Photography by Meghan Richardson
Cecil was born in Capetown in 1951. He has two brothers. His father was a travelling salesman who was away from home for part of every week. Sadly, when Cecil was 11 years old, his mother died and his father was unable to look after him and his brothers. Cecil’s older brother was placed in an Afrikaans boarding school, and Cecil and his other brother went to a Jewish orphanage in Capetown. This experience shaped his life.
With an excellent headmaster at the school, Cecil learned, more than anything, the importance of community. There were also many difficult lessons to be learned, including the notion that there is always someone worse off than you.
One of the most important things the Jewish community did for him, besides caring for his everyday needs, was to send him to Jewish Day School and provide him with a good education. He also learned independence and not to feel sorry for himself. The motto of the Jewish community in South Africa was, “No Jewish child left behind.”
In 1980, with a background in accounting, Cecil decided to accept an offer to move to Canada. He was married by then and wanted his children to see a different kind of life.
He also felt there was no future in South Africa and now feels that it was the best decision he ever made.
In Toronto, Cecil’s career was in the mattress business. After selling his business, he wanted to give back to the community and became active at Baycrest and the UJA, believing in promoting opportunity for all. In summing up his difficult years, Cecil says, “Hardship in life often makes you stronger and sometimes you are not aware of when you are having good luck.”
He and his wife, Elaine, have an active, busy family, with six children and 11 grandchildren.