The importance of the word “community” was voiced over and over as an enthusiastic and energetic group – mostly young parents – assembled, September 20, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) to discuss the findings of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s survey of Jewish parents with young children conducted this past April.
Some mentioned they wanted “the community” to be like what they had experienced in downtown Toronto. Childcare was another concern.
There was a rousing discussion of “cost per value” for synagogue membership because “unlike swimming lessons,” it’s harder to demonstrate benefits like “love of Israel,” and expenses such as daycare make shul membership hard to afford.
“Once you can demonstrate that your institution offers perceived value, there is momentum,” said Federation President and CEO Andrea Freedman Ottawa.
The survey revealed that different families had different needs and Freedman said finding the right fit is “a bit like dating to find out what the right match is. It’s not one size fits all.”
The goal of the survey was to understand how parents of young children view the community, their perceptions of the Jewish organizations they participate in, and what the barriers are to greater participation.
“Understanding the needs today and for the future of our Jewish community is extremely important to me and to Andrea,” said Federation Chair Linda Kerzner. “Genuinely listening and developing plans in relation to our community’s diverse needs cannot come from sitting around our Federation Board table. It has to come from asking all of you.”
The survey was designed and implemented by Measuring Success, a research firm that has worked with hundreds of Jewish organizations in Canada and the U.S.
Freedman presented the results of the survey, explaining they enable Federation and local Jewish organizations to better understand the preferences and needs of young families so that they can effectively be engaged in meaningful ways.
There were over 300 responses to the survey, representing approximately 50 per cent of Jewish households with young children in Ottawa. Freedman said the response rate far surpassed expectations.
Freedman called attention to several notable findings from the survey.
Ottawa is below the North American average when parents were asked the extent to which they would agree with statements such as “The Jewish community is welcoming to me.”
Everyone in the community has a role to play in making the community more welcoming, said Freedman. “The more comfortable you feel when you walk in a room, the more responsibility you have to make others feel welcome.”
Ottawa’s Jewish preschools and three of four supplementary schools are above the Canadian average for likelihood to be recommended by parents.
For supplementary schools, a lack of priority and inconvenient locations were seen as the main barriers to greater participation – financial incentives would have a low impact on increasing enrolment.
However, significant financial incentives would yield a 100 per cent increase in synagogue membership of families with young children; and a temporary, partial financial subsidy would yield a 26 per cent increase.
For day schools, a temporary partial financial subsidy would lead to a temporary 33 per cent increase in enrolment and a 10 per cent increase in permanent enrolment once the subsidized years are complete – unless the school demonstrates ongoing value while the subsidies are in effect.
For SJCC membership, a temporary partial financial subsidy would yield a 100 per cent increase in membership of families with young children.
Each of Ottawa’s Jewish organizations – including schools and congregations – has received a presentation on the survey’s findings particular to them so that they can use the data to better understand the needs of families with young children and to better serve them.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/young-families-survey for a report with highlights from the survey.