Finding Your Part to Play

Marshall Shoctor’s commitment to community was generations in the making

Marshall Shoctor was barely into his new role with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) when he made his directorial debut as an endowment fund matchmaker.

To the longtime lawyer and newly installed board secretary, it was a perfect pairing that would put the impressive organizational power of ECF to work for the Edmonton Jewish Community Charitable Foundation (EJCCF), an organization whose strengths and challenges were well-known to Shoctor.

“I thought they should focus on playing to their strengths and primary interest, which is raising money and spending it,” he recalls. “So I recommended to them, very strongly … that it would be a marriage of two great organizations.”

The union was approved in 2019, and today the thriving EJCFF stands as an example to other foundations that want to increase their impact. ECF has played a similar role for sister community foundations in St. Albert and Fort McMurray.

Shoctor seems a bit rueful as he recalls being “maybe too aggressive” in the merger. But it is all in character for the 67-year-old, who has been seeking parts to play in the community since he was a shy teen growing up in west Edmonton.

Shoctor’s first foray into community service was in Grade 9 when he joined the B’nai Brith Youth Organization and threw himself into its volunteer opportunities, taking on leadership roles with increasingly more responsibility, culminating in the position of international secretary. By Grade 12, he’d set his sights on becoming the next international president of the Jewish youth organization; in fact, he’d already deferred his university entrance in anticipation.

So it came as a surprise to learn he was too old for the job. By one day.

“My 19th birthday occurred on the day of the international elections so they wouldn’t let me run,” Shoctor recalls with a chuckle.

It didn’t deter him though and, for more than four decades, Shoctor has been a dependable, behind-the-scenes player for numerous local and national organizations. “It just became one of the themes in my life, in addition to family and profession and friends and travel and culture and art,” he says.

He’s a longtime volunteer with the city’s Jewish community, including serving a term as board president of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton. He has served on boards and committees at the Citadel Theatre since the mid-1980s when his late father, theatre founder Joe Shoctor, first encouraged him to join its board of directors. Ultimately, he chaired both the board of directors and the board of governors. Shoctor credits the example set by his parents, Joe and Kayla Shoctor, who juggled three kids, community activities, and — in his father’s case — multiple careers as a theatre producer, real estate developer, hotelier and lawyer. Joe was following a path that had been blazed by his own parents, immigrants who came to Canada in the early 1900s and became active participants in Edmonton’s community life despite their own daily struggles.

“My father was a force of nature,” Shoctor says. “He was heavily engaged in all kinds of aspects of the community, not just theatre. The mentorship I got was more by watching them than being instructed by them about what I should do or how I should do it.”

In 2018, two years after he left his legal practice, Shoctor became the secretary of the ECF board of directors. He’d become familiar with the foundation in 2001 when he worked with ECF to establish an endowment to support operations at the Citadel Theatre which was set up in his father’s memory; then in 2010, he helped his mother establish a family fund that is used to support a wide variety of community organizations.

“ECF is a very major player in Edmonton in terms of charitable, not-for-profit and scholarship funding. It injects an awful lot of money annually into the greater community,” Shoctor says.

He would like to see more people finding the part they can play in their own communities.

“If you are part of a community and you want to see your community excel — not just operate at a base level … you need a strong volunteer sector. Because it doesn’t happen on its own,” he says.

This story comes from our Spring 2023 Legacy in Action.