This week, the Jewish world lost a humble giant with the passing of Harvey Hecker z"l.
Harvey was an icon at Aish HaTorah. In 1982 he became the first president of Aish Toronto, and later served an extended term as the President of Aish International. He dedicated his considerable expertise, drive and vision to Aish's mission, and his love for the Jewish people showed no bounds.
In the early 1980s, when his son Joel went to study at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, Harvey wanted to check it out for himself, worried about what his son may have gotten caught up in. Harvey flew to Israel and spent a few days and Shabbat with Rabbi Noah Weinberg and the Aish students.
Harvey was so impressed that he came back to Toronto and volunteered to help get one of the first Aish branches off the ground. Harvey brought in many prominent Canadian businessmen, including Leslie Dan of Novopharm, and together they formed the core of the Aish Toronto lay board. This gave Aish major credibility in Toronto, and Aish has since grown to a network of seven locations throughout the metropolitan area – servicing families, young professionals, and college students.
Given the success that Harvey engendered, Toronto also became a model for other cities starting Aish branches.
By profession, Harvey was an accountant – a brilliant businessman who graduated top in his class and went on to head one of Canada’s premier accounting firms. As such, Harvey became Aish’s “go-to” person in terms of business matters. His clarity and integrity steered Aish in the right direction, time and again.
"Harvey Hecker was the ultimate 'partner'," said Rabbi Hillel Weinberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Aish HaTorah. "The definition of a partner is the three W's: He either contributes Wealth, or contributes Wisdom, or contributes Work. Mr. Hecker contributed all three of these things simultaneously."
Yet his influence at Aish extended far beyond this. Harvey was the consummate “mentch” – humble, caring, respectful. He cared deeply about us, not just as an organization but as individuals. He became a mentor, friend and advisor to Aish Rabbis throughout the world.
Boruch Rabinowitz, now the Executive Director of Aish International who worked with Harvey to build Aish Toronto, recalls: “His advice and insights were invaluable. He taught us how to run an organization, but more importantly he taught us about life.”
In 2009, a banquet in Harvey’s honor established a development fund that continues to support many core projects vital to the organization. It is no exaggeration to say that Harvey “put Aish Toronto on the map,” and that it would simply not exist in its current form without him.
He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and their children: Gordon in Columbus, Joel in Philadelphia, Karen in Toronto, and their families.
Harvey Hecker made an enormous difference to the Jewish people that will remain his legacy for eternity. It is our hope that Aish's work will continue to be a merit for him, and a source of comfort for his wife and extended family.