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giving back

Jonathan Kolber, left, has donated to Daughters for Life, set up by Izzeldin Abuelaish.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Jonathan Kolber

The Gift: $200,000

The Cause: Daughters for Life Foundation

The Reason: To promote the advancement of girls and women in the Middle East

A couple of years ago, Jonathan Kolber was about to go on a business trip to Russia when a colleague suggested a book for the flight: I Shall Not Hate.

It's the story of Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who worked in Israel and lost his three daughters during a raid in Gaza by the Israeli army.

The attack happened in 2009 just as Dr. Abuelaish and the children were about to emigrate to Canada, where he was to take up a post at the University of Toronto.

He had lost his wife to leukemia a few months earlier and saw Canada as a good place to raise his children.

Out of that tragedy Dr. Abuelaish created Daughters for Life, a Canadian-based charity that promotes health, education and leadership training for girls across the Middle East.

Mr. Kolber, who co-owns Toronto-based International Language Academy of Canada, couldn't put the book down.

"What [Dr. Abuelaish] wanted to do was create a charity to educate Middle Eastern women. That's how society is going to change," Mr. Kolber recalled.

"That was something that was really powerful for me."

Immediately after returning home from the business trip, he got some colleagues together and went to meet Dr. Abuelaish with an offer to help.

Mr. Kolber eventually committed $200,000 worth of scholarships and financial aid through ILAC to help Daughters for Life bring students to Canada to learn English and pursue their education.

Mr. Kolber said meeting Dr. Abuelaish was an inspiration.

"He really gave me the feeling that we can make big changes in the world ourselves," he said.

"This just started with an idea from me waking up after reading his book, and now I feel like I want to do more than I initially thought."