In conversation with Richard Diamond
We recently sat down with longtime community leader and 2022 Annual Campaign Co-Chair Richard Diamond about his gratitude to be part of our Toronto Jewish community, and the responsibility we carry to both past and future generations.
What are some of the more meaningful moments in your Jewish journey so far?
I remember my grandmother always having time and money to give to all kinds of Jewish causes. She never said no, even though they weren’t a family of substantial financial means. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a municipal politician. He gave a lot of himself. They taught me a lot through their example. As well, I remember being on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion when Ethiopian Jews first came to Israel, helping them off the plane, bringing them to the absorption centre and feeling that these were my people, my family and that I was there to assist. These are some of the many early experiences that shaped me.
And now, as Campaign Co-Chair, I’ve been so struck sitting down with many of the individuals and families within our Jewish community—their commitment, their strategic thinking, their thoughtfulness. We have so many strengths here and I do feel blessed. And we have so much more potential as well.
When you were asked to serve as 2022 Campaign Co-Chair, what led you to say yes?
In a sense, it was because I couldn’t say no. When you’re called on to serve in this way, it’s a serious responsibility and one needs to look at it seriously. I looked at some of the others who came before me in this role. They gave their time and so many others have done and continue to do so as well. Everyone said that it was a big job, but so worthwhile. Many told me it would be one of the greatest years of my life! I’ll let you know when it’s done.
What are some of the greatest gifts the Toronto Jewish community brings to bear in the work of strengthening Jewish life, here and around the world?
We have such a strong idea of Jewish peoplehood here. We connect with people in the Former Soviet Union, in Israel, and here in Toronto, through this shared history. That’s a wonderful gift. As well, our institutions—UJA, our network of funded agencies, they are all remarkable. I’m so fortunate to be living as a Jew at this time and in this place. That’s another reason I said yes to becoming Campaign Co-Chair—my gratitude for this. I could have been anywhere in the world, or in history, and I wouldn’t be so fortunate. I feel responsible because I’ve been so privileged.
Why should community members participate in this year’s Annual Campaign?
Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents have built this community for us. So it’s ours to strengthen. We do that through charitable giving and volunteering.
What kind of Jewish community do you hope the next generation will inherit?
One more vibrant and more connected. One which can adapt as the times change. One where everyone is involved. Where we continuously innovate. Where we remember who came before us and what they built for us, and honour that gift they’ve given us.
To learn more about UJA 2022 Annual Campaign, visit www.UJAReady.ca.
Brendan Steven serves as UJA’s Chief Writer.
Richard Diamond is UJA’s 2022 Annual Campaign Co-Chair.