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About Jack

Jack Kugelmass is a social worker with extensive experiences working in the secular and Jewish communities conducting seminars, retreats, groups and training workshops for synagogues, social agencies and organizations.

Jack served as Program Director at McGill University Hillel, Director of Social Work at Toronto General Hospital, Executive Director of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services, Director of Outreach and Synagogue Community for the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism and as Director of Programming and Leadership Development at Temple Sinai Congregation in Toronto. Jack is entering his 36th year as a professional social worker and is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Social Work (M.S.W.) and McGill University (B.A.).

As a Teacher

In the area of education, Jack has taught organizational theory, group work and community practice at the Schools of Social Work at York University, University of Toronto, & Ryerson University. He has served as practice instructor for social work students at these and other universities.

Jack has served as a trainer with volunteers who have an interest in furthering their involvment with groups and organizations focussed on areas such as palliative care, Jewish family life education, community support workers for people living with HIV/AIDS, volunteers for people living with Alzheimer’s and related challenges and with congregants who want to be part of a synagogue’s gemillut chassadim committee.

He has also taught courses in basic Judaism, Jewish Leadership and Leaders, as well as many workshops ranging from marriage enrichment, parenting our children using Jewish values, and responding to our children’s sometimes unexpected relationship choices. He has led retreats for synagogues, fraternal groups, youth groups, professionals and seniors on subjects such as:

  • interfaith dating
  • team building
  • ‘board-walking’, the changing roles of men and women in synagogue life
  • leadership for sacred communities
  • the life stages of marriage and strategies for managing conflict well.

As a Founder

Jack helped to initiate Canada’s first Jewish response to the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980’s . He founded the social work section of distance education for medical social workers, Telemedicine Canada. Jack also initiated the Toronto Jewish Healing Project’s High Holy Days service for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease, by making use of the voice of the cantor, chanting traditional High Holy Days melodies, to evoke meaning and awareness of their Jewish connections. He has facilitated bereavement groups in synagogues, co-led discussion groups for parents and other family members of Jewish gays and lesbians, and has led support groups for family members caring for a mentally ill friend or family member.

As a Community Builder

Jack’s community building and group work skills also cause him to be asked to lead study groups for Jews and non Jews focusing on familiar and not so familiar Jewish texts, films and current events. This practice, referred to as ‘social animation’, uses sacred texts and the arts to create meaningful expressions of community and friendship among participants.

Jack has studied with the Alban Institute, an organization devoted to helping churches and synagogues to problem solve conflicts and organizational changes and plan for the many needs of sacred communities. For example, Jack has worked with synagogues who are facing major transitions, such as an unanticipated departure or a planned retirement of its rabbi or senior administrative staff.

As a Board Member

Jack currently serves as a board member of DarimOnline.org, a US based Jewish non profit organization devoted to helping synagogues, Jewish camps and Jewish schools, maximize their use of the Internet & e-communications to build community and clearly express their key message. He is a board member of the OneFamily Fund Canada, an organization that serves the psychosocial needs of Israeli families who have been directly affected by a terrorist attack. He is also the Chairperson of a new non profit project for people living with major mental illness in the community, called Friendship Places Toronto, an innovative approach to surrounding persons with mental illness with friendship, recognition and community. The model draws all of its volunteers from synagogues, churches and faith communities.