I have been very fortunate to have spent my entire life surrounded by a family which demonstrated the importance of helping others. The family philosophy was that no matter our own circumstances, there was always someone in greater need and we should help.
My parents, Sam and Ann Slodovnick, worked hard and eventually lived comfortably but they were always mindful of their very modest beginnings with immigrant parents who settled in Montreal from Poland. Even when it was a struggle to make ends meet, my grandparents still found a way to have enough for the pushka, a constant fixture in their home, and later in my childhood home as well.
My parents had five children and each of us, over time, became ‘runners’ for my grandmother Pearl, collecting charitable donations when she was not able to get out and do so herself. She would make the phone calls, and we would ‘run’. The lesson of helping and guiding others seems to be rooted in our DNA.
As well, there were countless examples of tzedakah demonstrated by my parents through their volunteer work with many institutions including synagogues and hospitals, or with disabled youth or impoverished seniors, along with their charitable giving. It is in their honour that I follow that same path.
There is a famous adage from Pirkei Avot: Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot. I have made every effort to live accordingly.
When my career as a high school teacher, and later as a consultant, at the York Region District School Board ended, I created a scholarship for students who demonstrated initiative in serving their communities. It was a way of ensuring some continuity in the way I was guided, and in turn, to encourage others in the spirit of giving and helping.
Setting up a fund with the Jewish Foundation is another way to ensure that the lessons of my parents will endure. My values of compassion and charitable giving are a clear result of how I was raised and it is only natural that the Slodovnick tradition continue with this fund.