How we see the world and the responsibility we feel to help others is the direct result of our parents’ values. Like so many immigrants who came here to build better lives for themselves and their families, they are heroes.
It is often tempting to romanticize the past but in the early 20th century, the journey to Canada from Poland, Russia and the Ukraine was fraught with real challenges. For our parents, Canada was a strange land. They could not speak English and no jobs were here waiting for their arrival. Money was nonexistent. The family and friends they knew in the old countries were nowhere here to offer support.
We have been fortunate to have achieved success in our lives and careers, yet we have always embraced the value that the highest of distinctions is in service to others. This is more than an ideal and over the years, we made a conscious effort to show this to our children the way our parents showed us.
Years ago, we decided to contribute to the community through endowments. We wanted our children to see that we were grateful and that gratitude requires giving back.
It may sound strange to say that money is the easy part. Not the earning of it; but for some people, it is relatively easy to simply give. Our parents gave their time. They volunteered and in so doing, taught us by example that to help others requires real action.
The spiritual rewards of giving are deep and gratifying. Practicing chesed, acts of loving-kindness, both within the Jewish community and extending to other communities that enrich this city and country, is a meaningful expression of Jewish values.
Equally important is the promotion of harmony. The beauty of our Toronto community today is that Jewish and other ethnic cultures coexist. We have learned the value of an open dialogue, an idea that UJA Federation of Greater Toronto has helped foster.
Looking ahead, we see the challenges facing so many Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Holding on to one’s identity is perhaps harder than ever before. We believe that being a good Jew and also being involved in cross-cultural outreach are important. In our lives, we promote both elements, which is why we held Shabbat dinner every Friday night and made sure our children knew about tzedakah and Israel by putting some of their wages or allowance into the JNF pushke.
The Toronto Jewish community is an example to other communities that we can build a compassionate society proud of its individual roots while cultivating a strong dedication to the greater good.
To all who read our story, we offer thanks and the hope that you will contribute as much as you can; and do for others as much as you would do for yourselves.