Arlene Fels helps empower individuals with disabilities

By Gail Small, Chief Executive Officer

Arlene Fels and Gail Small

Arlene Fels and Gail Small

Diagnosed from birth with cerebral palsy, Arlene Fels has led a meaningful and enriching life despite her disability. In fact the way she has led her life would probably put many of us to shame. Arlene worked as a teacher’s aid in a nursery school for 10 years and then as a clerical worker at JVS (Jewish Vocational Services) for 19 years until her retirement in 1999. A number of us who were working in the building at that time probably remember greeting Arlene in the halls and her sunny, upbeat disposition.

Arlene has gained the respect and admiration of so many people because of her determination not to let anything get in the way of what she wants to accomplish for herself. Since Arlene’s retirement she has devoted herself to helping others by giving back to organizations that helped her. Organizations such as the JGH, Miriam Home, the Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, CJCS and yes – Ometz.

Arlene’s 5-year gift to Ometz is allowing us to provide a subsidized work experience for an individual living with a disability. We are using this subsidy to encourage an employer to hire an individual living with a disability who is having difficulty finding a job. The placement could be either within Ometz, our Federation system or in a private company.

We have unveiled a plaque in her honor, as our appreciation for the important contribution that she is making to our community. Thank you, Arlene!

Arlene Fels aide à renforcer l’autonomie des personnes vivant avec un handicap

Par Gail Small, Chef de la direction

Arlene Fels et Gail Small

Arlene Fels et Gail Small

Diagnostiquée dès la naissance avec une paralysie cérébrale, Arlene Fels a mené une vie significative et enrichissante malgré son handicap. En fait, la façon dont elle a mené sa vie rendrait probablement beaucoup d’entre nous honteux. Arlene a travaillé comme aide-enseignante dans une école maternelle pendant 10 ans, puis comme employée de bureau à JVS (Services professionnels juifs) durant 19 ans, jusqu’à sa retraite en 1999. Nombre d’entre nous qui travaillions dans l’édifice à ce moment se souviennent probablement d’Arlene saluant dans les couloirs et son caractère heureux et optimiste.

Arlene a gagné le respect et l’admiration de tant de personnes en raison de sa détermination à ne pas laisser quoi que ce soit l’empêcher d’accomplir ce qu’elle souhaitait. Depuis sa retraite, Arlene se consacre à aider les autres en redonnant aux organisations qui l’ont aidée. Des organisations telles que l’Hôpital juif (JGH), Miriam Home, le Centre de réadaptation Mackay, CJCA et oui, aussi l’Agence Ometz.

Le don d’Arlene à l’Agence Ometz d’une durée de 5 ans nous permet d’offrir une expérience de travail subventionnée à une personne qui vit avec un handicap. Nous utilisons cette subvention pour encourager un employeur à embaucher une personne vivant avec un handicap et qui éprouve des difficultés à trouver un emploi. Le placement peut être soit dans l’Agence Ometz, au sein de notre Fédération ou dans une entreprise privée.

Nous avons dévoilé une plaque en son honneur, afin de montrer notre reconnaissance pour l’importante contribution qu’elle apporte à notre communauté. Merci, Arlene!

Music in Recovery

By Marcie Klein, Manager, Mental Health Support Services

The Glee Club performing at our annual Hanukkah celebration.

The Glee Club performing at our annual Hanukkah celebration.

As a result of a new partnership between the Ometz and Cummings Center mental health support services departments, and thanks to a generous grant from the Montreal Walks for Mental Health Foundation, our clients now have the opportunity to participate in our Glee Club, a combination choir and performance group meeting weekly to create music together. Participants are all adults living with mental illness who are connected to both agencies’ mental health support departments.

Music has long been used in many settings to help people manage symptoms of mental illness and generally to promote mental health and well-being. We now know it can be an extremely important tool in mental health recovery. Music therapy within the context of a Glee Club program uses music to achieve non-musical goals such as building self-esteem and confidence, encouraging team work and social skills, and managing symptoms through the distraction and focus of the music.

Our Glee Club, led by music therapist Victoria McNeill, started meeting last month and has already learned and rehearsed several songs together which they performed at our annual Hanukkah party this week to a reaction of thunderous applause from the crowd!

We are looking forward to many more exciting performances coming soon from our Glee Club and to welcoming new club participants who wish to discover the magic of music in mental health recovery.

La musique dans le rétablissement

Par Marcie Klein, Chef de service, Soutien en santé mentale

Le Glee Club lors d'une prestation à notre célébration pour Hanoukka.

Le Glee Club lors d’une prestation à notre célébration pour Hanoukka.

Résultant d’un nouveau partenariat entre les services de soutien en santé mentale de l’Agence Ometz et du Centre Cummings, et grâce à une généreuse subvention de la Fondation MONTRÉAL MARCHE pour la santé mentale, nos clients ont maintenant la possibilité de participer à notre Glee Club. Il combine chorale et représentation et se réunit chaque semaine de créer de la musique ensemble. Les participants sont tous les adultes vivant avec une maladie mentale qui sont en relation avec les départements de soutien en santé mentale de ces deux agences.

Depuis longtemps la musique a été utilisée pour aider les gens à gérer les symptômes de la maladie mentale et, de façon générale, pour promouvoir la santé mentale et le bien-être. Nous savons maintenant qu’elle peut être un outil extrêmement important dans le rétablissement en santé mentale. La musicothérapie, dans le cadre d’un programme Glee Club, utilise la musique pour atteindre les objectifs de non musicaux tels que renforcer l’estime de soi et la confiance, encourager le travail d’équipe et les compétences sociales, ainsi que la gestion de symptômes grâce au divertissement et à la concentration sur de la musique.

Notre Glee Club, dirigé par musicothérapeute Victoria McNeill, a commencé à se rencontrer le mois dernier. Les participants ont déjà appris et répété plusieurs chansons ensemble et, lors de notre fête annuelle de Hanoukka, ils ont présenté un spectacle qui a provoqué un tonnerre d’applaudissements du public!

Nous attendons avec impatience les prochaines représentations de notre Glee Club et aussi d’y accueillir de nouveaux participants qui souhaitent découvrir la magie de la musique dans le rétablissement en santé mentale.

Arlene Fels shares her story

Arlene Fels

Arlene Fels

Arlene Fels was born with a disability that could have prevented her from obtaining meaningful work. Her perseverance and positive attitude towards life led her to JVS, where she was employed for 19 years. Arlene has since retired, and she is now involved with creating and funding a program at Ometz called “The Arlene Fels Work Experience”, which helps individuals living with disabilities find jobs. Through her donation, Arlene has enabled us to provide work subsidies in order to incentivize employers to hire someone with a disability.

We interviewed Arlene about her time at Ometz (formerly Jewish Vocational Services) and why she decided to give back to Ometz in such an impactful way.

“I started working as a volunteer at Jewish Vocational Services in 1980, where I helped with filing and sometimes helping the receptionist find the files of JVS clients. I liked it a lot and was very happy, so JVS hired me. I worked at JVS from 1980-1999.

My parents were so proud of me for having that job. When I retired, I felt a little bit sad to leave but also happy because of what I had accomplished. Now, my family is gone and I’m the only one left, so having the connection to Ometz is very important to me.

I feel personally that Ometz is important because it gives people the opportunity to find jobs, like they helped me find a job. The most important thing was that I loved the people that worked with me, and I hope others can get that opportunity as well.”

Arlene Fels partage son histoire

Arlene Fels

Arlene Fels

Arlene Fels est née avec un handicap qui aurait pu l’empêcher d’obtenir un travail enrichissant. Sa persévérance et son attitude positive envers la vie l’ont conduite à JVS, où elle a travaillé pendant 19 ans. Arlene a depuis pris sa retraite, et elle est maintenant impliquée dans la création et le financement d’un programme de l’Agence Ometz appelé «L’expérience de travail Arlene Fels» qui aide les personnes vivant avec un handicap à trouver un emploi. Grâce à ce don, Arlene nous a permis de fournir des subventions salariales afin d’inciter des employeurs à embaucher une personne handicapée.

Nous avons interviewé Arlene sur le temps qu’elle a passé à l’Agence Ometz (anciennement Jewish Vocational Services) et pourquoi elle a décidé de redonner avec un tel impact à l’Agence Ometz.

«J’ai commencé à travailler en tant que bénévole avec Jewish Vocational Services en 1980. J’aidais au classement et, parfois aussi, la réceptionniste pour trouver des dossiers de clients. J’ai beaucoup aimé mon expérience et j’étais très heureuse, c’est alors que JVS m’a embauchée. J’y ai travaillé de 1980 à 1999.

Mes parents étaient tellement fiers de moi pour avoir obtenu ce travail. Lorsque j’ai pris ma retraite, je me suis sentie un peu triste et en même temps heureuse de ce que j’avais accompli. Maintenant, ma famille est partie et je reste seule, alors, avoir une connexion avec l’Agence Ometz est très important pour moi.

Mon sentiment est que l’Agence Ometz est importante, car elle donne aux gens la possibilité de trouver un emploi, comme elle m’a aidé à trouver un emploi. La chose la plus importante était que j’aimais les personnes qui travaillaient avec moi. Alors j’espère que d’autres auront aussi cette opportunité. »

Engaging Young Adults to Help Kids Shine

Kylie Huberman

Kylie Huberman

By Kylie Huberman, A Chance to Shine Young Adults Committee Chair

I first came into contact with Ometz through Concordia University. I was a student studying Human Relations as my major and Human Rights as my minor. In order to graduate, I had to partake in a fieldwork practice experience. In my final year of school, an Ometz employee came into my classroom to talk about the organization. Specifically, she was recruiting someone to come in and implement their fieldwork practice at the Ometz Jr MYP program. The JR MYP afterschool program engages children to succeed by providing them academic and social support. The children are supported by volunteers, who act as mentors over the course of the year. I knew that my partner and I would not only benefit from this because it was within our Jewish community, but we would be able to implement a program that would impact the lives of these children. I am so thankful for this opportunity because it led me to apply to a position within Ometz.
When I got the job as fundraising intern, my title changed to the A Chance to Shine Chair of the Young Adult Committee. Every year, Ometz has an annual gala raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the child services and programs that the organization provides. My employers were very open to starting a new initiative called the Shine Afterparty. We decided to create this initiative in order to engage the 18-30 age cohort of our Jewish community. I started as an intern once a week throughout the year and I got hired as a summer student so that I can work on the party full-time.
Because I was organizing the Afterparty, inevitably my proudest moment was seeing the outcome, on the night of the event. The A Chance to Shine gala was so well put together and the Shine Afterparty was a huge success. There were over 100 guests who attended the Shine Afterparty. I received so much support from the Ometz staff as well as the committee members. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling experience. I knew that the evening would be successful, if I could be confident that one guest felt inspired. The goal of the Afterparty is to create future ambassadors within Ometz and the community. Not only did people feel inspired, but I’ve received an overwhelming response from the attended guests.
Ometz is truly a special organization. What is unique about the organization is that they are open-minded to new programs and opportunities. Ometz will continue to prosper and will only grow to support more members of our community. There is still so much about Ometz that I have yet to learn. Although I will be leaving to Israel for a year to study a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership, I know that my time at Ometz is not over.

Onews, January 2014: A message from Gail and Howard

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

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

By Gail Small and Howard Berger, Co-Executive Directors

Happy New Year!

2014 has already set in and with it most of us have made some heartfelt resolutions that we plan to keep…only this time we really meant it!

Well Ometz is really no different!  We are a group of people who want to help and we really mean it too!

Year in, year out we try to help our fellow community members who may need assistance settling in Montreal, finding work, adapting to a family crisis or living with the challenges of school, of bereavement, of divorce, of poverty or of mental illness in a family.  These are real, daily and daunting challenges but our resolution is to offer the best possible services we can to support our clients and help them become more resilient.

At Ometz we have made a promise to our clients –   to deliver accessible, personalized, and culturally-sensitive human services, founded on Jewish values, and to be responsive, compassionate, engaged, innovative and inspiring. We try to deliver on that promise every day.

We cannot do this alone and in truth we are not alone. As they say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – and our parts include a Board of 15 passionate  volunteers; a staff of 100 devoted professionals;  and close to 400 volunteers who mentor, tutor, drive, deliver, source out donors for missing items for needy clients and generally make themselves available for whatever needs to be done.

So how are we doing? Here is a note that we received just before the holidays.

From Josh

“Finding a job would have been nearly impossible without the help of Ometz. Its Employment counselors do a lot more than simply find jobs for people. They help develop communities as well as assure that communities remain intact and strong. I can go on for hours recounting countless stories about cousins, friends or various other individuals who had to take their families elsewhere. For many people, patience is a word that is hard to understand. Ometz helps people understand the importance of that word …. “

While it’s nice to get this feedback, it is the knowledge that we can make a difference that inspires us to re-dedicate ourselves anew each year. Our resolution to you and all who may seek our help, is to fulfill our promises and to strive to better our services in every way we can.

Happy New Year – may it bring  good health and a sense of fulfillment for us all.

Onouvelles, novembre 2013: Un message de Gail et Howard

Gail-Howard2013Même si les festivités entourant notre 150e anniversaire vont bon train, la vie continue à l’Agence Ometz!

Le 20 octobre dernier, nous nous sommes joints à de nombreuses autres agences communautaires dans le cadre de MONTRÉAL MARCHE pour la santé mentale. Une fois encore, Margaret Trudeau a apporté son soutien en tant qu’invitée spéciale et conférencière d’honneur. Plus de 1 000 Montréalais se sont rassemblés pour sillonner les rues du centre-ville de Montréal. En tant que membre fondateur de cet événement depuis maintenant 5 ans, nous sommes heureux de voir le nombre de participants grossir d’année en année, nous aidant ainsi à augmenter la visibilité de cette cause et à démystifier cette maladie dont souffrent tant de membres de notre communauté. À l’Agence Ometz, nous soutenons des centaines de personnes et de familles aux prises avec la maladie mentale en offrant une variété de programmes adaptés.

Au même moment, un certain nombre d’entre nous se trouvait à Toronto pour assister à une conférence sur la pauvreté au sein de la communauté juive de tout le Canada. Les 11 agences qui constituent l’Association canadienne des familles et des enfants juifs se sont réunies pour discuter de ce défi qui continue de progresser malgré tous nos efforts pour en identifier les causes et les éradiquer. Dans nos collectivités, nous abordons souvent le thème de la pauvreté dans son ensemble avec de nombreux partenaires appartenant à la communauté en général, de même qu’avec le gouvernement. Cette réunion était une occasion rare de discuter des défis que doit relever la communauté juive : que signifie répondre aux besoins de base des Juifs – c’est-à-dire quels sont les coûts de base du mode de vie d’une personne juive pratiquante – et comment faire pour ne pas encourager une dépendance continue? Les solutions ne sont pas simples à trouver, mais la possibilité d’échanger sur les défis que nous avons en commun était une occasion spéciale pour tous. Et, surtout, la discussion s’est tenue avec des représentants du réseau des Fédérations de tout le Canada, qui sont les principaux financeurs de nombre de nos programmes. Cela a provoqué un échange salutaire d’information et une saine discussion sur la mise en place d’une vision commune quant à la manière d’apporter ensemble les meilleures réponses possibles à ces questions.   

Pour finir, Hanouka est à nos portes! Cette année, le 25 Kislev tombe le 28 novembre, coïncidant avec le jour de l’Action de grâce aux États-Unis, ce qui ne se reproduira pas avant très longtemps. Beaucoup d’entre nous ont de nombreuses raisons d’être reconnaissants. L’Agence Ometz s’adresse de nouveau à vous, au moyen de notre publipostage, pour solliciter votre aide en vue de répondre aux nombreux besoins de notre communauté. Au cours de l’année écoulée, plus de 13 000 membres de la communauté se sont tournés vers nous pour différentes raisons : trouver un emploi, établir leur famille à Montréal alors qu’ils arrivent de très loin, gérer une dépendance ou la maladie mentale, obtenir des conseils, et lutter pour joindre les deux bouts avec des ressources trop maigres. Tandis que nous attendons tous avec impatience la fête des Lumières, nous espérons que vous répondrez à notre appel et que vous apporterez la lumière et la chaleur de cette fête à ceux qui sont vraiment dans le besoin en visitant le https://www.ometz.ca/qui+sommes+nous/donnez/

Joyeuse Hanouka à tous!

Onews, November 2013: A message from Gail and Howard

Gail-Howard2013By Gail Small and Howard Berger, Co-Executive Directors

Even as we move through our festive 150th anniversary year, life at Ometz goes on as usual.

On October 20th, we joined many other community agencies for the MONTREAL WALKS for Mental Health. Once again Margaret Trudeau lent her personal support as a special guest and featured speaker. More than 1,000 Montrealers turned up to wind their way through the streets of downtown Montreal. As a founding member of this event 5 years ago, we are delighted to watch the number of participants grow from year to year, as we try to raise the profile of this cause, demystifying this illness that affects so many members of our community. At Ometz, we support hundreds of individuals and families coping with mental illness through a variety of programmatic responses.

At the same time, a number of us were in Toronto attending a conference discussing poverty within the Jewish community across Canada. The Canadian Association of Jewish Family and Child Agencies  representing 11 agencies, gathered to address this ongoing challenge which continues to grow despite our best efforts to identify and eradicate its causes. In our home communities we often have discussions with many partners in the general community as well as government concerning poverty in general. This was a rare opportunity to discuss the Jewish challenges  we face – what does it mean to provide for basic Jewish needs – i.e. the costs of living a basic  but observant Jewish lifestyle – and how to do this without fostering  ongoing dependence? The answers are not simple but the ability to share our common challenges were a rare opportunity for all. Most importantly the discussion was held with representatives of the Federations network from across Canada, who are the principal funders of many of our programs. This precipitated a healthy exchange of information and discussion around developing a shared insight as to how to best to address these important questions together.

Finally, Hanukkah is almost here. This year the 25th of Kislev falls on November 28 and coincides with the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which will not occur again for many, many years. Many of us have much for which to be thankful.  At Ometz, we are reaching out to you, , once again via our direct mail solicitation to help us meet the many needs of our community. This past year  more than 13,000 community members turned  to  us  for a variety of reasons – finding a job, settling their family in Montreal as they arrive from far away, coping with addiction or mental illness, seeking counselling, and striving to making ends meet with too few resources. As we all look forward to the holiday of lights, we hope you will respond to our appeal, and bring the warmth and light of the holiday to those most in need https://www.ometz.ca/about+us/donate/

A Joyous and Happy Hanukkah to all!