Message from Nikki Holland, President & CEO
March 1, 2019 - It seems like only yesterday that I lived in Israel. Even though it’s been 24 years, if I close my eyes I could swear it was just a moment ago that I was a student at Hebrew University,
But as I drove through the streets of Jerusalem last week, a short distance away from where I used to walk every day to catch the Eged 4א bus get to the Mount Scopus campus, much as I felt like no time had passed, I also realized just how much Jerusalem has changed since I called it home.
Replete with historical and biblical references, and with matching stone that ensures that every building not only looks similar but also feels historical, Jerusalem is also modern and relevant city. On foot, I felt its vibrant energy under my feet, as I walked past new buildings, new restaurants, new pathways and new streets. I realized that beneath my memories are new discoveries to be made and new opportunities to be explored.
It made me appreciate that everything changes. Change isn’t usually bad. It is always different, and mostly for the better. And as my realization about Jerusalem showed me, change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
At Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA, we are undergoing a process of change, or more aptly, a process of enhancement. We are looking at what was and at what is and finding ways to make Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA more relevant and responsive to the needs of today’s Jewish community. We are thoughtfully looking at the foundation of our historical organization so that we can build on it.
Much like the developments I noticed in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, the old train station was left defunct for many years after the high-speed rail system was installed. But it was eventually turned into a hipster hangout with restaurants, bike rentals, organic juice bar and free evening Zumba classes. There’s even a multi-denominational Kabbalah Shabbat service.
But all these incredible improvements to the city didn’t happen immediately. It took lots of time, creativity, collaboration and planning to get there.
The reason for my visit to Jerusalem was the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors meetings, during which the topic of change was on the agenda. The Jewish Agency is a 90-year-old agency that is looking to the future to secure the past. It is working strategically to grow the people and state of Israel and ensure that we take the best of what is and what was in order to strengthen the future.
As Canada’s representative to the meetings, it was abundantly clear to me that Canadian Jews coast-to-coast need to be stand together, to support each other and help each other move forward, using the past to help us chart the future. And with antisemitism on the rise, we also need to reach beyond our borders, continentally and internationally. We must to work with our Jewish neighbors near and far to ensure a healthy and strong future for the Diaspora and for Israel.
I am profoundly excited about this challenge and honoured to move ahead. We are working hard right now to solidify our vision for the future of this organization to ensure that we are aiming higher and building better connections nationally and globally.