More than 500 people filled the sold-out Infinity Convention Centre, November 6, to celebrate 2017 honouree Lawrence Greenspon at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Ottawa’s annual Negev Dinner.
Greenspon, a well-known criminal defence attorney and civil litigator, also has a long history as a devoted community activist and fundraiser. A past chair of the Ottawa Jewish Community Centre and the United Way Community Services Cabinet, Greenspon has initiated a number of health-based events and campaigns and has been previously honoured with many awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Volunteer Ottawa and the Community Builder of the Year Award by the United Way.
Rabbi Reuven Bulka, the Negev Dinner MC, praised Greenspon’s creative fundraising ideas using “boxing, motorcycles, paddling races and even hockey and dancing events.”
“Lawrence has touched so many of us, in so many ways, by devoting endless hours, and being a voice for those who don’t have a voice,” said Negev Dinner Chair David Feldberg in his remarks.
Greenspon’s involvement with JNF dates back to his days as a Hebrew school student in Ottawa when he’d bring coins to class that contributed to planting trees in Israel. In accepting the Negev Dinner honour Greenspon said he was “grateful to be honoured by a community of givers.”
“Why am I – why are we – doing these things?” Greenspon asked in regard to charitable pursuits.
“The opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference, and we rise up by lifting others,” Greenspon said in response to his rhetorical question.
Greenspon announced that the funds raised by the Negev Dinner in his honour would support the renewal of the Noga Home residential facility at the ALEH-Negev Nahalat Eran Rehabilitation Village for people with complex disabilities.
The village is home to 137 Jews, Christians, Muslims and Bedouins with severe developmental and physical disabilities that require extensive supportive care. The residents of the Noga Home are girls in need of a soothing environment, spacious treatment area and new assistive technologies and equipment.
Major General (Res) Doron Almog, founder of ALEH-Negev Nahalat Eran, was the evening’s keynote speaker. Almog retired 14 years ago from active service in elite units of the Israel Defense Forces and has since devoted himself to the ALEH-Negev centre. For his efforts, Almog has received the Israel Prize and the Yigal Alon Award for Exemplary Pioneering Social Activities.
Almog brought many in the audience to tears as he spoke about his late son, Eran, who died prematurely in 2007 and “taught me to care, listen, assist, be humble and love, above all.”
He said that people with disabilities like his son “are the purest people who have never done harm to anyone – yet are punished twice, first by broken bodies, and second by shame, stereotypes and a wall of exclusion from society.”
ALEH-Negev, Almog explained, is a new model of integration for people living with physical and mental disabilities “all enveloped by love, with the best education and housing facilities.”
The disabled, Almog noted, are among “the most discriminated against” in society and urged the audience to help build a world free from discrimination. “By loving the disabled we will have a better humanity,” he said.
The evening ended with Carter Grusys thanking Almog for “helping those who can’t help themselves by leveraging your strength for them and creating a place where people with special needs can belong, thrive and develop.”