I have three children. But the Jewish community is my fourth

We give our three children enormous love and energy and guidance, and at the same time, we also discuss the fourth child that we nurture and guide alongside them: the Jewish community.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada (photo credit: REUTERS)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(photo credit: REUTERS)
My husband and I have three children: two girls and a boy. People know that. But what they don’t know is that in our household we also discuss the fourth child that we nurture and guide alongside the other three: the Jewish community.
Growing up, my father, Paul Morton, had a code that he lived by: With privilege comes responsibility. He didn’t mean that we had tremendous wealth. He meant that we had a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs and opportunities and education and love – and we had a responsibility to share it. He and my mom have both played huge roles in their communities, including chairing campaigns and heading women’s philanthropy initiatives. My husband, Gil, grew up this way, too: His dad was a doctor (in Canada’s socialized healthcare system), his mom a high school teacher, and both were very community minded. All four of our parents set an example that made it very natural for us to think of our communities as extensions of ourselves.
We give each of our children enormous love and energy and guidance and time. For our daughters and son growing up, that meant things like taking them to hockey and dance and Hebrew school and music; in the case of the Jewish community, it was time spent raising money, chairing committees, launching new initiatives, and serving on boards.
Sometimes, when there were issues, we had to sit our kids down and tell them why we were disappointed in them and how we thought they could do better. The Jewish community sometimes needs that too; the encouragement to do something different today than what was done yesterday. After all, we constantly introduced our kids to new ideas and pushed them to get out of their comfort zone, so why not the same for our fourth child?
We have been advocates for innovation and improvement in the Jewish community, too. Individually, we’ve been founding lay chair of PJ Library in Toronto, launched Young Business Network, was founding editor of a Jewish federation newspaper insert, pushed for changes to education and supplementary education and more.
We taught our kids to value diversity in their friend groups and not to leave anyone out or make them feel badly – and I modeled the same lesson in the Jewish community when I co-chaired Bathurst Street Kitchen, Toronto’s first Jewish community cookbook. People told me that it was the first time they ever felt part of the community.
We have always focused on education with our kids, sending them to a community Jewish high school and excellent universities and grad schools. Our philanthropy supported that same local Jewish high school, and helped found Shalem College, Israel’s #1 ranked college (and only liberal arts college) so that Israelis could have access to a world class liberal arts education, too.
And finally, in our wills, the estate is divided into four equal parts: one part for each of the three children we bore and raised, and one part for our fourth child, the one we nurtured right alongside them; the Jewish community. Because we have signed the Jewish Future Pledge and discussed it with our children, they know that they are responsible for looking after that fourth sibling and making sure that its future is secure. We hope that because they have grown up with that sibling all their lives, they will care for it as they care for each other.
My father taught us that with privilege comes responsibility. Our children know that I have added to that adage with the following: It is a responsibility to have this privilege and a privilege to have this responsibility.
The writer is a Canadian-based business executive and CMO of Jewish Future Pledge.