Gala Committee

Awards Gala 2016

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Lisa Assaf, Co-Chair
former Partner at Aird & Berlis and dedicated volunteer

Lisa Assaf is a former partner at Aird & Berlis and since leaving the full-time practice of law to raise her four children, she has continued to offer mediation services to couples going through divorce. She has worked at the Downtown Legal Aid Clinic providing pro bono legal services; assisted the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF); and provided consulting services to the board of Nellie's, a woman's shelter in Toronto. She has also headed a government-funded program for disadvantaged youth through the Alternative Youth Centre for Employment (AYCE) and was an active member of the Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO), a group dedicated to providing financial support for the education of women.  A passionate volunteer, Lisa has chaired the Raffle at the Upper Canada College Believe in Blue Gala and the Raffle for the Havergal College Urban Elegance Gala.

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Judith Ramirez, Co-Chair
women's rights advocate and former Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Judith Ramirez pioneered the establishment of multi-lingual community-based services to immigrant women and has spearheaded many successful initiatives on behalf of marginalized women. She is best known for her work with INTERCEDE championing the rights of foreign domestic workers. She played a leading role as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board in defining forms of gender-related persecution that made Canada a global leader in the field. A dedicated volunteer, she has worked with the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Maytree Foundation, the Trillium Foundation, Social Planning Toronto, and Women`s College Hospital. Judith’s advocacy work has been recognized with the prestigious YWCA Women of Distinction Award and the City of Toronto's Constance E. Hamilton Award.

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Tahani Aburaneh
entrepreneur, author and public speaker

Tahani Aburaneh is a real estate land developer, expert in real estate investing, and international speaker and trainer. As the author of Real Estate Riches: A Money-Making Game Plan for the Canadian Investor, she recently ranked on Amazon’s real estate bestsellers list.  Tahani is the founder of the Ellie Realtor training program "Savvy Investor Agent Guide". Having traversed a path riddled with setbacks, her passion and focus helped her rise from humble beginnings to overcome the odds and transform her life. She sees the true value of her success story not in being number one, achieving accolades or breaking sales records, but rather, in demonstrating how an individual can  achieve financial independence by being focused on helping others and living one’s passion.

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Fares Badr
educator and community leader

Fares Badr has a long and distinguished teaching career with the Toronto District School Board. He was a member of the Ontario Student Assistance program (OSAP), chaired the Anti-Racism and Equity Committee within TDSB and was awarded the "Teacher of the Year Award" for Equity, Anti-Racism and Social Justice by Ontario Teachers' Federation. Fares is a very active member of the Canadian Arab community and, as a freelance writer, has published articles about the challenges facing new immigrants. He earned a bachelor's degree in social science from the Lebanese University of Beirut and a master's degree in sociology and anthropology from the Lyon ll University in France.  He worked for the Ministry of Education in Lebanon, as well as on various projects for the United Nation Development Program (UNDP).  Fares is a key founding member of the Canadian Arab institute (CAI). 

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Brenda Dinnick
Co-founder of the Canada Committee of Human Rights Watch

Brenda Dinnick was the Founding Co-Chair of the Canada Committee for Human Rights Watch and now sits on its Executive Committee.  Brenda holds a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Toronto and is an award winning Landscape Architect who has been practicing her profession for over twenty-five years. She has created hundreds of private city gardens and many country estates. She has lectured at the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. In addition to her professional practice Brenda has been involved with the National Ballet Company of Canada and the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts, sitting on committees of both organizations, and is presently a practicing artist focusing on landscape painting.

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Samira El-Hindi
global consultant, entrepreneur and community leader

Samira El-Hindi is the co-founder of Global Bridge Building Inc. As a consultant, she has provided strategic guidance to public and private sector organizations on matters pertaining to higher education and government relations. She has served as Executive Director for Women Engaging in Bridge Building, an organization that connects business women to build a stronger  Canadian economy and improve women’s positions in the global business world. Samira has led fundraising efforts at several organizations including as a director on the boards of St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, King’s University College, and Meals on Wheels. She was appointed by the Ontario Attorney General to the Justice of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee and was a nominee for the prestigious YMCA of Western Ontario Women of Excellence Award in the category of Community, Voluntarism and Humanity.

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Elham Farah
educator and philanthropist

Elham Farah is an advocate of peaceful coexistence, tolerance and mutual respect between Jews and Arabs by examining the issues from a Canadian perspective.  Through the Farah Family Foundation, Elham supports educational and cultural projects that promote tolerance and understanding, including the YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast.   She has worked with her husband, Joe, to build the large chain of Hasty Market convenience stores across southern Ontario.  Elham has been president of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (Hamilton Branch) since 1998, and a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Club of Hamilton. She is also a member of the Trustee Panel of the City of Hamilton, a member of the Canadian Committee of the Haifa Foundation, and a member of the Hamilton Public Board’s Race Relations Committee. 

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Dr. Yasmine Hussain
medical doctor and philanthropist

Dr. Yasmine Hussain is a medical doctor by training. She completed her residency training in Family and Community Medicine at McMaster University. She has done additional training in Palliative Care and Practical Dermatology and maintains a keen interest in International Public Health. Yasmine is a dedicated supporter of a number of social and charitable causes including War Child Canada for which she has been active in fundraising for and to establish their programming for Syrian refugees in Jordan. On top of a busy practice and engaging in social and political activism, Yasmine keeps her hands pleasantly full with three young children.

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Nizar Jiwan
former Senior Policy Advisor, Ontario Ministry of Energy and leader in the Canadian Ismaili community

Nizar Jiwan is a life-long volunteer and respected leader within the Canadian Ismaili community and beyond. He enjoyed a successful career as an engineer in the federal and provincial governments before being appointed as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board where he served with distinction as a champion of women's rights. He has served as chair of the governance committee on the Women's College Hospital board of directors; member of Ismaili Council for Ontario; member and vice-president of St. John Ambulance (Toronto); board member of Mood Disorder Association of Ontario; and founding board member of the Academy of Love and Learning. Nizar has received several prestigious awards for his professional work and exceptional community service over nearly four decades. 

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Krishan Mehta
Executive Director, Ryerson University Campaign

Krishan Mehta is an accomplished advancement professional with expertise in non-profit organization management. He is the Executive Director of the Ryerson University Campaign and also an instructor in the Fundraising Management Program at Ryerson. Previously, Krishan was Executive Director of Marketing and Advancement at Seneca College and Director of Advancement at the University of Toronto's New College, home to many of the University's social justice and equity-oriented academic programs. For over a decade, Krishan has worked with many of Toronto's diasporic communities on enhancing their charitable profile and he is the President-elect of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) of the  Greater Toronto Chapter. His recent PH.D thesis at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education was titled "The Power and Politics of Immigrant Philanthropy: Charitable Giving and the Making of the New Canadian Establishment".   

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Lou Mouaket
investment banking executive

Loutfi Mouaket is an Executive Director in the Equity Markets Sales where his responsibilities have included traditional sales/trading, event driven and program trading, ETF market making, market structure/index research and technology initiatives for the trading desk. He has held similar roles at TD Newcrest where he spent six years as an institutional equity program trader, at ITG Canada and Scotia Capital. Lou was a Co-Head of the Trading Issues Committee for the Canadian Security Traders Association in 2010 and was an elected governor on their board for four years. He is also on the executive committee of the Fight for Independence, an annual Bay Street boxing event that raises money for SickKids Hospital and the Nazareth House, a shelter for single mothers fleeing domestic violence. Lou holds an Honors BSc. in Science and Business from the University of Waterloo. 

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Iman Reda
entrepreneur and community activist

Iman Reda is the Vice President of trading at GEDCO, Global Trading Partners, in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management, in 2003 with a Bachelor of Commerce. Previously, she attended the Toronto French School and graduated with an International Baccalaureate Diploma. She is active professionally as a youth representative on the board of directors of the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) and a member of the board of the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSCA). Iman is a dedicated volunteer in the Canadian Arab community and is fluent in English, French and Arabic.

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Abdullah Snobar
Executive Director at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone

Abdullah Snobar is the Executive Director of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University. He joined the DMZ in 2014 as the Director of Community and Business Development where he established and led the team responsible for increasing and strengthening connections with industry and corporate leaders. Under Abdullah’s direction, the DMZ grew its Entrepreneur-in-Residence portfolio and enhanced its advisor program to ensure startups have timely access to first-class experts across every sector and vertical. Prior to joining the DMZ, Abdullah served the Office of the Dean at the Ted Rogers School of Management as the Manager of Undergraduate Student Relations and Development. His previous experience includes the Canadian Armed Forces, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Abdullah is also a participant in numerous cultural boards servicing the Toronto area. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Ryerson University.

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Dr. Lara Zahabi-Bekdash
medical doctor and educator

Dr. Lara Zahabi-Bekdash is a physician, ethicist and global health scholar who has worked extensively with public health and non-governmental organizations, including the World Health Organization. Her research has been funded by the Fogarty Center at the National Institutes of Health and the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Zahabi-Bekdash holds a Master’s degree in bioethics and a PhD in global health and bioethics from the University of Toronto. She is also certified in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response from the Humanitarian Training Initiative (Harvard/McGill). She has held several community leadership roles, including vice president for the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. She is interested in both clinical and social medicine, and focuses her scholarship on issues related to refugees, community engagement, and empowerment.

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