Martin Prosserman Presented With Prestigious Leadership Award

Published: December 17th 2010
in News » Local

Gary Lipman, executive vice president and COO of the JCCA (right) presents the Keter Torah Award to Martin Prosserman.

As the holiday of Chanukah came to a close, the family and friends of one of Jewish Toronto’s preeminent philanthropists gathered to celebrate a different kind of miracle.  


At an intimate dinner reception on December 9th, Martin Prosserman, the lead donor of the Prosserman JCC, was honoured by the Jewish Community Centre Association (JCCA) with the first-ever Keter Torah Award – The Crown of a Good Name.  


“Marty Prosserman represents a miracle to the Jews of Toronto, to the Jews of Canada, to the Jews of North America and to Jews around the world,” said Gary Lipman, the executive vice president and COO of the JCCA. “From a simple nickel bar of soap…he has brought forth light through his generous gift to build the Prosserman JCC.”  


Lipman, who travelled from New York to present the award, referenced Prosserman’s five-cent inspiration for the $12 million JCC gift. Growing up poor in Montreal, Prosserman would frequent the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA), where for a nickel, he could get a bar of soap, a clean towel and a hot shower. He realized, even then, that this was made possible thanks to the generosity of those who built and subsidized the facility.  


“We would not be sitting here tonight if it wasn’t for the Y,” said Prosserman, who learned how to swim, dance and even box at the YMHA. It is also where, at the age of 15, he met his late wife, Ellen.  


The Keter Torah Award was created in order to recognize individuals like Prosserman who, through major gifts, have had JCC’s named after them.  


“You join a very distinct and special group of JCC philanthropists,” said Lipman, whose organization represents over 2 million people and 275 JCCs and YMHAs across North America.  


Prosserman’s gift, the largest ever given to a JCC in Canada, was, and remains, an integral contribution to UJA Federation’s $400 million Tomorrow Capital Campaign. The bold and unprecedented endeavour is re-envisioning and building three centres of Jewish life across the Greater Toronto Area: the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan, Sherman Campus in midtown Toronto, and the Miles Nadal JCC and Wolfond Centre for Jewish Campus Life downtown.  


“We are in the midst of a tremendous rebirth and revitalization,” said Ted Sokolsky, President and CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “The Prosserman JCC will be the centre, the anchor of it all. Marty and your family, you shared a dream we all had. Thank you for your faith. Thank you for your belief.”  


In addition to his own heartfelt remarks, Sokolsky had the privilege of presenting Prosserman with a congratulatory letter from the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada.  


“The Prosserman JCC at Sherman Campus will stand as an enduring legacy and will help young Jewish Canadians realize their full potential for generations to come,” wrote Harper. “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I commend you for your generosity and great sense of community.”  


While grateful for the accolades, Prosserman, true to form, reminded those present that the words of praise were unnecessary.   


“I know what I did. I don’t need anyone to pat me on the back,” he said. “It’s for them [my family] to follow through. I want my sons, my grandchildren, to realize and carry forward about giving.”  


It appears that wish is already coming to fruition.  


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