A word from our founder

Amir and Noor asked me the other day why I want to help people. I shrugged and said, “Somebody has to.” But then I gave them a more comprehensive answer.

I explained that my father’s parents came to Canada from Poland in the 1920s. My father was born in 1929. The rest of their families remained in Europe and by the time many people realized what was happening, it was too late. They couldn't leave because there was nowhere to go. Nobody was taking in Jews. So, they were killed by the Nazis, except for my father’s uncle, his mother’s brother Sam. He survived a concentration camp, though his wife and children did not. They were killed in the holocaust, and after the camps were liberated, Sam returned to the area where he grew up, and met Goldie. Goldie has also survived in a concentration camp, and her husband and children were also murdered by the Nazis. Her husband was shot in the street and her children died in the camps. Sam and Goldie married and came to Toronto. They lived in a little house in Kensington Market.

My dad’s mother died in 1933, so she never saw Sam again. In the 1970s we used to visit him and Goldie at the house. They seemed very old to me, and Sam seemed very sad. I didn’t understand why at the time, but he looked like you would probably look if someone put your wife and children into an oven and turned on the gas.

One wall of the house was covered in framed photographs of people – men, women, and children. Again, I didn’t understand the meaning of this until much later, but I knew that they were all of the family members – ours and Goldie’s – who were killed by the Nazis.

I’m not fully on board with all the comparisons between the Jews of the holocaust and the people fleeing Syria. There are many differences, but there is one important similarity – the people of Syria need somewhere to go, someone to take them in, just like the Jews desperately needed someone to take them in. Doors all over the world were slammed in the faces of Jews trying to run from the Nazis. I don’t want to be the person who does that. I don’t want to stand up on judgement day – however you picture that day – and have to say “Yes, I knew they were drowning and I let them drown. You know how it is. I had other things going on.”

But it’s not enough just to demand that your government open the doors. These people need actual real live people to advocate for them, to invest in helping them, and to bring them over the threshold. Otherwise they won’t be able to come here and our support is merely symbolic, which isn’t much use at all.

That’s pretty much why I want to help. I want to do something that makes a difference, and that matters. To make this world a little better than it is right now. Also, I’m making up for a lifetime of narcissism.