TORONTO — Harold Nashman, founder of Camp Wahanowin and Jewish community philanthropist, died Dec. 31 in Florida. He was 84.
In a eulogy, Rabbi Ahron Hoch of the Village Shul referred to Nashman as his teacher, mentor, friend and “partner in idealism” for the past 30 years. “He was humble, brilliant and multi-talented,” the rabbi said.
Referring to Nashman’s early support of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Hoch thanked him for “believing in five 20-something crazy idealists 30 years ago.”
A father of five and grandfather of 15, the Toronto-born lawyer, who retired after five years in practice, founded Camp Wahanowin in 1955.
His sons, Alon and Bruce, who is now director of the Orillia camp, spoke in separate eulogies of their father’s gift for making speeches.
“Harold always found the words which celebrated the best of what was going on,” Alon said. “And everyone in the room felt taller, acknowledged, appreciated and loved. He never made notes.”
Nashman had a long history of health problems, beginning with a massive heart attack at age 31. It left him with “a sunny attitude wedded to a total appreciation of each day,” Alon said.
His medical history included sextuple bypass surgery, kidney failure, cirrhosis, diabetes and cancer, and a broken neck three years ago, from which he recovered. Two weeks before his death, he fell and broke a hip.
But, Alon said, “He seemed to be able to turn every ‘oy’ into joy.”
Before his career as a camp director, Nashman’s leadership skills came into play as social convenor of Osgoode Hall Law School, and in his involvement with his fraternity and with Hillel. He also served as a writer for the UC Follies at the University of Toronto.
At Wahanowin, Nashman and his late wife, Yetta, created “a safe and loving environment in which young people could grow,” Alon said, recalling his dad’s role as a father figure to many.
In the past 30 years, Nashman emerged as a major fundraiser after his son, Bruce, spent a summer at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, Alon said.
Nashman was involved in setting up a Toronto branch of the Orthodox Jewish outreach organization and developed a funding model – a free community lecture sponsored by donors – that has since been widely copied, Alon said. “He never considered himself a macher, but he gave as if he was one.”
In addition to the Village Shul, Nashman supported initiatives in Israel and eventually, the Yetta Nashman Jewish Family Institute, a project of the Village Shul and the Aish HaTorah Learning Centre.
As well, he played a central role in the development of the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School and co-wrote a song called The Power of Peace, which became an anthem for Care International and was recorded by Aretha Franklin and Enrique Iglesias.
Nashman’s son, Bruce, recalled his father’s knack for coining original words, his sense of fun, and his comfort with people from all walks of life – from Orthodox to secular, and including major figures like Elie Wiesel and Israeli prime ministers.
Nashman was predeceased by his wife, Yetta. He is survived by children, Alon, Bruce, Mark, Laura and Danny; his sister, Rina Fishbein; his partner, Bella Hull, and 15 grandchildren.