When I was a boy, I was a very good student but a bit of a ‘muzuk’. At Cheder the Rabbi complained to my father, Israel and my mother, Eva, “I don’t know what is going to happen to your son, he is such a trouble maker!” My father replied, “Don’t worry, he will be a great man.”
This brings tears to my eyes now. I have carried that statement throughout my career as the first Jewish Doctor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Toronto General Hospital. I have overcome the challenges of hearing loss suffered from childhood meningitis. I learned from my parents to adapt to the circumstances of life. My father’s words opened my heart to helping couples adopt children, support abortions, perform reverse sterilizations and specialize in microsurgery.
My parents came from the Ukraine. I didn’t know, until much later in my life about the Holocaust they went through. My mother’s family was slaughtered. Miraculously my mother, father and brother escaped and through a long journey found their way to Toronto.
My wife, Phyllis and I grew up in Toronto, and we both felt the pain and isolation of antisemitism. I would get beaten up when I went to Cheder. I felt the sting of anti-semitism at medical school and at the hospital.
Phyllis has always stood by me. We have built a life together. We felt good about doing things that were worthwhile, good and of benefit to others. In those early days, we didn’t make much money, but we developed the Spivak Foundation and supported many, many charities, large and small. And now we have made the decision to create this Endowment Fund at the Jewish Foundation to support the various causes that are important to us in perpetuity. It feels like the right thing to do at this time in our lives.
Our message in creating this fund is to stand firm against anti-semitism and hold fast to our Jewish identity. Be concerned about that part of Jewish society that is underprivileged. Be respectful, in tune with and kind to those around us. This is what we would like to pass on to our children; our son Jonathon, our daughter Sari, her husband, Howard and our grandchildren Zachary and Joshua.
Stand for something. Take risks in life to stand for what you believe in. And, as I learned from my father, believe in the greatness of our children.