others, but with the help of people. I climbed the ladder
to success assisted by those whose goals were the same
as mine. They changed my life and I changed theirs.
I met Saul Feldberg in 2002 when I was commissioned to write and design the Toronto Jewish National Fund’s Negev Dinner Tribute book honouring Saul and his wife Toby. In that capacity, I had occasion to interview him in his office. The interview was not extensive. In the book, the segment on them was limited to photographs, captions and a condensed version of their community involvement within Canada and Israel. But, in the few hours that I sat with him and Toby, I became aware that I was with a man who was comfortable telling me about his business but revealed little of himself personally. He seemed reluctant to talk about his personal life to a stranger in other than general overviews. Although I could sense a deep love for his wife, his parents, a closeness to his brother Phil and an undying devotion to his children, he spoke of them in short sentences. I sensed there was a lot of personal emotion being held back. This impression of him did not come from what he said as much as from the softness of his words when he spoke of the people he loved and the quiet, gentle smile on his lips as he reluctantly revealed an incident. Slowly, though, amid much hesitation, he did eventually answer some of my questions.
At one point during the interview, the telephone rang. He excused himself and left the room to respond to the caller. I took that opportunity to sit back in my chair and look around the room at the many photographs on the walls. I recognized several of the high profile people standing beside him in these photographs. Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir from Israel, U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Premier of Ontario David Peterson, Prime Ministers of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chretien, Pope John Paul II, Mayor of Toronto Mel Lastman and Councillor Mike Feldman. There were also well-known media personalities like Larry King, an American and television host on CNN and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a psychosexual therapist, to name just a few. I marvelled at the company he kept, this man who made office furniture. As I looked around, lost in my thoughts, Toby leaned forward from across the table and confided in me. “I’ve never heard him tell anyone what he just told you about the family,” she said.
Before I could respond, Saul returned and we finished the interview. We shook hands and I returned to my office only a short block away, wondering what the complete story was behind this quiet man. I had interviewed many influential people for many non-profit organizations but had never left a room as I had just done, wanting to know more about the man. I didn’t think that I would ever know the real Saul Feldberg and that was unfortunate. His story, I sensed, was not an ordinary story but one that was worthy of being heard.
Five years later, though, Saul came to me with a request. He was interested in recording the events of his life in a book. Not a book to be sold to the public but one for his family, especially his children and grandchildren and the generations to come. He felt that it was important that they know how the Feldbergs came to be.
I eagerly agreed.
We all have dreams. Some of us are able to make them come to life and some fail trying. Some don’t try hard enough and have to walk away because what is asked of them is more than they are prepared to give. Many don’t have the confidence to try. When building a dream, one must barter to fulfill one’s ambition. In order to get something, one must be prepared to give something up. Saul Feldberg had a dream and he had the determination, not to only make that dream come true, but to make it exceed anything he could have envisioned.
Our project has spanned more than three years. I spent that time gathering the stories that are the foundation of this man’s life. Not an easy task! To collect these scattered stories, I had to research his life from his birth in Poland before the Second World War to his becoming a survivor of the Holocaust, a pioneer in Israel, an immigrant to Canada, a worker, a businessman and then an empire builder. One of the most memorable periods in my research was obtaining his permission to interview several employees, associates and partners without restrictions. I saw the look of concern on Saul’s face when I asked his permission and wondered what it was he feared. I got more than I bargained for. I learned about the Saul Feldberg not too many knew.
I have only been able to uncover the tip of the iceberg that is Saul Feldberg. But even the tip is more impressive than the lives of most people. Walking With Giants unfolds like a work of fiction but is a real life story filled with much bitter-sweetness. It is an inspiring story of a man whose journey, at the core, was more than about business or making money. It was always about what was all-important to him; his role as husband, son, brother, father and, of course, dreamer.
To refer to Saul Feldberg as only a role model would be a huge understatement. He is much more than that. His philosophy of life has grown from the experience of losing his family during one of the most atrocious times in modern history. And, yet, his deep understanding of life also encompasses the need he has to share his own good fortune with Canada and Israel. Above all, though, it is his need to be respected, to be measured for his own net worth as a human being that fuels him. This is what drove him. This book is not about money and not about fame. It is the saga of an adventure into a man’s soul. This is the story of someone who has made a difference.
Author of “An Eye For An Eye” and Other Novels
I searched for the definition of ‘hero’ after I read this outstanding saga of how fate melded together to deal with survival, family and fortune. HERO: "A person admired for qualities or achievements and regarded as an ideal role model."
The Feldberg family, Saul, his younger brother Phil, and their parents endures the terror and chaos of the Shoah staying one step ahead of the Nazi hordes, aware of what capture entails. A brave and loving mother shepherds her brood to safety, and after relocating with her husband, leads the family through state after state in search of a safe haven. Their final destination: Canada.
The new country provides opportunity for these immigrants to forge a new life, not always an easy one, but with courage and fortitude they make Toronto their home. Saul finds a junior position with a manufacturer of office furniture.
Learning his trade at the Nightingale's, Saul's acumen for business flowers into ambition for advancement. He begins the adventure of a lifetime: the piece by piece construction of a corporate conglomerate, culminating in a furniture empire, now the eighth largest world-wide.
Throughout, Saul never loses his care, concern and love for family. He is hands-on, hard working, the kind of boss that knows the name and family of each employee, ready to assist them financially and emotionally. With his wife Toby as a stalwart working partner, the business prospers, they produce four children, and, it is fascinating to watch each individual offspring, form their own professions, drawn like iron filings to a magnet, into the Global conglomeration of corporations each becoming successful in his or her own right. While Saul and Toby build their corporate empire, they create a loving, close-knit and dedicated family.
We rejoice with Saul at his family’s simchas, we cry at his brother Phil's tragic demise, we congratulate him as he crosses the paths of celebrated public figures: Trudeau, Clinton, the Pope and we share the feelings and opinions of the many who come in contact with him as employees, business partners, dealers and learn that his handshake is his bond.
I will forever be indebted for being allowed to read the pre-published manuscript and learn first hand about a wonderful man who lives among us. Saul may never see himself as I do. For me he emerges a hero: for his honesty, his integrity, his care and concern for family, his ethics, his charitable works all the attributes of a true hero, someone to be emulated.
Saul deserves the right to go from strength to strength! See for yourself!
Morley S. Wolfe, Q.C. BA. LLB.,
Creator of Morley S. Wolfe Youth Book Competition: Challenging Racism and Celebrating Differences
The story of Saul Feldberg’s life in Walking With Giants is truly one of the most inspirational stories I have read in a long time. It seems to me to be exactly the kind of story that people need to hear today. It is a story that affirms that a man can achieve great things without compromising his dignity or his integrity. At a time when so much of what we hear about the business world involves greed, deceit and malfeasance, Saul Feldberg’s story shows how an honest man can aspire and succeed.
And at a time when so much of modern life seems hostage to stylists, consultants, pundits, and assorted MBAs, it’s reassuring or maybe just nostalgic to read about a man who was obliged to go to night school to attain his high school diploma but who nevertheless built an empire on the strength of sheer talent, hard work and guts.
In Walking With Giants, Saul Feldberg, confiding in the reader, recounts the wrenching and difficult decisions that ultimately got him where he is today. He does this with great candour and intimacy, exposing himself at some of his most emotional and vulnerable moments. To be granted such insight into the heart of a man like Saul Feldberg is fascinating, not only for people with an interest in business but for anyone who has ever stood at life’s crossroads. And to hear Saul tell of his family history in Poland before WWII is to gain an insight into a vanished world, a world cruelly destroyed by the Nazis. Saul’s own story begins at this time.
Born in 1935, he was only four years old when the war began but it’s clear that those years marked him forever. To hear his recollections of the war years so full of tragedy and terror but also of courage and loyalty is to understand the circumstances that moulded his character. As he makes clear, his heroes and models were not great statesmen or moguls but rather his own parents who showed uncommon bravery in the face of the darkest evil. The examples they set of self-sacrifice and devotion have guided Saul Feldberg’s life. Though he achieved material success beyond his wildest dreams, his priorities were never money or prestige, but rather the welfare of his family, his employees, his nation and the State of Israel.
One wonders, in reading this book, if, today, it is still possible for a man like Saul Feldberg to rise from the very humblest beginnings. I still like to believe so. But even if those days are past, it remains heartening to read the story of an admirable man who accomplished admirable things.
Author of Natasha and Other Stories
Reading Saul Feldberg’s heartfelt and eloquent work, Walking With Giants, was a most gratifying experience. Rarely is one afforded such an intimate window into the life of one of Canada’s most accomplished and generous citizens. As I made my way through the pages of this wonderful autobiography, I was consistently struck by a number of recurring themes.
The first motif is Saul’s exceptional love and devotion for his family. Snatched from the jaws of the Holocaust through the courage of his mother, but only too aware of the grim fate of so many of his contemporaries, Saul Feldberg expresses unending love, care and concern for every member of his family. The Holocaust, no doubt, also contributed to Saul’s fierce commitment to the State of Israel and for his appreciation of his good fortune in Canada. But there are other important themes in this work as well: Saul’s unstinting work ethic and uncanny business sense which are more than matched by the honesty and integrity he invested in all of his business dealings.
Yet, despite his enormous achievements, Saul remains modest and unassuming to the core. More than once, he attributes his outstanding accomplishments, in large measure, to his family members, especially to his deserving wife Toby and to his partners and to the highly skilled people who he has the good fortune to surround himself with in his working life.
Saul’s success did not blind him to the pressing needs of others. Saul and Toby‘s support for local Jewish and general causes like hospital and universities is legendary. Equally impressive is their generosity throughout Israel, especially with regard to providing assistance to disabled Israel soldiers wounded while bravely defending the Jewish state.
Who should read this book? Anyone. If you are looking for lessons in love and family loyalty, workplace ethics, trailblazing entrepreneurship, philanthropic generosity or how to overcome adversity it’s all here.
As readers discover the exceptional life that unfolds in the pages of this remarkable work, I have no doubt they will readily agree that Saul Feldberg is one of our finest Canadians: a model family man, friend, employer, entrepreneur, Zionist and philanthropist. A mensch in every possible sense of the word. Canada and the Jewish people have indeed been blessed by the outstanding life and good works of Saul Feldberg.
National Director March of the Living Canada
Saul Feldberg is a born story teller. His book is the exceptional and stirring tale of a child who survives the Holocaust and who arrives in Canada as a young man, friendless and penniless, but brimming with energy and ambition, who becomes one of the major pillars of Canadian industry and philanthropy. It is a love story, a story of survival against long odds, a story full of challenging adventures and escapades, and ultimately a business success story all in one book. Once picked up, this book is impossible to put down. It is a book not only to be read, but to be savoured. It is above all a Canadian story, an inspiring and remarkable story by an inspiring and remarkable man.
Shiff Professor of Canadian Jewish History, York University
I believe the manuscript not only chronicles your life and that of Toby, but is done so in your voice. I can hear you speak as I read the pages of the manuscript and that adds an extra dimension to its depth and enjoyment. This has obviously been a labour of love and it shows.
Jeffrey M. Blidner,
Senior Managing Partner Brookfield Asset Management Inc.