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Above: Siblings Steven, Barbara and Hartley Hershenhorn in the Hennick Family Wellness Gallery. Photo credit: Annie Tong

It’s not every day that three siblings make Sinai Health System part of their estate plans but that’s exactly what happened in the Hershenhorn family.

Following in the footsteps of their parents, Zelda and Kelly Hershenhorn, Barbara, Hartley and Steven have been dedicated members and supporters of the Mount Sinai Hospital community for thirty years. Two of the siblings, brothers Steven and Hartley, were born at Mount Sinai, and all of them, including several of their family members, have been cared for at the hospital over the years. Steven and Hartley have both been volunteers with the Mount Sinai Classic Golf Tournament since its inception; until stepping back a few years ago, Steven served on the event’s organizing committee, while Hartley continues to participate by cooking each year for the popular “Salami Hole”. In 2002, following their father Kelly’s passing the previous year after being cared for at Mount Sinai, the Hershenhorns donated a menorah custom-made for the hospital in his memory to celebrate his favourite holiday, and to give patients, visitors and staff the opportunity to gather together each night of Hanukkah to light the candles and celebrate the special meaning of the holiday. The Hershenhorns and members of their extended family attend the ceremony every year.

Steven and Hartley made plans to leave bequests to Mount Sinai 25 years ago. Steven, who then served on the Mount Sinai Hospital Board of Directors and now serves on the Finance Committee of Sinai Health Foundation’s Board of Directors, chose to make an unrestricted gift. This allows hospital leadership the flexibility to apply the funds wherever the organization’s future needs are greatest, for example to purchase life-saving equipment or to redevelop areas of the hospital to better serve the needs of patients and staff.

“There are many areas within the hospital that need funding,” explains Steven. “Having spent so many years serving on the Boards, I know there is always a need for unrestricted support. As long as it’s going to Mount Sinai, it’s going to help someone in need.”

Hartley and Barbara, meanwhile, both decided — independently of each other to leave a gift in their wills to support the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI), the research arm of Sinai Health System and one of the top biomedical research institutes in the world. Hartley, while updating his earlier will, refined the details of his gift to Sinai to create the Hartley Hershenhorn Research Award Fund, which will rotate annually between supporting prostate, orthopaedics and neurodegenerative diseases — all of which will be crucial areas of research as our population ages.

Barbara, whose estate gift supports highest priority research needs at the LTRI, also feels strongly about the value of supporting research. “Research helps both immediately and for many generations going forward. Scientists are always discovering new things and finding better methods of dealing with existing conditions,” she says.

“Cures and quality of life improvements all come from research,” Hartley adds.

The Hershenhorns’ generosity is a testament to their shared belief in the mitzvah of giving. Explaining their family’s philosophy, Steven quotes Albert Einstein: “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”

“Whether through mentorship, volunteering or financial gifting, each person has an obligation in life to give back,” Barbara adds. “We each need to give what we can because it all adds up in the end.”

They hope their legacy of support for Mount Sinai will inspire others to give back as well.

“If one person is inspired by what we’ve done as a family and decides to make a gift, big or small,” says Hartley, “that’s a great accomplishment.”