“Why do I give? The short answer is because of my kids,” philanthropist David Amiel, Vice-Chair of the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) Foundation, said simply.

“I want to lead by example and show them that volunteering, giving back and being mindful of others is critical,” he continued. “I believe that kindness and empathy are the ultimate reflection of humanity.”

Amiel, a 48-year-old businessman in Montreal, has three teenagers who inspire his philanthropy. He gives both his time and money generously, and not just to the JGH Foundation. For instance, he was a member of the Combined Jewish Appeal’s (CJA) Board of Directors in 2013 and completed a term as President in 2019. Afterwards, he joined the JGH Foundation as a board member in 2020 before being appointed Vice-Chair in 2021.

“What connects me to the JGH is the philosophy and the unshakeable commitment to patient care above all else,” Amiel said. “On top of that, there is the Digital Health Initiative, a transformational investment in technology, data management and equipment that has the potential to revolutionize how health care is delivered. There is also the investment in cutting-edge research at the Lady Davis Institute, and there is the incredible work being done at the Segal Cancer Centre.”

When he is not devoting his time to the JGH Foundation, Amiel is co-CEO of Maroline Distributing, a luxury kitchen appliance distributor. His brother, Jonathan, co-leads the company and has also been active on foundation boards in healthcare, notably by chairing the board of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

A new wave of leaders

“I’m proud to be part of the next wave of leaders at the JGH Foundation,” said Amiel.

He credits his position as Vice-Chair with giving him valuable insight into the workings of the Foundation. The position has allowed him to sit on and participate in all the standing committees and to get a better understanding of the value-add that volunteer leaders like him can bring to the table.

“I’m always in awe of the level of dedication and commitment of our volunteers, our volunteer leaders, and the incredibly dedicated management team and professionals” he said. “They do it out of passion and they do it with great pride. Obviously, time is the most valuable asset and resource we possess.”

Amiel particularly appreciates his role on the Fundraising Projects Review Committee, which is responsible for vetting the priority projects that the hospital leadership determines should be considered for funding. Most of the projects last for several years, and the committee aims to make sure that the funding is in place to ensure that those projects can be sustained.

“It’s an interesting balancing act,” Amiel said.I enjoy that committee quite a bit, because I think that’s one of the areas where we can not only understand the vision of the Hospital’s leadership, but where we can readily see the impact of our generous donor funds.”

“We want to try to say yes, as much as we can,” he added. “Unfortunately, we don’t live in an environment of unlimited resources, so it’s challenging.”

Pursuing diverse boards and donors

For Amiel, it has always been crucial to promote diversity, including at Federation CJA. When he looks back today, he likes to think that he had an impact on the change that took place at the Federation.

“Now the Federation’s board is populated with individuals who are more reflective of the diversity of the community,” he said. “It is reaching far greater representation and gender equality, which is paramount.”

According to Amiel, it can be challenging to create an environment where new voices and ideas can come to the table without compromising the foundation on which an organization is built. He espouses an “evolution, not revolution” approach to leadership and asserts that there is a big difference between the two.

“It’s like a garden – you have to constantly water it, but you also want to plant new seeds,” he said.

Diversity in all its forms has continued to be a guiding principle for him at the JGH Foundation. He is aware that he is a role model, particularly to his children.

“I want my kids to know that there is no such thing as a position that exists exclusively for men or women or anyone else,” he said.

It’s not only the Board of Directors that benefits from diversity. Amiel similarly aspires to a diverse donor base that captures the wide-ranging demographics of the communities being served at the JGH. He believes that the expectations of donors have changed.

“People don’t want to simply write a check for the sake of writing a check,” he said. “If you want people to give significantly and strategically, you have to help connect their passion with their philanthropy and get them involved. They may not be as motivated by seeing their name on a wall.”

Lessons from a life of philanthropy

Amiel has learned many lessons from his work in philanthropy and business, but one stands above the rest.

“What I’ve learned most over the course of my career is that being around individuals and organizations that give back is contagious,” he said. “I would argue it is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life.”


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