Working Hard for Our Community

April 21Meet the great people behind the great programs and services offered at Ometz! Our colleague Cathy Grundman discusses Ometz Employment Services, and how our team can motivate job seekers and help employers looking for the right fit in their company.

What is your work position and how long have you been working at Ometz?

I am Cathy Grundman, Employment Specialist and Corporate Business Development here at Ometz. This coming June will be my Chai anniversary with the organization!

What are your day-to-day activities?

As an Employment Specialist, I help job seekers on their career path in terms of job searching, employment needs and self-reliance. While every job seeker will have unique needs, they are coached on key job search principles. This includes: developing a job search strategy, teaching them to present themselves well in writing (a CV), helping them prepare for interviews and phone calls and instructing them on how to navigate the job market.
As part of the Business development team, I assist in identifying company leads, pitching our services to new clients and maintaining a good working relationship with new and existing contacts.

What can an employer or a job seeker expect from Ometz Employment Services?

Our team will always be an integral part of helping those in need. We offer empowerment and motivation for the job seeker along with a humanitarian approach throughout their transnational period. We match the client’s skill sets to the right employment opportunities.

We offer a personalized service to all employers. Our team specializes in the local job market, and offers employers services tailored to their needs, regardless of their business’ size or industry.

How will Ometz Employment Services evolve in the future?
We are well on our way to launching a new portal which will facilitate direct and speedy access between employers and job seekers. This will allow a more efficient and modern way to connect to people by offering tech savvy means to helping our clients.

To find out more about Ometz Employment Services, visit

Établir une connexion

April 15_Lindsay WaxmanPar Lindsay Waxman

C’était en après-midi, à l’automne, et Sam et moi venions de terminer notre première séance à l’Agence Ometz. Nous nous étions assis l’un en face de l’autre, et l’attitude «trop cool pour l’école» remplissait la salle. Il n’avait pas apporté de sac à dos, d’étui à crayons, ni de travail scolaire. Au cours de mes trois dernières années en tant que bénévole pour le Programme de l’Agence  « Taylor Adolescent Program » j’ai rencontré de nombreux étudiants — chacun avec des défis uniques réalisant des progrès indéniables. Cependant, aucun voyage n’a été aussi passionnant que celui dans lequel je suis engagée en ce moment.

Quand j’ai commencé à travailler avec Sam, sa présence était loin d’être assidue, et quand il venait, il fallait beaucoup de persuasion pour le faire travailler; il ne se souvenait jamais de mon nom et semblait totalement désintéressé. Comme je voyais en lui beaucoup de potentiel, je gardais espoir. Les mardis et les jeudis, à  chaque séance qui passait, nous avons commencé à développer une relation — à apprendre à mieux nous connaître. Ce lien que nous développions montrait un progrès, et Sam a finalement commencé à apporter son travail scolaire.

Le progrès s’est annoncé avec une simple feuille de travail. Il l’a sorti de son sac à dos, froissée et déchirée, et je n’aurais pas pu être plus heureuse. Je n’aurais jamais cru que les sciences du niveau secondaire m’apporteraient autant de joie. Ce papier était beaucoup plus qu’un simple bout de papier qu’il avait jeté au fond de son sac; c’était pour Sam la première étape vers le contrôle de sa vie scolaire, et une chance de devenir un élève autonome et indépendant. Au cours de ces derniers mois, depuis la toute première feuille de travail, nos séances ont été remplies de nombreuses autres feuilles de travail, d’un cartable occasionnel, des cartes aide-mémoire, et même d’un manuel.

Bien que ces actions puissent sembler banales pour d’autres, ce sont des pas de géant pour Sam. Beaucoup de choses dans sa vie demeurent instables et difficiles, et pour lui, c’est un exploit formidable de se concentrer sur sa vie scolaire au milieu de toutes ses luttes. Néanmoins, il arrive à l’Agence Ometz en souriant, avec des histoires hilarantes et une attitude «juste assez cool pour l’école». Non seulement maintenant il se souvient de mon nom, mais nous avons aussi développé des liens solides. Nous rions, étudions, et travaillons à développer des stratégies, nous parlons de ses difficultés, et occasionnellement, il m’enseigne des pas de danse nouveaux et cool.

Ma relation avec Sam a grandi et évolué, et elle est mutuellement bénéfique. J’apprends tellement de lui, et il s’améliore sans cesse sur le plan de ses responsabilités et de son organisation. Je suis vraiment reconnaissante pour le programme « Taylor Adolescent Program » de l’Agence Ometz. C’est pour lui un endroit où il peut venir prendre un repas chaud, où il se sent en sécurité et à l’aise, et où il a une chance de réaliser son plein potentiel. Travailler avec lui a été une expérience passionnante, parfois écrasante, mais tout compte fait, extrêmement gratifiante. Je sais que cela a été un parcours très formateur pour moi, et je crois que le travail que nous avons accompli ensemble a fait beaucoup de bien à Sam, et qu’il continuera à grandir.

Pour plus de renseignements sur les services de bénévolat de l’Agence Ometz, visitez

Making a Connection

April 15_Lindsay WaxmanBy Lindsay Waxman

It was a fall afternoon when Sam and I had our first session at Ometz. We sat across from each other, and the “too cool for school” attitude filled the room. He did not bring a backpack, pencil case, or any school work. Over my past three years as a volunteer for the Ometz Taylor Adolescent Program, I have come across many students – each with their unique challenges and undeniable progress. However, there has been no journey as exciting as the one I am on right now.

When I started working with Sam, his attendance was less than regular, and when he did come it took a lot of convincing to get him to work; he never remembered my name and appeared disinterested. I remained hopeful, because I saw huge potential in him. As each Tuesday and Thursday session went by, we began forming a relationship – getting to know one another better. The bond we had started building evoked progress, and Sam finally started bringing in his school work.

The progress began with one single worksheet. He pulled it out of his backpack, wrinkled and torn, and I could not have been happier. I never thought high school science would bring me so much joy. This was so much more than just a paper that he threw in the bottom of his bag; this was Sam’s first step towards taking control of his academic life and becoming an autonomous, independent learner. Over the course of the past few months, since the very first work sheet, our sessions have been filled with many worksheets, the occasional binder, cue cards, and even a textbook.

While these actions may seem trivial to others, these are huge steps for Sam. Many things in his life remain unstable and difficult, and it is a tremendous feat for him to focus on his academic life amidst all these struggles. Nonetheless, he comes into Ometz smiling, with hilarious stories and a “just cool enough for school” attitude. Not only does he remember my name, but we have developed a strong bond. We laugh, study, work on strategies, talk about his hardships, and he occasionally teaches me the newest and coolest dance moves.

The relationship I have with Sam has grown and evolved, and it is mutually beneficial. I am learning so much from him, and he is improving in terms of his responsibility and organization. I am thankful that the Ometz Taylor Adolescent Program is somewhere he can come to get a hot meal, feel safe and comfortable, and hopefully realize his full potential. It has been exciting, occasionally overwhelming, but at the end of the day, extremely gratifying to work with him. I know that this has been a very formative experience for me, and I believe the work we have accomplished together has done a lot of good for him, and that he will only continue to grow.

For more information on how to get involved with Ometz Volunteer Services, visit

Help Yourself by Helping Others

March 24_JaniceHeftMeet the great people behind the great programs and services offered at Ometz! Our colleague Janice Heft discusses Ometz Volunteer Services, and how you can get involved and help the community.
What is your work position and how long have you been working at Ometz?

I am Janice Heft, Manager of Volunteer Services at Ometz, and have been with the organization since 2009. This is the best job in the world because it connects me to people who are so generous of spirit who contribute their precious time to help others.

What volunteering opportunities does Ometz offer?

Volunteering at Ometz is usually in the form of a mentorship. We ask our volunteers to commit to forming and building a relationship with a client and to always act as a positive role model regardless of the type of intervention.

A mentor can be a big brother or big sister to a Jewish child, adolescent or even young adult. Each pair will meet minimally every two weeks and they plan their own activities, either an activity they both enjoy or the mentor will try to expose the child to something new. It is always easier to build a new friendship around an activity, and we encourage the pairs to go out by providing a monthly allowance for the mentor to spend when they go out together. Like any relationship, there are ups and downs. Our volunteer team is always available to provide advice and tools to help navigate through the journey.

A volunteer can also be an academic mentor. In the past, volunteers were tutors, now we rely on our volunteers to be so much more. Academic mentors are building a relationship with the student and again, act as role models in an educational setting. These are people who are moving forward with their education, successful students working toward graduation. That is the best example to set! When the academic mentor helps a student to find a strategy that helps him to learn, rather than just reviewing what the teacher has already taught, then this pair is building a relationship around skill building and not just academic content.

We recently started a Reading/Play program where volunteers are role models to mothers of young children. The volunteer’s role is to read and play with children while showing mothers that this is a beautiful way to bond with their child. At the same time, the volunteers in this program are building relationships with the mothers and are supports for them with any parenting issues they might have.

What impact does volunteering have on the community?

The impact that a volunteer can have on a client is boundless, beginning with the stable and supportive relationship. These relationships build strong and stable individuals which in turn strengthen the foundation of our community, which of course begins with the people within it. And of course, the impact on the volunteer is huge. Our feedback so often is that our volunteer realizes that he or she has learned more and received as much or more from the relationship than the person that they set out to support.

What does the future hold for Ometz Volunteer Services?

We are building peer groups among our volunteers so that they can speak to each other and build their relationships. The future holds more social activities and skills building for our team of fabulous and cherished volunteers.

To find out more about the different volunteering opportunities Ometz offers, visit

Helping the Community, One Step at a Time

February 25Meet the great people behind the great programs and services offered at Ometz! Our colleague Deborah Groper discusses the Small Steps program, and the support and benefits it provides to parents and children.

What is your position and how long have you been working at Ometz?
My name is Deborah Groper and I am a Program Manager for School Services at Ometz. For the past 14 years, I have been working closely with the Jewish day schools, providing Occupational and Speech Therapy services and Psycho-educational assessments to their students.

Could you describe the Small Steps program?
Small Steps grew out of an innovative relationship with McGill University, specifically within the departments of OT, Speech and Communication Disorders, and the Ben Weider JCC facility. This partnership allows McGill interns to get training in their respective professional fields, under Ometz supervision, and with campers from the Friendly Faces day camp who are in need of specialized supports. Registered campers receive quality, intensive therapy in a warm and welcoming social summer environment, at no additional cost. In addition, Master’s students learn in a real life setting. Ometz has even hired some of these students after graduation. Ultimately, this is a win/win situation for everyone! The Ben Weider Friendly Faces day camp benefits from having programs that attract and speak to needs from within.

What is new about the Small Steps program in 2016?
In the summer of 2015, we provided therapy to 18 children, ages 4-10 with mild to moderate developmental delays from all parts of the city. Small Steps is now in its 5th year. We are hoping that in the coming year, we will be able to expand this number to 25.

What inspires you most in your work?
I love being part of an initiative that is helping parents and their children in such a special model of partnership, professional learning and especially growth for kids.

To find out more about the Small Steps program,visit

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.”