Rabbi Elan Mazer, CEO of Mizrachi Canada, together with Canadian rabbinic leaders meeting with the developers of Carmay HaNadiv
Mizrachi Canada – Building a Communal Future in Israel
Throughout Mizrachi’s long history, it has always been involved in helping to build communities in Israel. Today, Mizrachi Canada is at the forefront of helping a group of Canadian Jews buy property together in Israel. Rabbi Aron White spoke with Rabbi Elan Mazer, Director of Mizrachi Canada, about his exciting vision and building a future for the Canadian Jewish community in Israel.
How did this exciting initiative begin?
I began as the head of Mizrachi Canada in 2017, and the birth of this idea came very soon afterwards. Rabbi Korobkin, the rabbi of the BAYT shul in Toronto, gave a derasha on Parashat Behar that provided a new framework for thinking about communal Aliyah. In many communities, Aliyah is seen as a mixed blessing – something exciting for the individual family, but a net loss to the community. Rabbi Korobkin provided a new framework: as community members, we are always looking to build a strong future for our community, and we have to recognize that in the long term, the future of all our communities is in Israel. In this framework, a Torontonian moving to Israel is not leaving the community, but rather helping to build a future for the community – in Israel! I found this approach very healthy, and it sparked many ideas and discussions about gathering a group of Canadian Jews interested in setting down roots in Israel – together.
That is an exciting idea. How do you translate this from a vision into a reality?
It certainly takes a long time, and the details are more difficult than having the vision! I started by simply having conversations with community members, which helped us develop the criteria of the type of Israeli community we were looking for. We wanted somewhere where we could build a community that is built around a shul and rabbi, as people in chutz la’aretz are used to. Since many community members have relatives in places like Efrat, Modi’in and Beit Shemesh, we wanted it to be somewhere close by or commutable to those places, and ideally somewhere where we also could make an impact on the surrounding community by coming there. We wanted a place with lots of greenery, and we also wanted it to be available to as wide a group as possible in terms of price. So as you see, not an easy list!
Where does the project stand today?
We identified a potential project in a neighborhood called Carmay HaNadiv, thanks to lawyers at Givati Law who have been our representatives on the ground. This community had many of the things we were looking for. However, one of the great challenges with a project like this is a cultural gap – the pace at which Israeli real estate moves is very different from what people from chutz la’aretz are used to. The developer said to us that they could set aside a whole building for our community, but we needed to confirm that we would be taking it – in two weeks! It’s almost impossible for a community or large group of people to make a decision in this time frame, so we chose to wait for a future round of construction. We are also open to other communities. We’ve certainly galvanized a lot of interest from the community, and are hopeful that it will bear fruit.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your efforts?
First, you definitely need to have representatives on the ground, as we had with our lawyers, as things move fast and you need someone informed who can find the best opportunity in the right time frame. I also think that if the government made more projects specifically for olim it could be a big help. If we could slow down the decision process, it would allow communities to make informed decisions and enable more of these projects to succeed. We are hopeful that our project will bear fruit, even if it takes time!