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Jewish community honours Sabi Marwah

Last updated on: December 24, 1999 

Jewish community honours Sabi Marwah



Sabi Marwah, vice chairman and chief administrative officer, Scotiabank, was honoured at Words and Deeds, an annual event of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

The Jewish community organizations presented Marwah with their annual national award that recognizes Canadian leaders 'whose contribution to humanitarian causes, tolerance and inclusion in Canadian society has been outstanding'.

Marwah's award citation noted that his 'extensive community efforts include his leadership role with the United Way Toronto, and his fundraising efforts on behalf of those with physical disabilities and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.'

At the event, held at the Royal York Hotel June 10, Marwah said a constant need in the society is to tackle prejudice. 'It takes courage to accept those who are different from us,' he said, 'but it takes more courage to speak up for them.'

He noted similarities between the Jewish community and his Sikh community. He pointed out that the Jewish proverb, 'do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds,' echoes the Sikh tenet that 'being good is a virtue; but doing good is a greater virtue.'

He said, 'In many ways, the Jewish community itself is a model for such an award, because it does so much in the area of human rights, in addition to its enormous contributions to philanthropy, to public service, the arts, business and science.'

Marwah was born in 1951 in Asansol, West Bengal, and educated in Kolkata. He said that as a student at St Xavier's School, he visited the Magen David synagogue -- 'which was and still is one of the architectural landmarks in that city' -- with a Jewish friend.

Jews, he pointed out, 'have been in India for over 2,500 years, first arriving in South India following the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of their temple by the Babylonians in 586 CE.' The Cochin synagogue was built as far back as in 1568, Marwah pointed out.

He recalled that Lieutenant General Jack Jacob, one of the masterminds behind India's famous victory in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, was a Jewish Indian. Jews in India have also been 'film moguls, celebrated playrights and poets,' he added!!.

Text: Ajit Jain

Image: Marwarh gets the award.
Photographs: Rediff

Jewish community honours Marwah

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He said the Jewish community honoring him, a Sikh, was a 'striking illustration of our common humanity.' He called this Canada's strength, which 'stems from our ability to focus and build on those things we have in common.'

The 700-strong audience  --  which included a large number of Indo-Canadian business leaders and professionals  -- at the $750 a plate event gave the self-effacing Marwah a standing ovation.

Marwah's mother Gurbachan Marwah, in her nineties, his sister Kiki Uppal and mother-in-law Mohini Singh traveled from Amritsar to attend the event. 

In a message, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Marwah 'has demonstrated over a lifetime, through word and deed, a keen sense of social responsibility. His long association and dedication to humanitarian service exemplify personal devotion to those ideals of philanthropy, integrity and citizenship for which Canadians are admired.'

Hari Panday, president, ICICI Wealth Management, was co-chair of the Honor Sabi Marwah Committee. He said, 'You [Marwah] have been true to the ideals and values that resonate with the Words and Deeds Leadership Award.'
Surjit Babra, president, SkyLink, chair of the Committee, called Marwah 'a mentor to a lot of us in the [Indo-Canadian] community.'

'This award,' said CIJA Co-Chair Brent Belzberg, 'exemplifies the Jewish community's longstanding relationship and share values with the Indo-Canadian community. Mr Marwah is an outstanding example of how one individual can make a positive difference in the entire Canadian community.'

Marwah's contribution, said David Koschitzky, chair, UJA Federation Greater Toronto, 'is a source of pride for both the Jewish and Indo-Canadian communities.'

Image: Marwah at the function.
Photographs: Rediff
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Jews honour Sabi Marwah

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The Calcutta connection

The master of ceremonies at the Words and Deeds event, Ellis Jacob, chief executive officer, Cineplex Odeon, was also born in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He knew Marwah from Toronto, but was pleasantly surprised to run into him in Calcutta in December 2007.

"Sabi had traveled to Calcutta after about 30 years," Jacob told Rediff India Abroad. I went to Calcutta after almost 35 years. He had taken his family to show them where he was born, his St Xavier's School, etc. I was also there with my wife and children to show them where I was born, my school, etc, and then we went to Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur.

"Our company," Jacob continued, "does a lot of business with Scotiabank. We bring a lot of Bollywood movies. I even brought Deepa Mehta that evening. I told her, 'an Indo-Canadian is being honored and so you must come.' And she did."

He called Marwah "a great person and I think he's one of the best Indo-Canadians. And the great thing about him is he always downplays his successes. "I consider myself an Indo-Canadian," Jacob continued, "because I was born in India, as also my parents, my brother and two sisters."

He quipped that he tells Marwah "all the time that I am the 'invisible minority' as nobody knows I am from India. As a turbaned Sikh, you are the visible minority!"

Image: Ellis Jacob
Photographs: Rediff
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