Sol and I feel, each and every day, that our shared values have been shaped by our parents' experiences in the Holocaust. What they endured, and the opportunities they worked so hard to give us, inspired us to give back to a community that had given so much to us.
Our parents, Leon and Eva Greenbaum and Benjamin and Matilda Wassermuhl, had actually known each other in a post-war displaced persons camp in Poland. The Wassermuhls survived the war in Russia with their son Hymie, Matilda gave birth to Sol in 1946. Leon and Eva were in Nazi work camps and Eva gave birth to their son, Joseph, also in 1946. Sol and Joseph were born within days of each other and became friends in the displaced persons camp. The Wassermuhls immigrated to Montreal; the Greenbaums settled in Toronto. I was born two weeks after my mother was flown to Toronto in her ninth month. My brother and father arrived by boat in Halifax. My mother gave birth all alone in her new country.
Both families had only each other and the community. Canadian Jewish agencies found them places to live, secured jobs, taught English and helped them navigate their new cities. Community was key in helping our families adapt to their new homes. We are passionate about honouring the sacrifices our parents made for us. We are grateful to Canada for the opportunities and we embrace the Jewish community, here and in Israel.
It is important to us that our children, Kevin and Beth, understand our history and appreciate how privileged they are. No one worked as hard as our parents, who had neither good fortune nor our advantages. It is our duty, because we have been so blessed by the selfless acts of our parents, to motivate the next generation. They have to know what we have learned: that tzedakah changes lives for the better.
We hope the most important legacy we leave our children and grandchildren is one that transforms intangible values into tangible action. The heart of Judaism is informed by core values that define what we are and who we are. We hope they never forget these defining principles: kindness, fairness and love forever.
As has so often been said, "From those to whom much has been given, much is expected."
Give, openly and frequently, with no expectation of reward. And give with an open heart.