Led by Jewish Federation Planning Council co-chairs, Penny Gurstein and Eric Bulmash, we were proud to present the Jewish Community Affordability Summit last month in partnership with Jewish Family Service Agency, Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Tikva Housing Society, and the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver.
The summit focused on four key issues where affordability is having a significant impact on community members. These issues were food security, affordable housing, childcare and Jewish day school education. With a community poverty level of 16%, a growing number of children residing in working families struggling to make ends meet, and many seniors at risk of homelessness due to escalating rents, we can’t ignore the long term impact on our community.
A key outcome of the summit was to identify promising practices and projects in other jurisdictions designed to address issues of affordability that could be implemented in our community. With this in mind, Jewish Federation’s Planning Council invited Dr. Daniel Held, the executive director of the Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, who spoke about a new initiative in Toronto to support middle class families struggling with the cost of Jewish Day School; Trish Kelly, the director of a new community food hub initiative; Darren Kitchen, director of government relations for the Coop Housing Federation of BC; and Gyda Chud, a specialist in issues related to early childhood education. Opening the summit was Dr. Paul Kershaw, who gave a compelling presentation on the generational squeeze.
These issues are not unique to the Jewish community, but what is unique is that they have a direct impact on our overall community sustainability. If community members can’t afford to participate in Jewish programs or provide their children with a Jewish education because all of their income is spent on the essentials (food and shelter) our community is negatively impacted. If seniors are living in their cars because they can’t find affordable housing we will lose these critical multigenerational connections.
Over the coming months, there will be more discussion about the ideas and suggestions that were generated, but one outcome that was introduced at the summit was the formation of a new task force on food security to be jointly implemented by Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service Agency.
Instead of producing a written summary of the ideas discussed over the course of the evening, the planning committee chose to use a graphic facilitator to document the highlights. The illustrations provide a visual representation of the comments made by the keynote speakers and the workshop presenters.