When I started working at the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, I was not exactly sure what to expect—I was not aware of what the organization does for the community. They hired me as a summer student to support the advocacy and young leadership programs. I understood the vital function of how the Federation connects the Edmonton Jewish community only when I became fully involved.
The Federation staff share a passion for bringing the Jewish community together. Whether it is programming, education, or communication, everyone has a role in ensuring the success of the Federation’s inner workings. As a result, this keeps the Jewish people of Edmonton united in faith and community. I suddenly found myself invested. I, too, wanted to contribute to a thriving and vibrant Jewish community. One of my duties was assisting with event planning—specifically Pride Shabbat and Heritage Festival.
The Heritage Festival highlights Edmonton's diversity through traditions, food, and performances. I was really looking forward to taking part in the setup of the Israel Pavilion and helping with running it throughout the weekend.
In previous years, I visited the Israel Pavilion at Heritage Festival as a community member, after they already set it up. I did not realize how much effort that was involved in putting it together. This year, as a community planner for the Federation, I came in and saw three large, empty, white tents. We had a ton of tasks to complete. Banners and panels had to be zip-tied. The marketplace had to be set up, and the cultural section featuring a chuppah had to be constructed. The archeological dig sandboxes needed to be built. There was a more significant amount of labour than one would imagine. The preparation was very tiring and difficult, but it was all worth it in the end.
Heritage Festival was amazing. It was an enjoyable experience working at the archeological dig and the cultural tent, especially interacting with kids and parents. I chatted with people from all over the world, including Germany, South Korea, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Morocco, and Nepal. People were very interested in hearing more about Israel and the Jewish community here in Edmonton. Edmonton's respect for different cultures inspired me and I had a great time learning about other countries and traditions while sharing our own.
Working at Heritage Festival was certainly one highlight of my term at the Federation. Being a part of the Heritage Festival gave me a renewed appreciation of how important it is to preserve my Jewish heritage and celebrating Israel while fostering an environment of cultural exchange and learning. The group of volunteers came together and worked extremely hard all weekend—resulting in over 10,000 people entering the Israel Pavilion. The pavilion also won this year’s vignette award for the best cultural experience.
After 13 weeks of working at the Federation, I feel a mixture of pride in what I have accomplished, and sadness that I must leave as the school year begins in September. During my time at the Federation, I contributed to the thriving Jewish community in Edmonton. I have learned a lot from the wonderful group we have at the office, as well as made core memories I will remember for a long time.