Ali Spinner

My paternal grandparents were the sole survivors of their immediate families after the war, and as an adult, I recognized that without the support of the Jewish community that took them in when they first arrived in Canada, they would have never achieved the level of comfort they did in Canadian society. I would consider myself and Jamie as “first- generation philanthropists,” but because of my grandparents’ experience, the importance of supporting our community was probably a concept embedded in me at an early age. Neither Jamie nor I are overly observant or religious, but contributing to the continuity of Jewish traditions is an important element in our lives, and one we are anxious to pass on to our children, Robyn and Jordan.

My strong desire to give back has also been triggered by the support our community has given me in the growth of my own career. For many years I made a point of volunteering to assist in free tax clinics for low-income Canadians. On many of these occasions, I would bring my daughter along to play with the client’s children while I prepared the tax forms, and the family’s gratitude for the time and effort I gave them truly warmed my heart. Jamie and I are involved with the tuition assistance committee at Leo Baeck Day School, so we are both trying to ensure that those who require assistance are getting the help they need.

Wanting others to benefit from the professional advice I am able to provide has inspired me to become very involved with UJA and the Jewish Foundation, where I sit on the Professional Advisory Committee, serve as a trustee, and also editor of Giving Advice, their philanthropic newsletter for advisors. In addition, I sit on the boards of Temple Sinai and Save a Child’s Heart, and on advisory committees for Sick Kids and Baycrest. This may sound like a lot of commitment to some people, but to me, it feels easy. Though Jamie and I have initiated a family fund through the Jewish Foundation, so much of what I give is not dollars, but rather my time and talent. If you love what you do and are passionate about it, contributing to our community seems to me a relatively simple matter.

This is the legacy I wish to pass on to my children: for them to recognize that they live a privileged life, and with that privilege comes the responsibility of taking care of our community, so that its members and its institutions can remain strong. I want my daughter and son to derive the same sense of satisfaction and joy as I do from knowing I’ve made a difference in the lives of others.