Did UJA Misspend $72 Million?

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Did UJA Misspend $72 Million?

The new infrastructure’s expenses are not only unnecessary, but wholly irresponsible. What could that money have been spent on instead?

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Prosserman Jewish Community Center in Toronto

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“Let us make a name for ourselves” the ancients said, when they built the Tower of Babel. Their stated goal was to aggrandize themselves, rather than build for the betterment of the city. 

 Lately, there is one such Tower of Babel in the Toronto Jewish community.

The United Jewish Appeal Federation broke ground for the new Prosserman Jewish Community Center in Toronto, October 15, 2017, eight years after the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre was torn down. 

Overall, the pricetag for the community center is $72-million. It includes a sport complex “new enhanced facility,” dubbed the Sheff Family Building. 

Taking a 100,000 square feet area, the JCC contains a gymnasium with a running track, a fitness center with multiple exercise studios, a multifunctional theatre, an outdoor sports field and courts, a food court and three saltwater pools.

The new infrastructure’s expenses are not only unnecessary, but wholly irresponsible. What could that money have been spent on instead?

It’s a shandeh that in 2018, Toronto’s first kosher food bank closed, from lack of funds. Where will 150 hungry families go for groceries and basic necessities now? 

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Meanwhile, a quarter of Canada’s Holocaust survivors live in poverty, and about one in eight Canadian Jews (about 52,000) are living below the poverty line. (And yet, UJA set up an Attawapiskat relief fund in 2011, for those plagued by poverty a thousand kilometers away.) 

Furthermore, between 2010 and 2018, six Jewish parochial institutions or their campuses have shuttered in Toronto: Associated Hebrew School, Robbins Hebrew Academy, Leo Baeck Day School, TanenbaumCHAT, Toronto Talmud Torah and Eitz Chaim. Mostly, this was because of – you guessed it – mounting costs. 

Imagine that money spread to ten schools, each receiving $7 million – what that would do for Canada’s Jewish education, not to mention easing tuition for scores of struggling parents.

The Sheff Family Building Expansion

Recall, the Ontario provincial election in 2007 was basically a referendum on provincial tuition subsidy for non-public schools. The PCs led by John Tory, who led the effort of fair funding, took a shellacking. The community would never be able to so much as think to seek tuition assistance from the government ever again. If we have boatloads of cash to spend on new pricey community centres, how absurd it would look to put out our hand out to the province. 

Is it not the responsibility of our fellow community members to be more accountable with this kind of money, and use it to help sustain existing infrastructures?

No shortage of synagogues, built a half-century ago, that are falling apart. Undoubtedly, Jewish life on campus, and pro-Israel programming, could use a financial boost – eg: Hillel, Hasbara, Stand With Us, etc. 

To be fair, though, about a seventh of the monies for the new complex have come from the federal government. They designated $10.2-million from funds it matched from the New Building Canada Fund in 2016. 

According to Liberal MP Michael Levitt (York Centre), who commented on behalf of the Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Amarjeet Sohi, the Canadian government, “recognizes that strategic investments in public infrastructure – including funding for sports and recreation projects like this one (emphasis ours) – will create growth for the middle class and ensure that our communities will remain among the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family.” 

“Sports and recreation”. Not anything Jewishy here. Not even an attempt to couch it as “multi-cultural enhancement”, or some-such hokum, euphemistically slipped in. Nope, the money was allocated because it was a really expensive playground. And that is, precisely, what it will become: a community centre built with Jewish donations, rather than a Jewish community centre.

List of the expansions at the Prosserman JCC

I’m not privy to any of the inner workings of the finances (very few people are). But let’s suppose this new complex somehow magically nets a whopping $1 million in profit each year. That’s a whack-ton of gym memberships. So now they’re operating at a loss for 72 years, until they can make back a single red cent of the investment.

In reality, things are much worse. By March of 2020, everything in the world shut down from COVID-19. After layoffs and lost incomes, bankruptcies and closed businesses, fewer and fewer people will have disposable income to spend on memberships to a community centre. It’s now even more of a white elephant, when predicted enrolment takes a sharp downward turn.

In a recent online notice, UJA said their expenses “are projected to grow by $25-million due to the pandemic… (funds are required to support) Jewish vulnerable, and preserving access to the essentials of Jewish life for Jews in financial crisis.” Imagine: $72 million could have been our community’s COVID-19 lifeline. 

Instead, UJA begs us to give them more of our money. 

We didn’t need a new community centre – we needed more community financial support.

We didn’t need a new food court – we needed to address food insecurity. We didn’t need new tennis courts – we needed to focus on tuition. We didn’t need more intramurals– we need to stem intermarriage.

Every time you drive along Bathurst Street, just past Sheppard Avenue, take a look at our Tower of Babel, and how that structure may very well have set back our Jewish community a generation or two.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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