As the eldest son of immigrants from Morocco, my family and I directly benefited from the network of established non-profit organizations that the Jewish community had built in Toronto, providing financial support and subsidizing our education in the Jewish Day School system. Despite our modest means, we never lacked for essentials and grew up with a full appreciation of Jewish tradition and pride in our Moroccan heritage.
As a subsidized student, I directly benefited from community philanthropy, providing me with the core values that helped shape me as an adult. I’m proud to have been able to pay full tuition when I subsequently sent my own children to Day School, helping other families.
My wife Arona’s family has been a large supporter of State of Israel Bonds and she has given directly to those in need, buying meals for the homeless or discreetly paying for a struggling senior’s groceries at the checkout counter in the supermarket. We are proud to see our children embracing these values as well: our son Lee generously gave a large portion of his summer job’s earnings to a cancer charity and our daughter Lauren contributes countless hours to community service.
My professional life in the insurance and financial services sector provides me an opportunity to encourage others to give back, utilizing tax and estate planning vehicles. And I am honoured to serve on the Professional Advisors Committee of the Jewish Foundation with other like-minded professionals. I’ve also served on the boards of the Communauté Juive Marocaine de Toronto, Sephardic Kehila Centre, Canadian Friends of Laniado Hospital, and I have been privileged to co-chair Sephardic delegations to meet Prime Ministers Harper and Trudeau, parliamentarians, United States congressmen, senators and the Prime Minister and Senior Adviser to the King of Morocco.
“Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for charity, often defined as giving financial aid to the needy or worthy causes. But the root word for tzedakah actually means righteousness or justice. In Judaism, giving is not viewed as a generous act; it’s simply an act of justice. The spiritual benefit of giving to the poor is so great, that the recipient actually does the giver a favour by giving a person the opportunity to perform tzedakah. Some sages elevate tzedakah as the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined. So, while charity is generally viewed as an act of generosity, my family and I are eternally grateful to have the merit to be able to give back to those in need.