In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, The CJN presents 40 profiles of some of the most prominent Jewish Canadians throughout our history.
Ben Sadowski was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, whose vision shaped many of Toronto’s communal Jewish institutions, including Mount Sinai Hospital and the United Jewish Welfare Fund of Toronto, the forerunner of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Sadowski was born in Massey, Ont., in 1894, where his immigrant parents, Rose and Henry, operated a general store. He received a BA from the University of Toronto in mathematics and physics in 1918 and spent three years as a fellow in the mathematics department, but ultimately was drawn to the automobile business.
He became president of National Motors Limited and was also president of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association of Canada. During World War II, he served with the Vehicle Production Committee.
But it was his generosity and foresight that shaped Toronto’s Jewish community.
A board member of Mount Sinai Hospital, he had a dream of the institution becoming a teaching hospital, affiliated with the University of Toronto.
The hospital’s medical staff, who had faced discriminatory quotas at medical school and in the city’s other hospitals, were reluctant to embrace Sadowski’s vision and lose their hard-won independence.
But he prevailed and, in 1943, a site for the hospital was purchased on University Avenue, after some strategic negotiations with the Hospital for Sick Children, which had its eye on the same plot of land.
Sadowski was also a founder and the first president of the United Jewish Welfare Fund of Toronto and a president of Jewish Family and Child Service.
His contributions were recognized in 1946, when he was named a member of the British Empire. He was also the recipient of two Coronation medals. His legacy is remembered in the UJA’s Ben Sadowski award of merit, which was named in his honour.
Ben Sadowski died in 1974.