TORONTO — Business executive and philanthropist Fred Waks, the 2012 honoree of the Jewish National Fund’s 64th annual Negev Dinner in Toronto, is a dynamic man for all seasons.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Waks, 55, is one of the foremost experts in retail development and the president and COO of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, Canada’s largest REIT, which owns and manages Canada’s most extensive portfolio of shopping centres.
Waks is also a dedicated family man who cares for the environment and loves nature and animals.
Married 32 years, he and his wife, Linda, have worked for numerous charitable organizations, locally, nationally and in Israel.
Waks will be feted at the Negev Dinner on Nov. 18, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as a tribute to his dedication to helping others.
“This year will be the largest dinner by every measurement in the 64-year history of Negev Dinners across Canada. This is due to the overwhelming popularity of Fred and Linda Waks, and the community’s desire to build 100 per cent of Israel through JNF,” said Josh Cooper, CEO of Jewish National Fund (JNF) Canada.
“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with Fred, Linda and their entire family and friends. It is no surprise that the dinner is so large. They are tremendous people who deserve every accolade they receive.”
Waks told The CJN he was grateful that his parents, Henry and Sylvia Waks, “who recently passed on, were aware that this honor was to be bestowed” on him.
Reflecting Waks’ love of nature, the proceeds of this year’s Negev Dinner will create the Fred and Linda Botanical Garden in Akko, a beautiful port city on the northern coast of Israel.
“The botanical garden will feature educational facilities and community recreation, with beautifully landscaped walking and biking paths,” Waks said.
“It will be a gathering place for all Israelis and tourists, and will foster growth and development in the city. It will improve community life for all Israelis.”
Waks was a student of political science and of Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, when he met Linda, who graduated with a master’s degree in anthropology.
He started his business career as a commercial agent at the real estate company A.E. Lepage in 1981, and soon he developed a reputation for creating new retail opportunities for various companies.
In 1995, he joined RioCan as senior vice-president of development. In 2000, he was promoted to senior vice-president and COO, and in 2012, he became president and COO.
He has served as co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal and the Israel Emergency Campaign during the Second Lebanon War. He also established The Fred and Linda Waks Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Western Ontario.
Currently, he is a co-chair of the Forest Hill Jewish Centre’s Capital Campaign, a supporter of Lubavitch Ontario and a long-standing member of Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue.
“Fred and Linda are beloved members of our community. Fred helps to create the special camaraderie that fills Shaarei Shomayim on Shabbat,” said Rabbi Chaim Strauchler of Shaarei Shomayim.
“He grew up in Shaarei Shomayim, and he is a regular attendee on Shabbat morning. Fred cares for the people in the shul. He is a person for whom Jewish community and continuity are more than words – they are a way of life. His involvement in Shaarei Shomayim is a testament of these values.”
Reflecting on his philosophy, Waks said that he has “been able to cross all segments of our Jewish community. I am an inclusive person. As long as a person participates, I have time for them. For those who do not, I have very little time in my social or business life.”
He added that he believes that if you are in a position of authority and do not leverage that position for the community, you have not fulfilled your responsibility to your community.
“I live my life that way,” he said.
Waks is proud that his wife is active in volunteerism at Mount Sinai Hospital, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Baycrest and other organizations.
The couple’s four daughters include Jessica, Marlie, Whitney and Ariel. Animal lovers, the family has four cats and a Great Dane, Lucy.
For more information about the Negev Dinner or to make reservations, call Elana Paice Lidsky at 416- 638-7200, ext. 137, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.