers like me had to face. You discover the degree of poverty and constant state of insecurity which some members of our community live in. Their reality is so far from anything I could have imagined.

This experience left me certain that Jews like us have a shared responsibility to always come the aid of not just people in need, but also of those who are taking care of them. We have to raise awareness of the true needs of everyone in the community, help to recruit volunteers and take concrete steps to raise awareness of the issues and the role that the Federation CJA plays.

Lastly, I remember the professionalism, dedication and dynamism of the volunteers who throughout the year supported me through their unmatched teamwork and cooperative spirit. This experience enabled me to evolve on a personal and community level.

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

To give generously. It’s a secure investment that will last for generations to come.

5. What legacy would you like to pass on?

As difficult as it may be to balance your professional, personal and community life, every contribution is an important act of participation which, for me, is self-evident. The work and responsibilities of volunteering may at times be time-consuming, but the volunteer receives so much more in return.

So, let me say to anyone interested in better understanding this point: the exchange that happens when you volunteer and actively participate in the development of our community enables you to grow personally as one of its members. In the end, helping your neighbour is a gift to yourself!


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