Building Development: Past, Present and Future
The Okanagan Jewish Community was officially formed in 1983 by a group of approximately 17 Jewish families. The Community met socially and held High Holiday services with a small Torah from a synagogue in Victoria. Services and social functions were held at a variety of Kelowna rental halls with no permanent home for the Jewish Community.
Through the decade of the 1980's the Okanagan Jewish Community continued to experience growth and organization with the steady influx of new Jewish families who relocated to the region, as well as the increasing involvement of the local Jewish families. By the late 1980's there were approximately 35 active families, and the momentum began which initiated the vision of building an Okanagan Jewish Community Centre. At the same time, there was recognition that a local Jewish Cemetery was required for the Community. The funds were raised, the land purchased, and a Jewish Cemetery was consecrated.
In 1989, the Okanagan Jewish Community held a pivotal and decisive meeting to submit an application to the Province of British Columbia for a grant to proceed with construction of a Jewish Community Centre. The grant application was approved by the province, and with tremendous commitment and determination by the then existing group of 45 member families, the land was purchased in Kelowna, plans were drawn up, and construction began. Within a period of a few years, sufficient funds were raised and the project came to fruition in 1992 with the completion of the first Okanagan Jewish Community Centre. In October 1992, the OJCC held an opening reception with over 300 people in attendance. This was an extremely proud moment for the local Jewish Community.
The OJCC has experienced tremendous growth over the years resulting in the initiation of more frequent Shabbat and other religious services, and the celebration of most Jewish holidays and festivals. Services were initially lead by local Jewish community members and invited guests, and for the last 4 years the OJCC has participated in a student Rabbi program. More recently, plans have been in place to hire a permanent part-time Rabbi. In addition, educational and social programs for the Jewish Community and the Okanagan Community at large have been expanding and have been very well received.
With OJCC membership growing close to 80 families, once again there has been the realization that the present facility is no longer sufficient to meet the future requirements to support the continued growth of the Community. This proactive vision for the future has been well received by the membership, and a building enhancement and expansion project has been initiated. A development permit has been received from the City of Kelowna and architectural plans have been drafted. The OJCC has demonstrated fiscal responsibility over the years and has always maintained its fund-raising efforts. A strong "case" has been built to facilitate the ability to fund raise within and outside of our Community to allow this exciting growth project to evolve.
The building enhancement and expansion project for the OJCC has a projected budget of approximately 1.2 million dollars. The Okanagan Jewish Community's fund-raising dollars in hand,along with internal commitments presently amounts to about $600,000. The OJCC is approaching Jewish foundations, organizations, and individuals outside of the Community for financial support so that this project can be realized.
It is anticipated as it was in 1992, that this exciting vision for the future will allow the OJCC to provide the infrastructure to provide better and more frequent programming, educational opportunities, and religious services for our diverse population of members. We anticipate more programs suited for our growing senior population, as well as for our younger families, and an enhanced ability to attract new members and increased participation.
Architectural drawing of the OJCC's new planned building