Ometz Walks for Mental Health – Join us!

Team Ometz at MONTREAL WALKS for Mental Health 2013

Team Ometz at MONTREAL WALKS for Mental Health 2013.

By Marcie Klein, Manager, Mental Health Support Services

1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and the remaining four will know someone who will.  On Sunday, October 5th, Ometz staff and clients will join the more than 1000 others who will be walking to create awareness and reduce stigma around mental illness and its’ enormous impact, both on those who live with it and those who support them.
Ometz is a founding member of the organizing committee for Montreal Walks for Mental Health, a committee that was started in 2009 and has now become a fully developed foundation whose mission is to increase public awareness about mental health, stigma, and discrimination towards people who struggle with mental illness every day.  The mission of the Montreal Walks for Mental Health Foundation is to organize and grow this annual walk more each year and to support organizations, like Ometz, who provide much needed mental health support services and promote recovery in the community.
Over the last several years Canada and more specifically the Mental Health Commission of Canada has supported the goal of recovery for those living with mental illness.  Recovery does not necessarily mean cure, but rather focuses on people recovering a meaningful life while making the most of their strengths and capacities.
At Ometz, adults living with mental illness are offered a number of services designed to help them achieve their individual goals for recovery in the areas of supported independent living, day to day coping strategies, returning to employment and strategies to help them feel less isolated and more connected to community.   Ometz currently assists over 130 adults with mental illness.
For more information on Montreal Walks for Mental Health 2014, to register as a walker, or to make a donation, click here. We hope to see you in large numbers on October 5th!

The Power of Consistency and Connection

Sharon Bishin,Montréal,2003photo: Chistian FleuryBy Sharon Bishin

Corporate & Employability Trainer


We just ran a pilot Job Search In Action project here at Ometz that had participants reporting an increase in job search activity, motivation and clarity of focus. To what do we attribute this success and how might it impact on YOUR efforts to find work? In a word, consistency.  In another word (or two) reduced isolation.

Our session ran for five continuous mornings and each day we revisited relevant skills such as networking, using social media for job search, positive self-talk and creating action plans. Participants were expected to commit to the entire week and used online and written journals to track their efforts and attitudes.

So, what made the difference? Why did people self-report that they felt more energized, were showing more evidence of informational interview calls and were more strenuously searching sites? That is something that is really hard to assess, however, the pre and post surveys and the “letter to self” documentation participants were asked to fill out (and which they chose to share) indicated that the mere fact of knowing that they were not alone in their employment hunt, that they could discuss and communicate their frustrations as well as their successes with peers – and a facilitator- and that they had the structure of knowing a group was waiting for them….all contributed to a more productive experience.

Part of this situation relates to age. Ometz’ employment demographic is primarily candidates who are 45+ years old.  A 2012  Canadian Library of Parliament Research Publication written by Marie-Claude Langlois examining Canada’s labour market, revealed that youth uses social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter specifically) more than their elders: in 2009, 86% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 who used the Internet had a profile on a social networking site, compared with 44% of people aged 55 and over.  While younger job seekers may find alternate ways to reach out both socially and professionally and feel less isolated during job search, older candidates may be less likely to do so.

But anyone, regardless of age, can feel isolated and pessimistic while hunting for work. So what can you do to strengthen your own job search efforts? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Find – or create – a job search club where you can exchange information, combat isolation and develop a structure that brings order to your job seeking efforts.
  2. Seek out a job search buddy and commit to checking in every day and giving each other that boost to make those tough informational interview calls.
  3. Sign up for courses that will add to your arsenal of skills. Online courses may be convenient but needing to get out to a classroom may engage you more effectively in your environment.
  4. Volunteer. This approach a) reminds you that there are always people who need your help; b) can expose you to a new environment, work domain or set of skills without the pressure of performing for pay; c) allows you to continue to stay connected in your field between paying jobs.

How do YOU keep up your spirit and optimism in the face of unemployment?

Choosing the Right High School

By Joanne Baskin, Manager, School Services

If you have already selected a high school for and with your child for next year, it is probably because of one or more of the following reasons:
It is a cultural/religious “fit”;
It is in close proximity to your home;
It is the same school your older children attend(ed);
It is “what you know” as it is the school you attended.
Those are all pragmatic and legitimately sound reasons; however, it may also be important to consider some other factors in order to ensure your child’s transition from primary school is positive and beneficial to his or her learning and stage of development.
Betsy Van Dorn, in an article in Family, suggests the 3A’s of exploration: attitude, academics and amenities in asking the right questions of a potential school.
Considering a school’s ability to make you feel welcome, unhurried and open to communication is of utmost importance. Understanding how this is facilitated (written communication, email, phone calls, meetings) are ways of seeing what resonates with your style of communication. Knowing the attitudes and policies around partnership with parents and discipline of students are “key” to getting a feel for the school and how it relates to your own values and needs.
Academics are often central to a good school choice therefore understanding the curriculum will be an asset in the selection process. Knowing how the curriculum conforms to Quebec Ministry of Education standards as well as non-secular programming is also important. How well are teachers supported in their learning, such as attending conferences and ongoing professional development may be additional questions to ask. It is also important to understand how the school organizes its resources to cater specifically to your child’s needs.
In the area of amenities, the school building and layout, its general feeling of welcoming in this layout, will enhance a sense of belonging in youth and their families. The use of technology, its space for expression of the arts and physical activity are further components to look at.
Visiting a school beyond its Open House gatherings are another way of feeling out the functioning of the school. Can you see and hear what the school stands for when you walk in? Are the students happy , proud and engaged in learning?
Knowing what your own child requires academically, socially and emotionally is a way to begin this process of exploration in developing the right set of elements to consider and the right questions to ask.

Onouvelles, septembre 2014 : un message de Gail et Howard

Howard Berger et Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Howard Berger et Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Chers amis,

Bien que la Roch Hachana approche à grand pas, nous nous réjouissons encore de notre récente assemblée générale annuelle qui a mis un point final à la célébration de notre 150e anniversaire. Nous regardons l’avenir avec confiance et espoir. Pourquoi? Parce qu’au fil des années, nous avons prouvé que nous sommes une organisation adaptable et réactive. Parce qu’au fil des années, nous avons beaucoup travaillé pour établir des relations, développer des partenariats et mettre en place de nouvelles collaborations. Parce qu’après toutes ces années nous profitons de ce réseau de partenaires, avec lequel nous sommes très engagés. Nous avons développé une collaboration avec près de 500 bénévoles, un conseil d’administration très engagé, 110 membres du personnel dévoués et de nombreux donateurs individuels, des organismes gouvernementaux, des fondations privées et des institutions publiques et privées. Ensemble, nous avons un impact sur des milliers et des milliers de vies chaque année!

Et, en pensant à nos futurs partenaires et amis, nous avons lancé un nouveau programme de collecte de fonds visant à enseigner à nos enfants la philanthropie à travers le site Web ECHOage. Il s’agit d’une application qui a été conçue pour les fêtes d’anniversaire des enfants. L’enfant choisit une organisation caritative enregistrée et donne 50% de ses cadeaux à cet organisme. C’est simple, efficace et éducatif. L’Agence Ometz est l’un des organismes de bienfaisance mentionnés. Quel excellent moyen d’enseigner tôt à nos enfants ce que nos dirigeants communautaires ont instinctivement compris il y a 150 ans!

Chana tova !

Gail et Howard

Onews, September 2014: A message from Gail and Howard

Howard Berger and Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Howard Berger and Gail Small, Co-Executive Directors, Ometz

Dear Friends,

Even as we approach Rosh Hashanah, we are still basking in the glow of our recent Annual General Meeting which brought a close to the celebration of our 150th anniversary year. We look forward to the future with confidence and hope. Why? Because over the years we have proven ourselves to be a nimble and responsive organization.  Because over the years we have worked hard at relationship building, at forming alliances and at establishing new collaborations. Because all these years later we enjoy a network of partners, with whom we are deeply invested. We have developed significant partnerships with close to 500 volunteers, with a highly engaged Board of Directors, with 110 devoted staff members and with numerous individual donors, government agencies, private foundations, and public and private institutions.  And together we have had an impact on thousands and thousands of lives every year!

And with an eye towards future partners and friends, we have launched a new fundraising program aimed at teaching our kids about philanthropy via a website called ECHOage.   This is an online site that was conceived for kids’ birthday parties. The child selects a registered charity and donates 50% of his/her gifts to that charity. It is simple, effective and educational. Ometz is one of the listed charities.  What a terrific way to teach our kids early on what our community leaders understood instinctively 150 years ago!

Shana Tova!

Gail & Howard

It’s The Most Wonderful Time…Of The Year

By Joanne Baskin, Manager, School Services

If you are humming this familiar Bureau En Gros (Staples) commercial jingle, you have already been inundated with countless marketing messages around back to school specials. Apart from the tuition/school fees, books and uniforms, parents are preached to as to what school supplies, clothing, backpacks, lunch bags and locker organizers their children need to be supplied with. In an age of consumerism, parents can be overwhelmed by the marketing messages which only mask the real emotions both parents and students may feel in the anticipation of the start of a new school year.

From a parent’s perspective, some of the common anxieties are:

•    Will my child like his/her teachers?
•    Will my child make new friends?
•    Will he/she be bullied?
•    Will my child be able to keep up with the academic requirements?
•    Will I be able to find the right resources to support my child if more help is required?
•    Will my child be happy?

From a student’s perspective, some of the common anxieties are:
•    Will I like my teacher?
•    Will my peers like me?
•    Will I look stupid?
•    Will I be bullied?
•    Will I be able to keep up?
•    Will my parents be happy with me?
At first glance, the list appears to be the same. However, depending on the parent, and depending on the student, the order of preoccupation may differ. It is important to recognize that each family has its own set of circumstances which will support or challenge these worries. It is also important to establish communication weeks before school starts to address the above concerns, if any, in ways which provide both reassurance and strategies in how best to meet them if they arise.
Here are some suggestions around easing the transition back to school:
1.    Start Early. Get things out of the way before school starts so as not to interfere with the early weeks of routines becoming established. Meeting medical appointments, shopping for required supplies and doing a run through of the morning wake up routine are some ways of getting a head start. If your child walks to school, practice and time the route.
2.    Reset the body clock. Late bedtimes and late wake-ups are common in the summer. Begin a couple of weeks before to get the times closer to school schedules incrementally and  less adjustment once the alarm rings.
3.    Plan Social Activities. Stephanie Dolgoff of parenting Magazine suggests the following:
“Find out before his first day if his friends are going to be in his class, and if they’re not, prepare him for that by talking over whom he can eat lunch with and making plans for after school. See if you can have a late-summer playdate to reconnect him with some of the kids he likes, or even arrange to have breakfast on the first day of school with his best friend and his best friend’s mom. The more he knows about what’s coming up, the better he’ll feel.”
4.    Try to Project Needs. If you or your child is worried about academic performance, re-establish ties with available resources through your school or past tutors. Contact your child’s teacher and school counsellor for further resources once school begins.
5.    Air Your Concerns Together. Create a safe space where your child can vent or reveal any concerns or fears. Listen, remain positive and encourage your child to come up with strategies or solutions. Remind them you are there for them and who else in the school is available for them as well.
Finally, remind your child about his/her own ability to cope and use past examples to reinforce that message. Learning new things and making new friends are great reasons to sing, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Job Search in the Summer

by Sharon Bishin, Corporate & Employability Trainer

by Sharon Bishin, Corporate & Employability Trainer

It’s inevitable….sunny days, warm air wafting in the window, the inviting sound of people outside enjoying the weather….it is really hard to focus job search mid summer. Do you even want a job offer now?

The truth is, however, that this is an important time to be organizing and reaching out, because job search never really stops. Try these seven things (July is month #7) to enhance your summer job search:

1.     Have you clarified what type of industry, company and job that you want? If you are not clear on your goal, it is hard to reach it.  Employability specialists liken this to taking a trip: if you don’t know your destination, how do you even know what route to take?

2.     Are you equally clear on your particular skillset? Employers want to hear an articulate recap of how YOU could bring value to their operation. If you cannot identify your strengths then they will not be so eager to employ you.

3.     Could you be using this downtime for self-improvement by sharpening skills such as learning another computer program, improving a language, practising interview questions, tweaking your CV or improving your profile on a social media platform such as LinkedIn or Twitter?

4.     How strong is your network? Are you continually thinking about which ex-colleagues, business associates, friends, teachers, professionals, fitness partners, company owners, neighbourhood connections, etc… might find your work potential relevant?

5.     Have you mastered the art of the Informational Interview, where you ask someone to meet with you for 15 minutes to talk about their company, their career path or how you might strengthen your skills? This is best not done with the HR department and the focus is on general conversations around the company – NOT as a direct request for a job.

6.     Take a quick pulse of your attitude; are you generally optimistic, energetic and give off a positive vibe? Or are you carrying around some baggage from previous job experiences that work against your candidacy?

7.     Do you commit to at least five job search events a day – responding to postings, emailing contacts, following up on leads, calling for an informational interview, growing your social media presence or setting up job search alerts so that people are able to find you?

Job search is a numbers game.  It is not about doing one or two of the things on the list, it is about doing many of them simultaneously, in order to reap positive rewards. So, certainly enjoy your pool time, but don’t let it overtake the job of getting a job.



Onouvelles, juin 2014 : un message de Gail et Howard

Howard Berger et Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Howard Berger and Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Dessine-moi une étoile – Un succès éclatant !!!

Notre récente levée de fonds à la Place des Arts a permis d’amener Les Silhouettes à Montréal et au Canada pour la première fois. Et ils nous ont « impressionnés »,  ils semblaient tisser leurs corps ensemble en un ballet de figures complexes de danse de l’ombre, envoyant des messages inspirants et des messages d’espoir. Plusieurs membres de la troupe, âgés de 6 à 22 ans, luttent eux-mêmes avec des maladies menaçant leur vie. La danse, tout comme l’art, devient la thérapie. Nous avons été bouleversés par leur talent, leur passion, leur chaleur et leur générosité. Les plus jeunes membres de notre auditoire ont été invités sur scène pour les rencontrer et les saluer après le spectacle.

Nous sommes redevables aux commanditaires de cet événement, Herbert et Véronique Black , et du cocktail, la Banque National, à notre présidente de l’événement, Ruth Bensimon Choueke et son comité infatigable, ainsi qu’à tous nos sponsors, supporters et amis qui nous ont aidés amasser plus de 380 000 $. Ces fonds seront affectés à nos programmes pour les enfants et les jeunes adultes à risque. Votre générosité a également permis à plus de 250 de nos clients d’Ometz d’assister au spectacle.

Tout le monde sort gagnant et nous sommes déjà occupés à planifier notre événement spécial de l’an prochain.


Cela pourrait être nous à Ometz. Lorsque nous avons commencé à célébrer notre 150e anniversaire de service en juin dernier, nous avons eu l’appui de notre Conseil d’administration pour accueillir la conférence conjointe de l’Association pour les services aux enfants et à la famille juive (Association of Jewish Child and Family Services) et l’Association internationale des services d’orientation professionnelle juifs (International Association of Jewish Vocational Services).
Plus tôt ce mois-ci, nous les avons accueillis dans notre belle ville. Plus de 375 délégués de partout au Canada, d’Israël et des États-Unis y ont participé. Ces conférences permettent aux professionnels de se rencontrer et d’échanger sur les recherches, les meilleures pratiques et de discuter des tendances et des défis dans leur monde professionnel. En temps normal, les contraintes budgétaires permettent seulement la participation de quelques-uns de nos employés …  Cette année, en tant qu’hôtes, la majorité de notre personnel a pu assister aux réunions et rencontrer des collègues face à face pour la première fois. Des contacts importants ont été pris et des liens se sont noués qui auront un impact sur les futurs services aux clients.

Une mention spéciale. L’accueil de la réception par le Musée des Beaux-arts a conquis les cœurs des délégués, qui sont devenus des ambassadeurs bienveillants de la ville de Montréal.

Alors merci aux sponsors de notre 150e anniversaire qui nous ont aidés à réaliser ce rêve.
• Fondation communautaire BDH
• Développements Brookline
• Palladin Labs
• La Financière PearTree

De tout cœur, nos remerciements les plus sincères,

Gail Small & Howard Berger

Onews, June 2014: A message from Gail and Howard

Howard Berger and Gail Small, co-directeurs exécutifs, Agence Ometz

Howard Berger and Gail Small, Co-Executive Directors, Ometz


Our recent fundraiser at Place des Arts brought The Silhouettes to Montreal and Canada for the first time. And they ‘WOWED` us – as they wove their bodies together in intricate shadow dance formations, sending messages of inspiration and stories of hope. Some members of the dance troupe, aged 6- 22, do themselves struggle with life threatening diseases. Dance becomes therapy as well as art. We were overwhelmed with their talent, their passion, their warmth and their generosity. Our youngest audience members were invited on stage to meet and greet them after the performance.

We are indebted to our event patrons Herbert and Veronique Black, our cocktail sponsors Banque Nationale, our event Chair,  Ruth Bensimon Choueke and her tireless committee,  and all our sponsors, supporters and friends who helped us raise more than $380,000. These funds will be directed towards our programs for children and  young adults at risk. Your generosity also made it possible to allow more than 250 of our Ometz clients to also attend.

It was a WIN-WIN all around and we are already busy at work planning next year’s special event.

That would be us at Ometz. As we began to celebrate our 150th year of service last June, our Board supported our hosting the  joint conference of the Association of Jewish Child and Family Services and the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services. Earlier this month, we welcomed them to our fair city. More than 375 delegates attended from all over Canada, Israel and the USA. These conferences allow practitioners to meet and to exchange research, best practices and discuss trends and challenges in their professional worlds.  Normally budget restraints permit only a few of our staff to attend.. This year, as hosts, we were able to have the majority of our staff attend sessions and meet colleagues face to face for the first time. Many important contacts were made and relationships begun, which will impact on our future services to clients.

Of special note, our host reception at the Musée des beaux arts won over the hearts of the delegates, who left as goodwill ambassadors on behalf of Montréal.

So thanks to the sponsors of our 150th year who helped us realize this dream.
• BDH Community Foundation
• Brookline Developments
• Palladin Labs
• PearTree Financial

With heartfelt thanks,

Gail Small & Howard Berger

Are there really legitimate opportunities to work from home? Yes!

Reboot. Reframe. Re-examine. Renew.

by Sharon Bishin, Corporate & Employability Trainer


There are many reasons people want to work at home.  “It’s amazing”, says Meryl.  “I have no commute, I save money on clothes, have a chance to throw in a load of wash on my break, and get to look outside at my own front yard throughout the day.”

‘Working from home’ is a description that covers a variety of definitions or situations, however, a Statistics Canada 2008 report stated that close to 60% of self-employed workers (as opposed to those who tele-commute from a job) do so at home – about 1,842,000 people.  So, even though approximately 15% of all workers in Canada are self-employed, they account for about one-half of those who work at home – slightly more women than men.  Certainly, too, there are many people who use home-based work simply to augment other income streams.

One big challenge, of course, is to weed out the scams from the real opportunities.  That’s where the EEC comes in. The Ontario-based Employment & Education Centre (EEC) –, in conjunction with CERIC (Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling), researched the subject and developed a training program which is designed to help individuals learn how to seek legitimate home employment opportunities, while avoiding the pitfalls of online scams.

From this initiative comes the question: Are there really legitimate opportunities to work from home? The answer is a resounding yes. The number of employers and independent contractor relationships as well as the variety of the skills needed was a surprise to the EEC.  And Ometz is passing on that information to you. Wednesday, June 11th, Ometz is hosting the first three hour “Legitimate Opportunities to Work from Home” workshop: ( ) complete with more than 50 pages of handouts that detail sites and information about more than a dozen possible work options including telephone-based work, becoming a virtual assistant, transcription and developing e-learning opportunities.

I have been certified by the EEC to deliver this workshop and look forward to seeing you, or answering any questions you may have: