Brian and Barbie Casselman

Growing up I observed first-hand, through the efforts of our close friends Roz and Ralph z”l Halbert, the wonderful achievements that can result from targeted charitable giving. In past years Barbie volunteered as guest lecturer for medically focused charities and I participated on the committee for Young Friends of the Hebrew University (started by the Halbert’s) and in UJA fundraising efforts. By raising money and awareness and in planning meaningful, entertaining events we also realized a tremendous sense of group accomplishment, made friends and had fun. Charitable work is not all work!

But, on the other hand, I also experienced and observed my share of antisemitism during summer employment in the small community around our cottage and, while living at Jane and Finch in north Toronto, during graduate school. I quickly developed a revulsion for the exclusionary mindset that perverted religious beliefs create and came to realize that fostering more humane relationships requires a contribution not only to the Jewish community, but to the community at large as well.

More recently, Barbie and I were extremely impressed when Leo and Sala Goldhar invited us to the opening of the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus that they were instrumental in conceiving, building and generously helped to fund. They poured heart and soul into creating a non-denominational community centre in Vaughan, at a time when racial discord was growing quickly. 

It was extremely touching to see the Jewish community help itself while also helping others.
Working with Barbie in her career as a nutritionist, we have spent considerable time with medical researchers, especially at Mount Sinai and Princess Margaret Hospitals, learning first-hand how difficult it is to obtain funding. At the same time, our Toronto-based hospitals and Canadian research foundations are at the forefront of world-wide discoveries. Such research will be a major focus of our legacy.

We have benefitted hugely from hospital-based programs developed from the generosity of others. We can’t rely on our government institutions alone. It also takes constant individual commitment. We would like to be part of the process. How fortunate we are to have the Jewish Foundation to administer this legacy; not just for the benefit of the Jewish community but also for the community at large.