Ukrainian Jewish Heritage: Canadian businessman and philanthropist, James C. Temerty

James Temerty is a distinguished Canadian entrepreneur, civic leader, philanthropist, and founder of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.  This edition of Nash Holos would like to introduce to our listeners Temerty’s remarkable life path and philanthropic work.

Temerty is well-regarded and respected for his vision, initiative, and leadership. He has over the years received many honours for his achievements. Most recently, on August 24, 2015, he was honoured with Ukraine’s Order of Yaroslav the Wise. The Order is the highest honour Ukraine can confer on a foreigner who has not been a head of state. The Order was bestowed on Temerty by a decree issued by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and will be awarded in person later this year.

Temerty was born in the Donbas region of Ukraine during the Second World War. His parents were refugees who left their home in a caravan with 12 other families and over the course of a year traveled across war-torn Ukraine.  After the war, his family lived in Belgium for three years before coming to Canada and settling in Montreal.

Temerty’s entrepreneurial talents appeared early in life. His first venture was creating the University Student Business Association. The initiative brought Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to a thrilled audience in Montreal, and eventually employed 40 students through the summer.

Temerty held various marketing and management positions with IBM in Canada and the United States. After 15 years, he returned to his entrepreneurial roots. He built a single franchise into the world’s largest privately-held chain of ComputerLand stores.

Temerty is well-known today as the founder and board chairman of Northland Power, a publically-listed company. Northland is Canada’s first independent power producer and a Canadian icon for clean and green energy sources.

Founded in 1987, Northland Power operates biomass, natural gas, wind and solar power projects in Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. Wind, solar, and waterpower ventures are currently under development and the company is building approximately 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power in the Netherlands and Germany.

A man of boundless energy and compassion, Temerty devotes much of his time and fortune to philanthropic causes in Canada and Ukraine.  He is also deeply involved in Ukrainian-Canadian community life.

Temerty is a member of the governing council of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital.  From 2002 to 2009 he was the Chairman of the Royal Ontario Museum Board of Governors.

He is Founding Chairman of the National Advisory Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. He recently donated more than one million dollars to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights toward the development of an exhibit on the Holodomor, the Famine-Genocide of 1932-33 in Ukraine.

Temerty is also the founder and sole benefactor of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium at the University of Alberta. The consortium’s creation came from a deeply held belief that only by attracting and cultivating promising academics would world-renowned scholars in Ukrainian studies, including those devoted to the Holodomor, be created.

Temerty’s dedication to Ukrainian studies has resulted in him becoming an important benefactor of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.  It is one of Ukraine’s leading educational institutions and the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union.

Temerty recently made a major donation of 5 million dollars for a state-of-the art library named after Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who headed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 until his death in 1944. Sheptytsky, who Temerty calls a “giant”, is credited with saving the lives of over 150 Jews during World War II. The generous library donation follows a 1.2 million dollar gift Temerty made to UCU to establish three departments for the study of Jewish-Ukrainian interfaith relations.

He has supported similar initiatives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A trustee of a children’s hospital in Kyiv, Temerty was instrumental in launching the Kyiv Mohyla Business School, where he serves as chairman of its advisory council. Temerty’s generosity also allowed for the re-establishment of a Jewish studies program at Kyiv Mohyla Academy. The institute’s tradition of Jewish studies dates back to the 17th century, but virtually ended during the Soviet period.

Temerty’s achievements have earned him distinguished honours in recent years.

In 2007, he was awarded the Shevchenko Medal by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

In 2008, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest honour bestowed to Canadian citizens.

In 2010, he was named Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year.

In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Temerty was the first recipient of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Medal in June 2013. The award was established by the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine for contributions to the cause of Ukrainian-Jewish understanding and cooperation.

Earlier this year, Temerty and his wife Louise received honourary doctorates from Canada’s Ryerson Polytechnic University.

And most notably for us, Temerty is the founder and chairman of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, or UJE.

This initiative was started to deepen the cross-cultural and interfaith relations between Ukrainians and Jews. The UJE strives to bring the two peoples together in understanding and empathy. This can be achieved through a deeper knowledge of each other’s historical experience and narratives. To advance these goals, the UJE has convened a series of meetings and conferences, engaging nearly 200 scholars and experts in Ukraine, Israel, and the Ukrainian and Jewish diasporas.  The UJE also promotes dialogue in the media and through museum exhibits and book fairs.

We trust our listeners have found this background to be informative. We look forward to alerting our listeners to forthcoming UJE activities.

This has been Ukrainian Jewish Heritage on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. From San Francisco, I’m Peter Bejger. Until next time, shalom!

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