Ian & Tarra Gilbert

As a Jewish Barbadian, Ian’s life was influenced by the island’s culture and the Jewish tradition in his home. Being Jewish may have been unique in Barbados, but he was raised just like all his friends whose island life was rooted in beach culture.

Ian’s father, Bernard Gilbert, is British. He moved to Barbados when he married Ian’s mum, Leah Pillersdorf, who was born and raised in the closeknit Jewish Barbadian community. She was a driving force in Ian and Tarra’s life and is warmly remembered this way. Ian’s parents embraced the culture of island life, never forgetting their Eastern European Jewish roots and traditions.

Ian was raised on matza ball soup along with Cou-cou and flying fish. The blending of foods is a wonderful analogy of his early life. It taught him the value of family, of connection to Israel and of community. Ian attended Emory University in Atlanta and eventually made his way to Toronto for a job opportunity. He has called Toronto his second home since the early 1990s.

Tarra’s upbringing was very different. Her roots are Chinese-Jamaican and Scottish, she has lived in several countries, and for a time, her family lived in the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn. She settled in Toronto where she raised her daughter Karina from a previous marriage and converted to Judaism after being with Ian for many years, proudly proclaiming that ‘Judaism chose her.’

Ian and Tarra share a common experience; both were brought up with a Caribbean culture and a sense of respect for their elders. Both lived in small islands and as the adage says, “it takes a village”. A Caribbean upbringing means that family, friends, and neighbours all have a part in instilling humour, discipline, and respect.

They are particularly grateful for the thriving Jewish infrastructure and wish to do their part to ensure it remains healthy and strong. They know they may not live long enough to see the results of every project and program but take great pride in knowing they have helped plant the proverbial seeds for future generations.

Barbados and Canada have given so much to Ian’s journey and are included in any decision when it comes to supporting charitable causes.

Ian and Tarra’s decision to open a fund benefitting the Jewish community was made before October 7, 2023. The horrifying atrocities of that day and the terrible events that have unfolded since, has only strengthened their resolve to support education, the elderly, and those who stand with Israel.

They do not need or wish for their names to appear beside the causes they support but do want to ensure that they’ve helped their community flourish. It is quite simple: if you have a deep respect for your people, be they Israeli, Caribbean, or Canadian, you show up.