Farber: The outstanding people of 5779

From left, Deanna Di Lello, curator, Liv Mendelsohn, director of accessibility and inclusion, MNJCC; former Toronto city councillor, Howard Levine, and archivist, Paul Leatherdale, a board member of ArQuives, pose in front a photo of archivist, Johnny Abush.

As the Jewish year 5779 comes to a close, it is a time for all of us to be self-reflective. It’s been my custom (OK, I started it last year) to consider those inside and outside our community who have helped make this a better world.

I have been fortunate to have had the honour to meet so many good and decent people who understand in the very deepest reaches of their hearts that vision, outreach, courage and steadfastness speaks to the Jewish concept of tikun olam – the admonition to repair the world and ensure it is a place where our children and grandchildren can feel safe and can thrive.

Today’s world is complex and filled with possibilities, but it also has traces of evil and hatred. The folks I recognize this year walk with their heads held high. They cast away fear of being vilified and stigmatized for their progressive views, understanding that in order to get to that better place, we have to sometimes walk through the muck and, as Shakespeare so wisely intoned, “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Liv Mendelsohn

Mendelsohn is the director of accessibility and inclusion at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto. A field instructor for the faculty of social work at the University of Toronto, she has devoted her professional life to ensuring that those with disabilities are embraced as part of our community. She has a passion for this work, as evidenced by the fact that she is also the director of the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival and was named as a CivicAction  DiverseCity fellow last year. This year, she is a mentor for the Association for Fundraising Philanthropies, where she focuses on issues of charity and inclusion.

Amira Elghawaby

Full disclosure, Elghawaby and I sit together on the board of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and we have worked in concert for many years on social justice issues. She is a true friend of all minority communities. She’s outspoken and firm in her belief that all people have intrinsically good qualities, but she does not suffer fools gladly. As a journalist and human rights advocate, she has spoken her mind on the evils of white supremacy, advocated against Quebec’s Bill 21 and stood side-by-side with the Jewish community condemning anti-Semitism. She championed progressive causes when directing communications for the National Council of Canadian Muslims and continues to do so in her present work with the Canadian labour movement.


Zachary Dan

Here is a young man who’s smart, articulate and privileged, but he did not let that privilege go to his head. Quite the contrary. A member of the fabled and philanthropic Dan family of Toronto, he is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he received a master’s degree in computer science. Prior to that, he graduated with a bachelor of science and aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Raised to embrace the values of justice and charity, he put his skills to good use, developing Act Analytics, “a service provider using a technology driven approach to bring sustainable business practices to modern investing.” It helps investors become real and progressive agents for world change.

Jack McCarthy and Steve Kennedy

I have been friends with these two for over 40 years and both stood with me under the huppah when I married Karyn (my true and best friend forever), but they have also done so much to help those in need. Both have worked in the social service field, in areas of child welfare, youth justice, homelessness and mental health. Kennedy was a volunteer firefighter when he lived in Nova Scotia and McCarthy is the chair of CanUgan, which supports folks with physical disabilities in rural Uganda.

We owe all these folks a hug and a thank you for proving to us that there is good in this world. Shanah tovah to all.