Hamilton Jewish Federation CEO Gustavo Rymberg and his family were among the first immigrants from Argentina to move to Winnipeg in 1997 under the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s GrowWinnipeg program, which aims to retain and attract Jewish families. He then lived in Ottawa and Toronto before moving to Hamilton in 2017.
Dan Brotman, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation and Community Centre, was born in Boston, grew up in the United States and lived in South Africa for 10 years before moving to Windsor in 2020.
Rob Nagus, executive director of Jewish London, was born in Montreal and most recently lived in Toronto before moving to London in October 2021.
Each has experience with immigrating to a new country or moving to a new city and becoming involved in their Jewish communities. Now, they hope to use their experience and what they learned to help others find the perfect home and to help grow their respective Jewish communities.
The Hamilton, Windsor and London Jewish federations are collaborating on a campaign, Welcome Home, to attract new Jewish residents to their communities.
In Hamilton, this new initiative will build on the existing Grow Hamilton committee’s successful efforts. According to Laura Wolfson, chair of the Grow Hamilton committee, 15 families moved to Hamilton in 2020 and 2021 through Grow Hamilton, while many more have inquired and are working on immigration applications. Wolfson says other Jewish families have also moved to the city in the past two years outside of the Grow Hamilton initiative.
Rymberg says combining efforts among three cities will help save costs through combined marketing efforts and allow them to support each other.
“This initiative will give us an opportunity to promote each city in particular and at the same time will allow us to make recommendations according to the needs of the newcomers and what each Jewish community has to offer. We are similar but different at the same time and it is important for smaller communities to collaborate and create new synergies,” said Rymberg.
Nagus says that when he was approached to be part of the Welcome Home initiative he jumped at the opportunity. “London is an incredibly warm and welcoming place where one can build a meaningful and fulfilling Jewish life and we want people to know that,” he says. “Working with Hamilton and Windsor is a great way to get the word out.”
And now is a favourable time to launch, Brotman says. In 2021, Canada landed more than 400,000 new permanent residents for just the second time since it was founded as a country in 1867.
“People are immigrating to Canada in large numbers. At the same time, major Canadian cities are becoming increasingly unaffordable, along with the fact that people can work remotely, which is also driving people to look to consider relocating to smaller communities. But many just don’t know all the options,” Brotman says.
“We thought that if we bring our voices together, our message would get out a lot louder than if we were competing and each doing our own campaign.”
A creative agency based in Windsor had developed a digital and social media marketing strategy for the campaign and is completing the campaign website; a production company in Hamilton shot promotional videos for each city. The initiative will also include helping people with relocation, information and support services.
It will initially focus on the communities Rymberg, Brotman and Nagus know well—South Africa, Argentina and Toronto. Then with more media awareness, they hope people will find their website when they search for information on immigrating to Canada.
“I think it is an asset to have two directors who understand, what’s involved with immigrating to a new country and one who understands how to talk to people about giving up big city life in Toronto and what you will be gaining,” says Brotman. “I think the fact that we can speak to these issues from our own experience is very beneficial. Because it’s not theoretical for us, these are actual life decisions that we made and we can help others through.”