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ENCOUNTERS: WATER FOR THIRSTY SOULS

THIS COMPREHENSIVE SET OF PROGRAMMES REVOLUTIONIZES MODERN, HIGH-LEVEL JEWISH ENCOUNTERS. Each year, Jewish observance dissipates, federation donations decline, and commitment to Israel becomes more tenuous. We want to reverse that tide. We identify and thoughtfully analyze the “hard-to-reach” sectors of our Jewish community:
*university student fellowship programme to study and reach out
*singles events to mingle and to learn, a unique concept always guarantees an equal number of males and females
*young professionals following the rhythms of Jewish life
*young marrieds building coupleness through learning
*parent/child bonding/learning hours for all ages and abilities
*opportunities for empty nesters
*an emphasis on York Region
*blended computer-assisted, interactive learning for members of small communities off site

All programmes move across the denominations, allowing the classic texts to speak for themselves. Our lay panels are excited and our innovative, never-before-tried opportunities have been greeted with enthusiasm. For us, as a brand new organization, JVPF involvement will enhance the reach, provide mentoring in computer-based blended learning, and ensure the needed leg up to stand on our own. The massive publicity campaign would benefit by including the Federation and the Six Points project.

Need: 

We plan to reach a broad spectrum of Jews not yet moved by the current surge in Jewish life and learning by providing meaningful ways for people to encounter and relate. We have created programmes transcending all lines of age, background, gender and involvement. We will carefully focus our programming on each community segment we have identified. York region, for instance, boasts a Jewish community the size of Montreal's with half Toronto's school-age population living north of Steeles, yet it is particularly under-served by existing institutions. Combine these unprecedented initiatives with an existing array of themed courses open to all who are interested, credit courses offered in cooperation with the University of Toronto, and an open and accessible study centre for those interested in classic learning, and we expect to see increased Jewish commitment and engagement on the part of all participants.

Goals, Objectives & Measurement: 

Our goal is to involve new people across the targeted sectors in high-level Jewish educational programming with face-to-face and virtual learning components. We are uniquely placed, as part of a modern rabbinical school, to spread Jewish learning to the margins of our community and beyond.
*Measure: Individuals across each of the identified target groups and community sectors are enrolled in and/or accessing face-to-face & online, upper-level Jewish education.
*Measure: Individuals who have enrolled in one programme return to take additional courses.

A second goal is to increase Jewish commitment and engagement.
*Measure: Before and after questionnaires and testimonials indicate an increased sense of Jewish identity, commitment to the culture and teachings, and a sense of satisfaction with the particular programme.
*Measure: Isolated communities report an increased sense of community, and an increased involvement in Jewish culture, traditions, and high-level teachings.

A third goal is sustainability.
*Measure: There is a demonstrated willingness in the Jewish community to fund and sustain the programme.
*Measure: Community engagement events, along with widespread advertising and promotion efforts, yield growing tuition fees.

We expect the cost of engaging a part-time fundraiser compared to the dollars raised to be about 1:4 in the first two years, increasing dramatically as the programme grows. The cost of delivering the community engagement events and the small communities outreach campaign compared to the dollars raised by student enrolment should be about 1:30.

Opportunity for Involvement: 

We have the Jewish knowledge base; we need organizational and delivery mentoring:
*Opportunity for UJA Small Communities Committee involvement.
*We need expert advice with website, social media, PR, HR, IT, selection of best programme suites to accomplish our goals, graphic design and media networking.
*Looking for mentoring in computer assisted interactive instruction, polling, electronic whiteboard, bulletin board systems, blended learning, etc.
*We seek to build relationships with leaders and organizations of the Toronto Jewish community.
*Looking for mentoring in business skills and professional level fund raising: analysis and marketing, development of endowment programme, naming opportunities for donor recognition, donor management, operation and project management, policy analysis, etc.

Time Frame: 

Two years. We are “shovel ready.” In September 2011, we will have opened our doors with array of themed courses open to all who are interested, credit courses offered in cooperation with the University of Toronto, and an open, accessible study centre for those interested in classic learning. In November, 2011, the Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School will have had its major launch event.

In January 2012, with the assistance of JVPF, we aim to launch the Water for Thirsty Souls initiatives. Consultation with key stakeholders is already taking place. We expect to hold three community engagement drives, one in December 2011, one at the end of the 2012 summer, and one in December again. During the winter of 2012, we expect to implement and test our online delivery systems and to develop the outreach campaign to small, under-served communities. Web-based delivery is to begin in September 2012. Upon implementation in January 2012, we expect to engage our fundraiser and to implement immediately the fund-raising campaign. In June 2013, we plan a Milestone Event celebrating our first participants and expressing gratitude to JVPF, an event that will double as a hand-off to members of the community who have demonstrated their interest in sustaining the projects over the months past and months to come. There are many already showing interest in our singles programme, our young families initiative, etc., and the JVPF start will we believe turn the interest into commitment.

Sponsor/Staff: 

This is a community education programme of the Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School (CY&RS), incorporated under the laws of the Province of Ontario as a religious and educational institution. CRA Registration # 83476 3955 RR0001.

Pending acceptance from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the CY&RS is slated to become a formal member institution of the Toronto School of Theology within the University of Toronto—home to one of the largest Jewish libraries in North America, a host of student and faculty services, and an exceptional reputation for higher learning.

The CY&RS has also developed informal strategic alliances with the M’tivta (New Jersey), an educational organization who has been very active in the development and implementation of high-level distance learning, with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. We also have a cross-Canada rabbinic advisory board, a cross-Canada academic liaison advisory board composed of professors in Jewish Studies programmes, and an interfaith advisory board.

Organizational Structure and Expertise: 

The Yeshiva has been developed under the guidance of its Board of Governors, the membership of which includes lay people, rabbis, professional Jewish leaders and scholars across the GTA. The Board of Governors is charged with seeing that the school's mission is fulfilled with economic vitality. The school has assembled a world-renowned faculty and currently operates out of The Toronto School of Theology, which will also be the location for its classes, Beit Midrash, and faculty offices. .

Rabbi Roy D. Tanenbaum, our Rosh HaYeshiva (President & Vice-Chancellor), is the dynamic force behind the Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School. He is retired from Beth Tzedec and has been involved over the years in the development and delivery of many innovative programmes including a successful Hebrew day school, a programme of teaching Hebrew in New York State public schools, and the School for Shamashim here in Toronto. Tanenbaum is past president of the Rabbinical Assembly, Canadian Region, and has has served on the faculty of the University of Miami in Ohio and Mount Royal College in Calgary. With many articles to his credit, in 1998, the University of Calgary Press published his book, Prisoner 88—The Man in Stripes, and his commentary on the Shabbat Morning Service, Rinat Dodim, A Song of Lovers, graces the pews in many synagogues.

Criteria that Enhance Competitiveness: 

The proposed project meets all of JVPF’s criteria for enhancing competitiveness:
INNOVATION: The Yeshiva offers a timeless and unique worldview of Classic (pre-denominational) Judaism to its students, a modern approach to reaching isolated Jewish communities, and an unparalleled high-level Jewish learning environment.
SUSTAINABLE: JVPF funds will launch a fund-raising campaign, securing the students, professional relationships and funds necessary for long-term sustainability.
SCALABLE: The Yeshiva’s success will ensure its programmes, students, and faculty grow to offer more programmes to more communities, enhancing the online learning component to include high-level distance education opportunities across the country. In addition, the Yeshiva’s success will support the growth of the Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School, by demonstrating capacity to deliver exceptional programming and developing student recruits.
REPLICABLE: The Yeshiva’s outreach strategy to small communities can be replicated by other Jewish learning facilities across Canada, as can the community events series as a method of recruitment, outreach, fund-raising, and celebration.
LEVERAGE: We have a database of 2,500 names of Jewish leaders across-Canada. We plan to use the seed funding from JVPF to leverage and kick-start our own fund-raising campaign. For this reason, we are specifically asking for a decreasing financial commitment over the two years.