A new life in a new land seemed like an unrealistic dream to many who suffered the pogroms of Europe in the early 1900s. Although it wasn’t easy, a new life and new opportunities were exactly what we found in Toronto.
In those early years, most came with little or no material possessions. But no matter how poor, we always possessed two indelible ideas that would form the basis of the Lagover Society: One, first and foremost: we were Jews. And two: we would take care of one another.
Founded in 1931, a mere two years after the great stock market crash, our Society pledged to help newcomers gain a foothold in Toronto. Food, shelter, employment – we helped however we could. We were a community.
As newcomers established themselves, they in turn helped others. As our members developed businesses and careers in Toronto, they always remembered their pledge to help. Even though we weren’t necessarily individually affluent, we combined our resources through the Lagover Society, and we made meaningful contributions over the years to a vast array of Jewish needs locally and in Israel.
During our initial growth, funds were raised by selling raffle tickets at our events and publishing an annual calendar with ads. This sustained effort raised enough funds over the years to do a wide array of good works. Our core values are as vibrant and inspiring today as they were 85 years ago, which is why we are seeing many members from the next generations join our fold.
In the mid ‘90’s the Lagover Society made an important decision to sell a building it had purchased years prior. The proceeds were invested in Israel Bonds. Moreover, all of the interest from the bonds was (and continues to be) used as our pool of funds to do tzedakah. This makes our two main ideas more than words. We are Jews, so we invest in Israel. And we are a Jewish community, so we must do good charitable things in Toronto and Israel. Our Society has made contributions to a wide range of Jewish organizations, including an endowment to UJA’s Jewish Foundation.
For so many of us, the past is not something from an old, dusty photo album. Our original hometown of Lagow (Lagov) still lives in our memories. We led a Jewish life there and we know that many of our friends never made it out. We honour their memories.
Our strength is in identity and community. Alone, we can only do so much. As an active and compassionate Jewish community, we can change lives for the better.