I always think of traditional housewarming gifts as bread, candles and honey, symbolizing a home blessed with food, light and sweetness. But when Marci and I bought our first house, Marci’s dad, Norm Trachter, walked in the door with a little wooden pushke, a tzedakah box. He brought with it his philosophy that, “no matter how much you have, you should never forget to be grateful.” It was a sentiment that set the tone for our life together, and one we have tried to live by and instill in our children.
Though I am from England and Marci is Canadian-born, it turned out that two of our great-grandfathers were born in the same shtetl in Russia and all of our forebears basically “came from nothing.” I’m sure they would be shocked at how their descendants live and what we have today.
Both Marci’s parents and mine were heavily involved in their synagogues when we were growing up. Their circles of friends revolved around the shul and participation in many synagogue fundraisers; so, it seemed natural that as adults we would be drawn to fundraising ourselves. Marci’s passion is supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation, inspired in part by her dad’s sudden and shocking death from a massive stroke eight years ago. In his honour, she has created and produced three concerts to raise money for heart and stroke research. We also raised significant funds by organizing teams in the Ride to Conquer Cancer over many years, and enjoy supporting different community bike rides to fund other causes. We were delighted to learn that by leaving a gift to the Jewish Foundation, our donation could be easily distributed amongst a number of different organizations that are important to us.
Oppression and hardship served to bind our people together in the past, but as we have become more privileged, it is easy to see that elements of our traditions are going to be less and less important to our children and grandchildren. We are concerned about the dilution of our community and cultural identity in succeeding generations and look to support organizations that help preserve Jewish identity and community.
Our house contains a wall of photographs depicting the continuity of our family history, going back to the turn of the last century and illustrate who we were—people in need. To Marci and me, it is a reminder that almost all of us are here are thriving because of the kindness of others, and it is therefore our obligation going forward to act with kindness toward all, and to express our appreciation, as Marci’s dad would have, by striving to do the right thing.