The Book of Life has prompted me to think about what Judaism means to me. Simply put, it’s me; it’s who I am. I can’t separate myself from Judaism, but I can say that my own connection to Judaism and to the Jewish community has deepened over the years and still continues to grow.
I was raised in a Toronto Jewish middle-class home. My parents were frugal, and in difficult times, knew how to carry on with what was most important. They weren’t religious nor active shul-goers, but they were traditional and kept kosher, lit candles, and created a warm and loving home.
I started to go to shul on Shabbats when I met Paul whom I married; we were together for 29 years. He went to shul every Shabbat, so I decided to try it out too. Well, I loved it—the prayers, the feeling, everything! I went every Saturday not because I had to but because I wanted to.
My mother was a big inspiration for me. She said there are people who have more than us and people who have less, so you should give. You can give with your money, your time, and even your blood. I did all of that as best I could.
In 1965, I joined Canadian Hadassah Wizo (CHW), an easy choice because my mother was a long-time member. I’ve held every volunteer position available, and currently serve on the board. Their programs are wonderful, and I’ve been to Israel many times to see the impact of our fundraising.
Also, I was a long-time volunteer with Baycrest. Involved in a few programmes, I called out Bingo numbers every Wednesday for 10 years! It’s such a joy to help others. I learned that giving your time is important and you get back so much in return.
I was able to increase my financial giving when I retired from my teaching career many years ago. And recently, I established the Brondell Shapiro Family Fund at the Jewish Foundation, through which I can allocate my Tzedakah to the causes I care about.
There’s so much need. Many Jewish people live in poverty. And with the rise in antisemitism yet again, it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure future generations can live full, vibrant, and safe Jewish lives.
My biggest blessings are my three children (Ilan, Jennifer, and Ari) and eight grandchildren. It is important for me to leave a legacy for their Jewish future and for the generations to come. That’s the thing with this program. The giving is forever. And if everyone gives a little, or gives a lot, imagine what can be possible.