I grew up Jewish in Shreveport, Louisiana. My father, who came from Poland, via Cuba to the U.S, returned to Poland just before the war, to find a Jewish wife. He set his sights on my mother, standing at a bus stop, followed her home, married her in 4 days and brought her to Louisiana. As my Mom said, he literally “saved my life”, as all of my mother’s family perished in the Holocaust. The emotional impact of this still reverberates through three generations of our family.
Even though I grew up in a small Jewish community, we always maintained our traditions. On High Holidays and Passover, our home was open to Jewish servicemen from the local air force base. My mother was committed to Hadassah and the Jewish Federation. I belonged to a Jewish youth group where performing mitzvahs was our daily motto. I learned then, that small good deeds can impact with much larger positive results. Our family belonged to both of the town’s two synagogues. When I moved to Toronto, my Jewish identity was deeply ingrained and simply ‘went where I went’.
Leonard‘s strong Jewish roots were role modeled by his father, who at the age of 15, escaped the pogroms in Russia, immigrating to Toronto. While building a successful business, he was also fiercely devoted to Jewish community, serving as the president of JIAS. His family was one of the first to join Holy Blossom Temple. Being raised in a family with deep commitments to Israel and the Jewish people, Leonard has embraced these values, giving generously of his time, energy and financial means to many initiatives, including bringing 17 relatives from Lithuania to Israel.
Giving meaningfully can happen in big and small ways. We try to do both with our respective foundations. I particularly have a lot of heart for smaller individual gifts (a mitzvah) that can have a big impact on someone’s life. Having forged a long career in broadcasting, I reach out to young people who need help getting started, be it a small scholarship or funds to buy their first camera. These small gestures can be the catalysts that open doors of opportunity.
We are blessed to see that our closely connected blended family (5 adult children and their spouses, 9 granddaughters, 3 grandsons) embrace similar values and will continue to walk in our footsteps.