Helen Silverstein

My parents, Faye and Howard Z"L Gitter, were proud of their Jewish heritage. Friday nights meant the family was together, in time-honoured tradition, when candles were lit and challah eaten. From an early age my parents instilled in me the importance of supporting the Jewish community through synagogue membership and encouraged me to participate in Temple Sinai’s youth activities. During my school years in Toronto, I did not have very many Jewish friends by virtue of the neighbourhood we lived in. But as a teenager I joined the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre, a bustling hub of activity. For me, the JCC will always have a special place in my heart – this is where I met my husband Steve. While on the upstairs running track, Steve was in the gym looking up.

I began to volunteer when our oldest child, Daniel, started school. When his siblings, Mark and Sarah joined him at Leo Baeck Day School, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer at their school. As they learned, I learned.

In 1987, I went to Israel for the first time on a UJA mission and was recruited to canvass upon my return. This took my passion to a new level and I loved this experience. The more I volunteered, the more I learned about our remarkable community and the need to lend a helping hand to Jews in Toronto and around the world.

Over the next 25 years I chaired telethons, the Walk with Israel and various Women’s Philanthropy divisions and educational programs. I believe that if something is given to me, it is to be shared. I have been blessed to be in a position to help, so I do. It sounds so simple, so obvious, but there is still so much need. Volunteering and philanthropy do not have a finite time span – they are life-long commitments. Judaism’s core values are grounded in the moral obligation of tzedakah. In Hebrew, the word tzedakah literally means justice. I think that is fitting.

Building a strong Jewish community and building a just society go hand in hand. Add to that a strong State of Israel. Jews are leaders in developing many life-saving inventions that benefit everyone. Being passionate about the environment I am gratified to see that Israeli innovation is at the forefront of so many sustainable green-tech initiatives around the world.

I have gone through the simple act of taking out a life insurance policy and having the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto as its beneficiary. It is deeply satisfying to know that my giving will live on long after I am gone and this is my legacy to my children and grandchildren.


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