“Count your blessings and make them count” – that was the theme at a recent National Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat of the United Jewish Communities. Appreciating the blessings that have been bestowed upon each of us, or hakarat hatov, is one of the guiding principles of Jewish life. The lives of my grandfathers reflect that idea in action.
My paternal grandfather, Rabbi Joshua Spiro, arrived in Canada during the depths of the depression. He worked tirelessly to provide for his family and, at the same time, to save his fellow Jews from the flames of the Holocaust. Wherever he lived, he performed a leading role in the community – whether acting as Rabbi, mohel, chazzan, or judge on the Beit Din – and did so with a rare combination of brilliance and warmth that exemplified the highest ideals of justice and compassion.
My maternal grandfather, Max Tanenbaum, offered vital assistance to many post-war immigrants to Toronto in large ways and small. He helped them establish businesses, make contacts and forge relationships that enabled his fellow Jews to provide for themselves and their families. His acts of chesed are legendary and he performed them in a modest and unassuming way. He was an extraordinary man whose humility, integrity and boundless energy inspired the entire community.
As the grandson of those two inspiring Jewish leaders, I am fortunate to have had such outstanding role models to guide me. I have also been blessed with wonderful parents, Rabbi Solomon and Tauba Spiro, who have devoted their lives to assisting those in need. Finally, I am privileged to live in a city that leads the Jewish world in so many profound ways. Our community is incredibly strong, committed and inspired. If each of us does our part to provide for the future, together we will ensure the continued growth, success and leadership of our entire community – if we truly want to make our blessings count, we can do no less.