Growing up in a small town a few hundred miles outside of Cape Town, South Africa, I did not live in a large community and I did not have opportunities to experience Judaism through programs, institutions and/or social/community groups, contrary to the incredible opportunities in the thriving Toronto Jewish community.
I also did not have the influence of established community members, nor did my own family have the means to be truly philanthropic.
I immigrated to Canada in 1987 as the first member of my family. My sisters and mother followed me to Canada over the next few years.
Today, as a person who has achieved financial stability, and also a proud father of two daughters, I am taking charge of my philanthropy and my legacy. I have elected to set up a fund with the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto so that I can forever be a part of this community and so that my children can, in the future, be a part of the decision making and understand the impact they, too, can and should have.
I’ve learned, first and foremost, that no one will look after us, the Jewish community, better than ourselves. And I believe it is an obligation: if you have the means, you must give. I also feel very strongly that without Israel, we would be in very serious trouble. I firmly support the idea of community engagement. For me Judaism is less about religion, and more about spiritual and community connection. It is so clear that it is the best possible insurance policy for us Jews in the Diaspora and that we are welcome to visit and/or live there any time without pre-conditions.
I want to leave a meaningful legacy with the community and would like to be remembered as someone who made a difference. I hope my fund will motivate anyone, not just the wealthy, to do something. Simply put, those who have more than they need can do it.
I would like to see the community more emotionally connected, more engaged. When people realize how special the community can be, they will get drawn in and make more of an effort to embrace their Jewish customs and traditions. They feel it – not just observe it. If we do not relate to the next generations and make it an attractive community to remain an active part of, we will lose our future generations. Additionally, it is a real priority for us to support the underprivileged in our community.
I am hopeful that as my story, and the many others that are part of the Book of Life, are shared, even more people will be motivated to do the same.