10 Year Anniversary Report
Fredericton is a Jewish community in transition; no different from many Maritime communities. Before 2004 we were anticipating its inevitable collapse due to decreasing membership. After signing a community support agreement with the Province of New Brunswick we began anticipating a future; a future that will differ from what came before but will be relevant to the contemporary, pluralistic community. These are some of the highlights of changes that are occurring.
Statistics. As of September 2013, 17 families have re-located to Fredericton under the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBPNP) Agreement signed in March 2004. Within the group of 17 arriving families, one family left abruptly for British Columbia after a month, and two families left for Alberta after trying unsuccessfully for almost 4 years to obtain employment in the health field due to a protracted Health Region hiring freeze. However, compensating for the out-migration, two more families arrived in Fredericton from Saskatchewan and Ontario after having first immigrated to Canada via the Saskatchewan PNP and the Federal immigration stream. They found us through our website, www.fredshul.ca . One family is scheduled to arrive during spring or summer 2014. Overall, we are pleased to have achieved a 94% retention rate since the inception of our community support agreement.
Slow but steady participation in synagogue events. Minyans at Friday evening services are generally well-attended by a loyal mix of long-established and new members who attend when work and family commitments permit. Winter is a difficult time, because that is when many retirees are travelling. Sisterhood is an active but small core group comprised of several hard-working new members and dedicated well-established members who contribute their time and effort in preparing Chanukah and Purim parties and other social events, such as last year’s Israeli Independence Day party and Shabbat dinners.
Children. We take pride in the progress and well-being of the children who have recently joined our community. Several have celebrated Bar Mitzvahs here. They are well-integrated into the public school system. The boys participate on basketball, football and hockey teams. Three have graduated from high school. Two of these young people are presently enrolled in university where one is a leader of human rights advocacy activities on campus. The other regularly attends Friday services on the way home from classes. The eldest of the three high school graduates completed university this past June after winning several awards and scholarships, including two JIAS scholarships, and is now attending medical school.
Re-establishing careers. The employment factor is a challenge for most of the adults. There are several Information Technology professionals who are fully employed. Other professional and skilled workers are having a more difficult time securing permanent, full-time employment in their field. It is not easy to study in order to perfect high level English language skills, find and keep jobs to build Canadian experience in the present economy, re-certify for regulated trades, prepare for professional examinations, start a new business or sustain a business enterprise and keep it cost effective. In this respect, newcomer families in Fredericton are a resilient group of men and women who maintain a positive outlook and help each other.
Whereas early attempts to resettle immigrants were accomplished reasonably well through informal or ad hoc mentoring, the immigration committee and synagogue Board recognize that more structured efforts are needed to speed up the employment process. With this objective in mind, the immigration committee began scheduling resettlement meetings this fall. Synagogue community resource people have met with newcomers to advise and coach unemployed and under- employed individuals about networking and job search techniques. We have also held meeting with newcomers to discuss resettlement issues in general. It is too soon to know how effective these measures will be. Members of the immigration committee and the synagogue Board intend to meet with NBPNP officials in the New Year to discuss employment and language training issues.
Membership in the synagogue. Not every new family chooses to join the synagogue. Some families cannot afford to join the synagogue in order to become members in good standing until their employment situations stabilize. Several families have made donations in lieu of dues. The immigration committee and Board concur that dues income is necessary to ensure the financial stability of our synagogue. Therefore, we are intent on helping newcomers find jobs and offering newcomer services that will increase perceived worth and importance of membership.
The new, diverse Fredericton Jewish community is being enriched by mutual respect and renewed by the efforts of many individuals; long-established members, immigrants, unaffiliated Fredericton Jewish families, individuals who are rediscovering their Jewish roots and Jewish families who have moved here from other Provinces for work or retirement. The end goal as expressed at the conclusion of a recent resettlement meeting is “to build a unified community of happy families.”