What is a true legacy? A legacy is not measured simply by the items or work you leave behind, but by what you have created in others that lives on. Norman Lesh, who passed away last year at age 84, created an immense legacy of doing good deeds.
Now his family hopes to inspire others with his passion for philanthropy so that we all may create our own powerful legacies.
To perpetuate and memorialize his kindness and compassion, the family has created an annual grant called “The Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award.” The award, to be presented at the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation Annual General Meeting each spring, is aimed at an individual, group or charity engaged in philanthropic entrepreneurial activity that offers ongoing benefits to the Ottawa Jewish community, or the broader Ottawa community.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Norman gave his time and energy to helping the entire Ottawa community. His philanthropy transcended philosophic and religious differences, and he was involved with many diverse organizations and groups.
The list of his leadership, volunteer roles and accomplishments is equally long.
Professionally, he ended his business career as senior vice-president of M Loeb Ltd., one of Canada’s largest grocery chains. His volunteer roles included serving as president of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation and president of Parliament Lodge of B’nai Brith, where he was instrumental in the development of the annual Millionaire’s Night Fundraiser.
He was honoured by the Jewish National Fund as their Negev Dinner honouree in 1989; he was a Hall of Fame member of Rideau Kiwanis and was awarded the International Kiwanis Legion of Honour in 2003. The Kiwanis’ honours were in part because he was instrumental in creating the Rideau Kiwanis Coupon Program and Christmas cake fundraiser, which raised millions of dollars for various charities.
Despite a busy professional and family life – Norman was married to Isabel for 59 years and they had four children, Don (Liz), Sharon (Paul), Cheryl (Andre) and Steven (Hildy), and 11 grandchildren – he still made time for so much more.
“I often asked myself, ‘Why was Dad so involved?’” said Steven Lesh. “Dad never really spoke of this. He just quietly went forward with his selfless efforts. My firm belief is that he quite simply wanted to help those that were less fortunate. It was what living his life was about. Helping others was what brought joy to Dad’s life.”
In fact, one of the best ways to understand the type of man Norman was is to describe his actions behind the scenes.
Steven remembers how his father took care of a relative who had not previously been a close part of the family, but who was now old and living alone.
“Dad was a real busy guy with his job, his real estate management, his philanthropic work and his wife and four children, yet here he was going over to this man’s apartment and making sure that he was well looked after. He never spoke of this. He just did it.
“I think this was a more meaningful life lesson to me than any of the other pursuits that led to millions of dollars
for the community. This was the meaning of his life – what he was put on this Earth to do.
“He didn’t study the Talmud, but he certainly led his life according to the edict of ‘whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.’”
Norman Lesh’s contributions have enhanced and enriched the quality of life for our community and beyond. His work has inspired and supported programs that were innovative and creative, and it is a testimony to his legacy that the award named in his honour will support similar deserving initiatives in the future. Moreover, it is his family’s sincere hope that his example will also inspire others to build their own legacy through the resources of the Foundation.
For more information about The Norman Lesh Philanthropy Award, contact Foundation Director of Development Arieh Rosenblum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-4696, ext. 270.