How has your world changed during COVID-19?

A candid interview with Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) member Saul Plener

Recently, we sat down and had a conversation with one of our PAC members and longtime supporter of the Jewish Foundation and UJA Federation, Saul Plener, Partner, PwC Canada. We spoke with Saul about the last nine months and the changes that he has seen due to the pandemic. The discussion revolved around three main areas: self-awareness, improvement of personal infrastructure, and the needs and opportunities within philanthropy.

COVID has changed many things. One of the biggest changes we have experienced is the way we interact with one another. In today’s world, we are no longer physically meeting with the people we are speaking to and so we have had to learn to read situations differently and pay closer attention when we are communicating.  “I have had to become a better listener, picking up on various cues from the people I am speaking with,” explains Saul. Being more focused and present when in conversation has also pushed us to be more conscious of the mental health issues that we all suffer from. Taking a moment to pause and simply ask our coworkers, clients, friends, or family how they are really doing has allowed us to connect and understand others in ways we may not have before.

Another shift has been the need to adapt and incorporate new innovations and transform our physical workspace, our routines, and in general, the way we are living.  We have had to learn new technologies, setup our homes to include gyms and office spaces, and think of new ways of interacting with the people in our lives. These changes have not only enabled us to become more technologically savvy, but they have allowed us to grow as individuals and professionals and connect with people in a more meaningful way. “While we used to meet clients, friends, and family for lunches and dinners, we now rely on Zoom, go for socially-distanced walks, get together in backyards or garages, play virtual games with our families and friends — in all of these interactions, we are paying even greater attention to the people we are with,” says Saul.

At the same time, the needs in the community are greater than ever.  We see this through the lineups at food banks, the increasing numbers for addiction and mental health counselling, and the rising need for financial assistance. While the pandemic has made us more aware of the needs of the community, it has also provided us with new ways and opportunities for getting involved and making a difference. No longer is philanthropy viewed as only the donation of money, rather, with COVID, we have seen firsthand there is a real desire to help one another, in any way possible. “We must stay positive, support each other, and learn how we can all make a difference going forward,” concludes Saul. 

(R-L) Saul Plener with his wife Sandra and their three children Zachary, Ryan, Rachael, and future son-in-law Mitchell Reisler.

“We have adapted quickly, are more resilient than we thought we were, and are thinking outside the box in all aspects of our lives.” - Saul Plener