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Friday, September 19, 2014

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UJA signs violate Vaughan bylaws

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Alan Shefman, left, and Steve Shulman

TORONTO — Representatives of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto are working with the city of Vaughan to come to a mutual agreement over 48 UJA signs that violate city bylaws.

The signs, stating “Jewish Toronto Lives Here,” appear throughout the Greater Toronto Area in front of institutions such as synagogues, agencies and Jewish schools.

According to an article on yorkregion.com, federation was informed recently that a $500 fee applied to each sign.

For 48 signs, the total would amount to $24,000.

Vaughan Coun. Alan Shefman – who says his ward in Thornhill (Ward 5) has a Jewish population of “probably 65 to 70 per cent” – told The CJN that one of the city’s enforcement officers had issued a notice to federation about the signs. “It’s essentially a warning… that there is a problem here. We try to solve problems as opposed to punish people.

“We’re obviously much more lenient when it comes to charities.”

The issue was first addressed in an informal discussion at a recent meeting of Vaughan’s Committee of the Whole attended by Steven Shulman, UJA’s campaign director and counsel, and David Sadowski, executive vice-president of Jewish Community Properties of Greater Toronto. Federation representatives presented a deputation about the issue.

Both Shefman and Shulman characterized the tone of the discussions as positive. “The city is working closely with us in a friendly manner to ensure that we have some kind of agreement going forward,” Shulman said.

“We have had signs up in the city of Vaughan for years,” he noted.

The signs, which are put up annually – with different messages each year – appear during federation’s UJA campaign, which begins in late August. The signs stay up “at least through December,” Shulman said.

Their purpose is “simply to create awareness of what federation does,” Shulman explained, citing work here, in Israel and internationally.

“Ultimately, it’s part of a communications focus by federation to create pride in the Jewish community of Toronto, and when we say the Jewish community of Toronto, we’re talking about the GTA.

“That was an issue with one councillor,” he added, referring to Woodbridge West Coun. Tony Carella, who took exception to the wording of the signs, which referred only to Toronto and not to Vaughan.

Shulman said the cost of the signs and other marketing costs make up part of UJA’s campaign budget, totalling “less than 10 per cent of the funds… which is better than virtually any large charity.”

He noted that UJA funds “a great deal of social and other services” that benefit “people in Vaughan, and ultimately Vaughan itself.

“What we believe is that this will be brought back to council with a joint recommendation that will be agreed upon by both [parties],” Shulman said. “We expect that it will be early in the new year.”

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