My life started with loving and caring parents, Nadzia and Zalman Salmanowicz z”l from Belchatov, Poland. In 1939, they escaped to Russia as refugees and finally made a temporary home in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, my birthplace. After the War, we returned to Belchatov to find family but tragically, those who had stayed were sent to the Lodz Ghetto and perished in the Holocaust. Looking for survivors, we journeyed to a DP camp in Germany, my brother Manny’s birthplace. We then moved to Belgium where we lived until arriving in Canada in 1951.
I know little about my parents’ experiences during the War, but they were guided by generosity and kindness even in the most challenging of circumstances. I saw this generosity first-hand when we owned a grocery store on Markham St. Many customers bought food on credit and paid only when and if they could. My parents never collected. The obligation to help others was instilled in us from a very young age.
In Canada, my parents were active in the Landsmanschaft Society and fundraised for the community. I enjoyed participating in my father’s activities, and learned to be involved in a philanthropic organization. Following in my father’s footsteps, in high school I was involved in a group which collected pennies each day and distributed the funds to charity weekly. After I married and started my own family, I became active in Hadassah-WIZO and eventually joined the Toronto Executive Board. I also volunteered on committees for our synagogue, Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda, and organized a sponsorship group for the Vietnamese Boat People.
I have been blessed with four wonderful, supportive and successful daughters - Elysa, Dina, Samantha and Michelle - and ten awesome grandchildren. I see my parents’ values of charity, respect and tolerance reflected in each one of them. My partner of 25 years, Robert Preszler, has always supported my commitment to raise a close, connected, warm Jewish family.
It was important to me that my daughters be provided with a strong Jewish upbringing by keeping kosher, attending day school and synagogue regularly, and opening our home to family, friends and visitors. To my parents, who had lost so much, family was everything. After my father passed, my mother spent every Shabbat with us and later came to live with us. Her children and grandchildren were her greatest joy in life.
Through my gift to the Jewish Foundation, I hope that the compassion and generosity my parents taught me will continue to benefit future generations, and help to provide support and compassion to those who are suffering or in need.