TORONTO — Ontario’s only Sephardi elementary school has honoured a philanthropist through the renaming of the school.
Joe Dwek, left, is recognized for his donation to the newly renamed Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School. Beside Dwek is Rabbi Haham Amram Assayag, chief rabbi of the Sephardic Rabbinate and dean of the school, with Menahem Azulay, president of the school. [Twins Photo & Video photo]
The Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School, formerly the Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School, has had a successful fundraising year, reaching around $1 million in donations mostly thanks to Toronto area philanthropist Joe Dwek, who provided them with a large donation this year.
“I have to say that I have found Joe to be an incredible mensch, a very warm person, and someone who values friendship profoundly,” said Stuart Haber, managing director of the school.
“He’s someone who deeply loves his family and deeply appreciates the importance of family and Judaism, and someone who feels that education is critical for the development of an individual,” Haber said.
The donation will go a long way to help the school, he said.
“We’re always struggling to meet our financial commitment every year,” said Victor Arrobas, the school’s vice-president and a former student. “With this donation, we’ll be able to invest in things that will enhance education for children in the school.”
Among other areas, the money will help in upgrading the technology in the school’s computer lab, and expanding its special education and remedial services programs, according to Haber.
The school’s annual operating cost is around $1.5 million, and therefore this donation is very helpful, he said.
The school hosted an Aug. 2 dinner and recognition ceremony at the Sephardic Kehila Centre – also the location of the school – where more than 415 people gathered to celebrate and recognize Dwek’s donation. The dinner was also a fundraiser and had the largest turnout of any of the centre’s fundraisers since it opened more than 32 years ago, Haber said.
American radio talk-show host Dennis Prager spoke at the ceremony.
“We chose him because he is an excellent commentator on world events and issues with regards to ethics and morality and because he is known as a very, very good speaker,” Haber said, adding that the topic of his speech was 11 points in the defence of Israel.
Dwek was born in Manchester, England, and spent much of his young life moving around, having lived in 21 houses in 21 years. His father died when he was 14, and his mother then left England for Venezuela.
He used education as a driving force, according to a biography from the ceremony. When he was 28, he went to Venezuela, and then moved to Toronto three years later, where he built an accounting agency that he currently owns.
He is a member of the synagogue at the Sephardic Kehila Centre, and his perspectives and goals are in line with the school’s objectives, Haber said, which he described as producing “students who excel academically but who also have a drive to service the community.”
“Mr. Dwek is an incredible example of someone who appreciates the absolute need for strength in Jewish education,” he said.
“He believes that our children represent the most important assets of our community,” Haber said, and the donation will go a long way to help the children of the school.