Like many 62-year-olds, Peter Salmon sighs a bit when pondering his life. “It’s been a wonderful life,” he said in the book-lined study of his Thornhill home, “even though I’ve had a bad break.”
The “bad break” to which he understatedly referred happened in July 2013 when an accident rendered him a quadriplegic. Salmon now uses a mechanized wheelchair. Still, “I’m very lucky to be alive,” he said. “In many ways, I’m grateful.”
Last Sunday, the tight-knit synagogue community to which he and his family belong honoured Salmon and his wife, Roslyn, in a hachnasat sefer Torah (celebration of Torah dedication) in their name.
The joyous procession took hundreds of friends and loved ones from the Salmon home through the streets of Thornhill, amid balloons, music, dancing and cheering, to Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation (BAYT), where the family has been members for more than 30 years.
The special Torah – a smaller, more portable version that may be taken off-site – was written in Israel and will be stored at BAYT. As is customary in the dedication of a new Torah, the final letters of the scroll were completed in ink by nearly 100 well-wishers last Thursday night and just before Sunday’s procession.
‘I don’t often use the term ‘heroic,’ but I can only describe [peter salmon] in heroic terms’
Sponsorship of the Torah raised about $276,000 for the synagogue, the Salmons’ son Josh told The CJN.
Peter Salmon downplayed his own significance in all this and praised community members. “We are amazed at the response,” he said, his wife beside him, gently squeezing his hand.
“I won’t lie to you,” he went on. “The pain is there, but I’ve been able to deal with it the best I can. The backbone is my wife.”
A former dentist who maintained a practice in Etobicoke for many years, Salmon had to stop when he showed early signs of multiple sclerosis.
Undeterred, he went on to become a much-loved science teacher at Tiferes Bais Yaakov, a private Orthodox girls school, eventually becoming vice-principal.
Again undeterred, he took up painting using a specially adapted mouthpiece. His colour-splashed acrylics adorn the Salmon home. “I learned to paint from YouTube,” he said. He still learns Torah regularly in a study group that meets at his house, where minyanim also gather. “It’s a great formula,” he quipped, his sense of humour undiminished. “The davening is short and quiet, and the kiddush is long.”
Joining the Salmons at the dedication were their three sons – Josh, 36, Yossi, 34, and Menachem, 32 – daughters-in-law Rebecca and Lindsay; and six grandchildren, aged seven months to seven years.
“They are our best medicine,” Peter said.
The family has “a golden name in the community,” noted BAYT’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Daniel Korobkin.
Peter Salmon has always been “a doer, a person who makes a tremendous contribution,” Rabbi Korobkin added. “I don’t often use the term ‘heroic,’ but I can only describe him in heroic terms.
“He’s been nothing less than an inspiration to anyone who knows him. Despite going through that kind of hardship in life, he has managed to rise above it, to maintain his emunah (belief) in God and greet every person with a tremendous sense of gratitude and kindness.”
At BAYT on Sunday before hundreds of fellow congregants and in a voice that gained strength, Salmon had this advice: “Make every day count and to open your heart to others.”