Stan Cho, Willowdalefacecommdec17.PNG

Real Estate Brokerage Owner

Ontario PC Party candidate for Willowdale

Many of our readers are immigrants or the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and many faced persecution under communist rule. In a way, your family’s homeland (South Korea) was also under threat from communist aggression.   When did your family move to Canada, and why?

My father, Jon Cho, immigrated to Canada in the 1970s, seeking more opportunity and a better life without really knowing anything about the language or culture here. My father understood something that all new immigrants know, and try to pass to their children: As long as you are willing to work hard, not afraid of hard work, there are opportunities for everyone.

You seem to have a strong connection to the Jewish community here. Is there any connection between your South Korean heritage and Judaism?

Even though South Korea doesn’t have any longstanding Jewish presence, and only a small population today, there is definitely a strong Asian connection, an admiration of the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life. There’s the old Jewish settlement in Kaifeng, and the safehaven given to Jewish refugees in Shanghai at different times. During the Korean war there was an influx of Jewish servicemen from the US Army, including the famous Author Chaim Potok, who served as an army chaplain and was deeply influenced by his experience. There are Jewish army personnel and civilian contractors connected to the US Army base in Seoul until today, and a Chabad center opened there about ten years ago. But the connection seems to be more intellectual, even spiritual. South Koreans admire Jews and Judaism, especially the tremendous accomplishments of the Jewish people despite their small numbers and difficult circumstances. Many believe there is something special about the way Jews think and educate their children, and practically every South Korean school child, including my father, studies the Talmud as part of the official state curriculum – many people own at least a couple of volumes on their bookshelves at home. There are a significant number of South Koreans today who take their interest in Judaism seriously, studying intensively and attending synagogue, and a small portion of them have officially converted to Judaism. 

But obviously right now I’m more interested in the state of the Jewish community in Willowdale than South Korea.

Yes. Tell us a little about how your connection with the Jewish community here came about, and what your vision is for the future.

I have many friends and business associates who are part of the Jewish community, and the Jewish Russian community in particular. I have always admired the tenacity and perseverance that propels them as against all odds throughout history. I developed a profound appreciation for the shared values – the honesty, the strong work ethic, the desire to cooperate and work together for the benefit of all. I think these are values to be encouraged and to emulate, and result in the types of relationships to uphold as the foundation upon which strong, successful cities can be built.

Your family is sponsoring the JRCC’s Chanukah Menorah Lighting at Mel Lastman Square this year. What inspired you to connect with this event in particular?

We wanted to do something to show our support of the Jewish community, especially now at a time when there are challenges facing the Jewish people around the world. The festive atmosphere and the poignant message of Chanukah – the idea of spreading light out into the cold and dark winter night – seemed like an appropriate event to get behind.

Thank you, Mr. Cho, for your interest in and support of our community.

It is my pleasure to be a friend of, and in some way a part of, your community. I will always stand with the Jewish community in Willowdale, and the Jewish people in general. I look forward to celebrating Chanukah together. Please come on December 12, and bring your family and friends.