Well-known Windsor, Ont., philanthropist Alan Quesnel has donated more than $2 million to support local and international Jewish and pro-Israel Christian organizations.
Quesnel, the former owner of a chain of athletic clubs in southern Ontario and a major donor to religious and service organizations, made the donation to the Windsor Jewish Federation on Dec. 4.
Jay Katz, the executive director of the Federation and Windsor Jewish Community Centre, was elated. “It was a surprise,” he said. “We received notice from him over the weekend that he wanted to make a large gift.”
As per Quesnel’s request, the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of Windsor will send just over $1 million of those funds to Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which is based in San Antonio.
“I would like to try in some small way to begin bridging the gap between these two wonderful religions,” Quesnel said in a statement. He was unavailable for further comment.
The remaining $1 million will go directly toward Windsor’s Jewish community, to be shared by the Windsor Jewish Community Centre, United Jewish Appeal and the Jewish National Fund, to support activities in southwestern Ontario and Israel.
Quesnel has contributed millions of dollars to an array of organizations over the years, including donating money to restore a local Catholic church and repair the city’s only medical PET/CT scanner. He has given money to the Canadian Mental Health Association and a Windsor hospice, and contributed $4 million to aid projects in Haiti.
Katz said the donation to the local Jewish community will buttress many activities, some of which are ecumenical.
“The Windsor Jewish Community Centre and Windsor Jewish Federation serve all of Windsor,” he said.
“A lot of the events we do are attended by lots of people from the wider community and we do educational programs in schools, and we do cultural programs (and) a summer camp for the whole city, and we have a seniors residence that has a majority non-Jewish people.”
Katz said Quesnel likes to give money to groups “who are on the ground doing things,” and said the funds “will give us great stability to continue these programs, to expand them and keep them stable” into the future.
He said the donation is “certainly one of the biggest” the Jewish community has seen in decades.
Ari Morgenstern, a spokesman for CUFI, declined an interview, saying the organization does not comment on donations.
With more than seven million members, CUFI describes itself as “the leading voice” for pro-Israel Christians.
The organization started in 2006 with 400 pastors and ministry leaders. It has rallied over a wide variety of issues supporting the Jewish state.
“When thousands of Hamas rockets prompted the 2014 war in Gaza, we brought a pastor from every state to Israel during Operation Protective Edge,” its website states. “CUFI is committed to confronting indifference and combatting anti-Semitism in all its forms wherever it may be found.”