Eugene & Luba Apel

The story of Eugene and Luba Apel begins in Moldova.¬†This republic and especially its capital, Chisinau,¬†where Eugene and Luba grew up, lost a significant¬†part of its Jewish population during the pogroms of¬†1905, World War II, and during the collapse of the¬†Soviet Union. Eugene and Luba grew up in ordinary¬†Jewish families. Although there was no longer an¬†organized Jewish community in Chisinau at that time,¬†traditions and cultural customs were maintained¬†by their families. Each of their grandparents spoke Yiddish, in addition¬†to Romanian and Russian. Their parents knew a little Yiddish, but the¬†connection with Judaism was almost lost in their generation. Eugene and¬†Luba studied at the same school. The first time Eugene invited Luba on a¬†date was during summer camp before starting high school. Both took an¬†active part in all school activities, and therefore met each day after class. In¬†1986, Eugene went to the famous pioneer camp ‚ÄúArtek," where he was sent¬†for excellent grades and participation in public life. The following year, Luba¬†was also recommended for a trip to Artek, but the director told her mother:¬†‚ÄúYou cannot send two Jews one after the other.‚ÄĚ

With the advent of perestroika, official policy changed, and emigration became allowed. In 1989, Eugene’s family left Moldova to reunite with relatives who settled in Hamilton. The first years of immigration were hard. Studying English and undergoing professional retraining, Eugene's parents took up any job they could find to support their family. Hamilton's Jewish community was welcoming and helped them adjust, and even provided financial assistance.

A year after arriving in Canada, 19-year-old Eugene entered the University of Toronto to study philosophy and linguistics. Because of the unrest in the Soviet Union, which had a detrimental effect on people's lives, and growing anti-Semitism and nationalism, many Jews began to flee Moldova. When Luba was 17 years old, her family moved to Israel. Meanwhile, in Canada, Eugene often recalled Luba and decided to try to find her. By that time they had not seen each other for five years, and Eugene did not even know where to begin looking. Still, through friends, he managed to find her in Israel, and soon they reunited and got married in Toronto. In 1995, they moved to Hamilton, where Eugene created one of the largest financial departments at TD Bank, engaging in investment and personal finance planning for wealthy clients.

Shortly after arriving in Hamilton, Luba and Eugene became active members¬†of the Jewish community. They began to be interested in Jewish traditions¬†and bringing them into their home. As their children grew up ‚Äď daughters¬†Misha and Erics, and son Nathan ‚Äď the family became fixtures and leaders¬†in the synagogue. Eugene and Luba were among the founding parents of¬†the new Jewish school ‚ÄúKehila,‚ÄĚ where their children began to study. It was¬†critical to them that the children of the community receive a full-fledged¬†general and Jewish education, and become well-balanced and developed¬†individuals. For many years, Eugene was the chairman of the school‚Äôs board¬†of trustees, taking responsibility for its overall well-being, from seeking¬†funds to hiring teachers. Luba headed the parent committee of the school.¬†Eugene devoted much of his time and energy to volunteering for the benefit¬†of the community: He and Luba were involved in the organization of JCC¬†Walkathons for Israel; Eugene was a member of the board of directors, and¬†then became the treasurer of the Anshe Sholom synagogue and helped¬†the community with the purchase of bonds of the State of Israel to support¬†Israel after the first intifada. Eugene was also a member of the Hamilton¬†Jewish Federation Council, where he spearheaded fundraising drives on¬†several occasions. Over the past few years, he has held senior positions in¬†community projects and organizations, including the UJA.

Without a doubt, their three children ‚Äď their pride and joy ‚Äď are the couple‚Äôs¬†greatest achievement to date: The children received a solid education,¬†participated in various programs connected with Israel and, like their¬†parents, are active in the Jewish community. Luba and Eugene feel that they¬†are lucky to find true friends and contribute to the Hamilton community.¬†¬†They are grateful to Canada and the Jewish community for the opportunity¬†for their family to live a safe and meaningful life.

This year they are honorary nominees for the Jewish National Fund of Canada Negev Dinner. The funds raised during this Gala Dinner will be spent on building the Israeli Psychotrauma Treatment Center, which will become part of the Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem. The focus of the plan is to unite three small departments into one large center where people who have received various psychological traumas will be treated. Eugene and Luba join a list of remarkable people, including former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who were chosen to be honored by the Jewish National Foundation of Hamilton and Toronto over the past 67 years.