Happy Sukkot

Today marks the first evening of Sukkot, known as the ‘Festival of Booths’. Sukkot is a happy and festive holiday in the Jewish calendar.
During Sukkot, we traditionally bundle together four plants mentioned in the Torah: The Etrog (citron fruit), Lulav (frond of date palm) Hadass (myrtle bough) and Aravah (willow branch) – and wave them in the Sukkah as symbolic allusions to a Jew’s service of G-d.
The Sukkah itself reminds us of our fragility and invites us out of our homes, recognizing that there are forces beyond our control, and despite the challenges, we can still find ways to rejoice in what we have.
Wishing you a Happy Sukkot!

Open Letter: Prioritize COVID-19 third-dose vaccines for individuals living with DD

Dear MPPs,

I am writing to ask for your support to prioritize COVID-19 third-dose vaccines for individuals living with developmental disabilities.
My name is Bryan Keshen.

I am the Chief Executive Officer at Reena – a non-profit social service agency dedicated to helping children, adults and senior citizens with developmental disabilities, serving the needs of more than 1,000 individuals and their families. I also chair a sector vaccine working group and sit on the York Region Vaccine Table as chair of the Western York Region Ontario Health Team.

The prioritization of persons with developmental disabilities for third-dose vaccines, along with other high-risk clinical groups, is a recognition of their heightened susceptibility to severe complications.

I am sharing an Ontario retrospective cohort study that illustrates that relative to adults with developmental disabilities, COVID-19 positivity rates were nearly 30% higher for adults with development disabilities and more than 40% higher for adults with Down syndrome.

Read more here.

Employment Advice Column: Is the Traditional Resume Outdated? Is the TikTok Resume the new way?

Dear Joanna,

I have been applying for work online using my resume and cover letter that I prepared with the help of my Reena job coach. However, I heard that some job seekers are posting video resumes on social media apps like TikTok. Should I be doing this instead of my traditional resume and cover letter? What’s your advice?

Signed: Social Media Applicant

Dear SMA,

You are definitely up-to-date with social media and technology! According to Lorenz’s (2021) article in “The New York Times” https://www.tiktok.com/@makena.yee/video/6958301625836375301?referer_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F&referer_video_id=6958301625836375301&refer=embed many Gen Z-ers want more exposure (viewers or hits) on social media so they  started to apply for jobs using  TikTok resumes with a quick video. And employers are starting to pay attention! Will the TikTok video resume replace the traditional one? Lorenz showcases many examples of job seekers who use TikTok successfully including one 60 second video that had  over 182,000 views and hundreds of comments as well as 15 job leads! Lorenz recommends posting a video resume on TikTok as many companies use this format to recruit as more college students and recent graduates use this app to network and find work. But TikTok is not the first social platform that companies use to recruit candidates. Even WWE, Taco Bell and McDonalds let people apply for jobs with this app.  Facebook, Shopify, and LinkedIn also post job openings on this sites and apps.

There are a few challenges of the traditional resume adds Lorenz. They only focus on experience instead of skills and abilities as well as results which is what employers are interested in! This is hard to capture in a resume. The applicant tracking system (ATS)  is another challenge.  For example, the system doesn’t recognize creative and different job title names like  “success ambassador” and “office ninja,”. Also, it doesn’t recognize the keywords! Employers can’t figure out what the candidate does and can do. Lastly, resumes are static. Unless you update it each week, it becomes outdated quickly – and even by the time you need to apply for work.

I wouldn’t get rid of my resume and cover letter so quickly. Many companies still use the traditional online application route. However, the traditional resume is not the only way anymore to apply for work. For example, WWE, Taco Bell and McDonalds let people apply for jobs with this app. 

How does the TikTok video resume work? Job applicants submit videos with the hashtag #TikTokResumes and through TikTokresumes.com to show off their skills, something like a personal essay of old.  They include their contact information and, if they want, their LinkedIn profile. Employers review the videos, which must be set to public, and schedule interviews with the applicants they find the most compelling.

There are some challenges with this way of posting your resume on TikTok as well as any other video resume. Lorenz cautions that this video format allows employers to potentially dismiss candidates based on how someone looks or acts. Much of the networking on TikTok also depends on getting “hits” You need to know how to create a successful video – content and video.

Now it’s up to you to decide if you would like to create and use a TikTok video as your resume instead of or in addition to a traditional resume and cover letter.


Please send your questions and comments on employment and career issues in confidence to Joanna Samuels, Employment Supervisor, REENA at jsamuels@reena.org


Passing of Lea Hochman z”l

Reena Group of Charities would like to express our deepest condolences of the recent passing of Lea Hochman, mother of Sheila Lampert, Reena Foundation’s Executive Director. 

Lea Hochman z”l, a Holocaust survivor who dedicated herself to teaching others about the horrors of antisemitism and the importance of faith, died in Richmond Hill on August 6, two weeks shy of her 101st birthday. 

Hochman (nee Zimmerman) was born in Pohorce, a small town in Poland with only nine Jewish families. 

“My mom would often say that she ‘hid in plain sight’ during the Shoah, relying on her ability to pass herself off as a Gentile. She used to refer to herself as an actor without a script,” said Sheila Lampert, the youngest of Hochman’s three daughters. 

 “My mom was my biggest role model,” Lampert said. “She taught me that it is important to make a good name for yourself. Never turn down the opportunity to do a mitzvah. Never look for honour. Be humble and honour will find you.” 

Hochman was buried in Montreal and is survived by her three daughters, nine grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren

May her memory be a blessing


Employment Advice Column: Preparing for the Telephone Interview

Dear Joanna

Finally my telephone rang after months of applying for jobs. I’ve just confirmed a time and a date for a telephone interview with a recruiter at a leading bank for a customer service position in their call centre.  I’m going to be practicing with my Reena job coach to be prepared for this call. Hopefully, I’ll be called in for a face-to-face or virtual job interview, the next steps! Please help me prepare for this intimidating step in the job search game.


Signed: Telephonically Challenged


Dear TC

As Judith Stock (2013) explains in her article on http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/10/23/6-steps-to-nailing-a-job-interview-over-the-phone/  employers are “increasingly opting for phone interviews to screen potential new hires. By doing so, companies can sort through candidates without committing to the expense and time required for on-site meet-ups”.  Referring to my past discussions with employers, as well as the tips from Reena’s SET job coaches, here are some recommendations to ace this first part of the job interview!


  1. Have a professional voicemail. When the hiring manager calls you, you don’t have to pick up the phone right away. In fact, prepare a very professional, clear, quiet message, similar to one that you would have for your work. State your name, telephone number and invite the caller to leave a detailed message. There should not be any noises in the background. It should be your voice on the message.
  2. Don’t pick up. Let the hiring manager or recruiter leave a message, especially if you have noise in the background like a barking dog or you are doing something else like driving on the 401. Then proceed to a quiet and isolated room with a locked door, and bring your cover letter, resume, job posting, glass of water, a pen and paper and a “working’ telephone with an excellent connection.
  3. Working Your Mobile Phone. Although less popular today, landlines are preferred as a cell phone is less reliable as the calls could get dropped. If you are using your mobile, make sure your technology is working 100 per cent! This is no time to play with your phone! Double check your phone is fully changed and when you return the call (or take it at the time), it is in a place with the best reception as possible. Then return the phone call and make sure you identify yourself, the job in question (including job title and job reference numbers if applicable). In either case, remember to get the telephone and email of the interviewer just in case you get disconnected.  
  4. Prepare and Research. As you would prepare for the in person or virtual job interview, do the same for the telephone one too.  Do your research on google and all social media tools. Find out as much as you can on the company, the interviewer and the other employees as well as the workplace culture. Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer but only if he or she asks  for it. For example, what specific skills are you looking for in this candidate? Or “I read that the company ____ (insert a recent success).  How do you see this position contributing to the continued success of the organization?”  
  5. Be professional. Even though the interviewer won’t see you, I would dress as you would for a face-to-face interview; you’re more likely to feel and sound professional if you look the part. Smile, keep engaged and upbeat over the phone. Let your positive attitude shine through the handset or headset! Place a mirror on your desk to see your facial expressions when you tal You don’t have the body language or the non-verbal communication abilities to impress the caller. It’s all about the voice.
  6. Be focused, courteous and concise. Stock warns job seekers that the telephone interview is shorter than the in-person interviews. You have less time to make a good impression. So avoid long-winded answers. Practice the day before the interview. Take notes during the call. Focus on the conversation and listen carefully in order to respond appropriately to the questions. Ask for the direct telephone number and email. End with a “thank you”.
  7. Follow up. Twenty-four to 48 hours after the interview ends, send an email thanking the interviewer for the opportunity and summarizing what you spoke about during the phone interview. The subject line should be: “Your name and the position you applied for.” restate your interest. And, if you really want to appear smarter than most, include a link to an interesting news article about the company that you already found during your preparation research.


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org


Employment Advice Column: Setting boundaries at work

Dear Joanna

I’m just a girl who can’t say no! I am working as a medical office clerk and my Reena job coach is helping me handle five bosses. Each one assigns me different tasks, and I’m learning how to multi-task and prioritize but I’m stressed and exhausted. How do I set my boundaries at work and hopefully return to a healthy work-life balance without jeopardizing my job?


Dear Exhausted,

I’m most impressed with the advice of corporate consultant/blogger Jennifer Winters of http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2013/04/26/3-crucial-ways-to-set-boundaries-at-work/. Winters recommends the following strategies to juggle a busy job with looking after yourself.

1. Take breaks. Make sure you take your breaks including each meal time, depending on whether or not you are starting early or working late. Take your lunch for sure and small breaks throughout the day. Walk away from your computer and desk. Get some fresh air and exercise if you have time. Talk to people. Do what you need to do to have fun and relaxing time during this “time for me”

2. Unplug. Technology improvements to cell phones and remote desktop computer access can make it possible to work from virtually anywhere. But despite the convenience, these technologies can also make it very difficult to pull yourself away from your job. Unless absolutely necessary, try to disconnect yourself during personal times such as evenings, weekends or vacations.

3. Focus on your career. Prioritizing your tasks and responsibilities is key. Those that are closely related to you to achieving your career goals or your dream career should be the first on your to-do list. Winters suggests that “working towards an ambitious, long-term career goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated, focused and ultimately achieve success”. If you are already putting in those extra hours, make sure it is relevant experience for your resume as well as opportunities for you to learn new skills and improve on your existing ones.

4. Put your health first. When work gets busy, it’s easy to find excuses to skip meals, choose unwholesome fast foods and cut back on physical activity. In the long run, though, an unhealthy lifestyle will only make you less productive by lowering your energy level and making you more susceptible to illness. Find convenient ways to make healthy choices, such as packing nutritious meals from home, taking the stairs or going for a daily walk.

5. Make time for your personal life. To be a successful people leader, you have to set goals and carefully schedule your time. If you’re having difficulty balancing your work  and personal life, apply the strategies you use at work to activities in your personal life. Try blocking off specific times in your schedule to spend time with friends and family, or to unwind with your favourite hobbies. Similarly, you might consider setting personal go als, such as going to the gym or visiting with friends a minimum number of times each week.

6. Ask for help. Get support. Meet with your mentor and/or with your boss to manage expectations, or seeking help from a professional, working through your challenges with others can help you get perspective on your situation, set appropriate boundaries and achieve a healthy balance. Know your limits. Understand what you will be able to reasonably accomplish each day. Don’t work alone. Get support. Are there opportunities with your team members to delegate?

7. Just say no. If you’re too busy to meet with team members or take on non-essential new assignments, don’t be afraid to say no. When turning down work or a meeting, always give a reasonable explanation and, where possible, suggest some alternatives. You might, for example, offer to reschedule a meeting for a later date, or recommend giving an assignment to another qualified team member.  


Please share your questions, concerns and suggestions on topics related to employment and careers to jsamuels@reena.org.

2021 Reena Is In Compliance – Again

The Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services inspected (June 22nd – July 2nd, 2021) Reena for service-agency compliance with legislation and policy directives.  

“…I am writing with respect to the unannounced compliance inspection of your agency that took place from
June 22 through to July 2, 2021. The Ministry is pleased to inform you that Reena was found to be IN
COMPLIANCE with Ontario Regulation 299/10 of SIPDDA (Quality Assurance Measures) and/or policy
directives applicable to MCCSS-funded services and supports for adults with developmental disabilities.”

Compliance is intended to provide assurances that adults with developmental disabilities are receiving quality standards of care, in a safe and secure environment. 

Reena is In Compliance!

Read the letter of compliance.


2nd Dose Vaccinations for Individuals and Family Members – June 29th and 30th

2nd Dose COVID-19 Vaccinations Available – For Individuals with Developmental disabilities living at home with their families.
Both the individual and a family caregiver can receive their second dose.
This is a and York Support Services Network developmental services agencies Initiative.
June 29th and 30th are specific for individuals with developmental disabilities.

COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts on Adults with Developmental Disabilities

The following report was submitted to Reena on May 28th, 2021, and was authored by ICES, a not-for-profit research institute encompassing a community of research, data, and clinical experts, and a secure and accessible array of Ontario’s health-related data.


Amongst those who tested positive, adults with developmental disabilities were hospitalized at twice the rate of those without developmental disabilities (10% vs 4.5%).

Overall, COVID + adults with Down syndrome were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized than adults without Down syndrome (16.5% vs 4.6%).

Overall, COVID + adults with Down syndrome were 6.5 times more likely to die than those without Down syndrome (18.2% vs. 2.8%).

Once hospitalized, adults with developmental disabilities were slightly less likely to be treated in the ICU (19.9% vs. 23.9%). Adults over 55 with developmental disabilities were less likely to be admitted to the ICU.

Read Full Report HERE


I am a new employee who is supported by Reena’s SET job coach. I am have a summer job working from home due to Covid. I’m the data entry clerk and part of a team of 10 with co-workers from other related professions. Many of the employees are constantly apologizing.  “I am sorry” seems to be a common phrase. Maybe I too should be apologizing. Am I missing the cues? Please can you guide me with this communication issue.

Signed: Sorry is never too late

Dear SNL,

Apologizing is definitely one Canadian stereotype. Let’s explore 10 behaviours that would be important to apologize for at work based on Liz Ryan’s article http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/06/15/ten-things-you-need-to-apologize-for-and-ten-you-dont/#53d9e90a789f.

  1. If you are late to a meeting that has begun. Even if the meeting doesn’t start on time, I recommend being a bit early just like you do with a job interview, and especially when you are a new employee. The informal conversations (small talk) and learning that takes place at this time could be a great networking opportunity for you with your colleagues and even the manager(s) who are there early.
  2. If you are rude (inadvertently or not). Interrupting in small group or individual conversations, or talking for the sake of talking at the meeting. Remember, active listening is one of the most important communication skills and competencies that you bring to the workplace and to life in general. You can avoid this by being extra prepared for the meetings in advance by reviewing the agenda that has been circulated in advance. If not, ask for it.
  3. If you miss a scheduled meeting with a co-worker or manager, even if it’s on zoom or at a virtual meeting! Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you confirm an appointment, honour it. If you aren’t going to make it, let the co-worker or manager know in advance. I highly recommend that you learn how to use Outlook or google calendar to track your meetings and schedule with reminders. These are helpful time management and organization tools of the trade!
  4. If you take on another employee’s responsibilities or job description, even by accident   or make a decision that was not in your job  scope, you definitely need to apologize. Ryans recommends calling or talking in person to the employee and say: “I just found out I did something I shouldn’t have done. I’m sorry. I didn’t understand how that worked.” You can also discuss this situation with your boss before it becomes a problem!
  5. Inadvertently criticizing or appearing to criticize someone.
  6. Losing your temper. It’s so important to contain your negative emotions and behaviours at the workplace. This is unacceptable and could lead to losing your job. If you are angry or anxious or stressed, consult with your Reena job coach or a professional in your support group.
  7. Saying something negative behind your co-worker’s back, intentionally or not.
  8. Avoiding your responsibilities. For example, not reporting a problem when you didn’t understand one of the actions of the Excel spreadsheet and you entered the data incorrectly. Another example is before Covid when the photocopier didn’t work, if you were responsible for maintaining it.
  9. Missing a deadline. No apology will work if this happens. This could become a larger issue that you will have to face. This is dangerous territory. You are better of notifying your boss of this in advance and try to problem-solve together when you see that you are not going to make it on time with the deadline. .
  10. Spacing out and leaving your co-worker or a customer hanging. Being organized, prepared and not being afraid of asking for help or identifying problems can avoid this situation from happening.

Hope this helps. If you aren’t sure of whether or not to apologize, feel free to discuss the above with your Reena job coach.



Sad News: “Ish Tzaddik” Award Recipient Passes

During Reena’s 2017 Annual General Meeting (A.G.M) we recognized attorney David Cohen with the Morris Baker “Ish Tzaddik” Award to honour a worthy individual who has made an outstanding commitment to the enhancement of life for people with developmental disabilities. 

Regrettably, we were recently informed that Mr. Cohen passed away. 

The term Tzaddikrighteous one, comes from the source Tzedek, which is often referred to as justice, but it is more accurately reflects the notion of equity. David Cohen was an example of both. 

As a senior partner at the Canadian immigration law firm of Campbell Cohen, David was practicing Canadian immigration law for more than 35 years. He was a member of the Quebec and Canadian Bar Associations, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association.   

Ten years ago, David received a letter from a distraught mother in the U.S., imploring him to help her autistic, 15-year-old Canadian daughter to return to Canada. David enlisted the help of his friend, Charles Conant, an experienced educator, to come up with a plan that will allow the daughter to return to her native land and receive the much-needed supports. 

Charles and David, working together since late 2015, were unable to secure any supports for the child since she was not a U.S. Citizen. All doors seemed closed every time they tried to get help for the family.    

After contacting Reena, Charles and David became key members of a cross-border team, including local Toronto agency partners that met frequently over the phone, to build a plan with the family. Charles and David were essential, providing important history, connection to family, and information about the daughter’s needs.   

In January of 2017, a Reena support team drove to meet the family in the US, picked up the daughter and her father, and made the 18-hour journey to her Reena home.   

It was the dedication and commitment made by David and Charles that enabled the young girl to have a new life with countless opportunities, including living successfully in her apartment, attending day programs, and participating in a community like anyone else. 

May his soul be bound in the bundle of life and may his memory be forever a blessing.