AMONG THE FIRST things visitors see on entering Eric Young’s century-old house in midtown Toronto are two exotic objects from Africa. One is a wooden throwing club called an orinka, the other is a tall, carved stick called an oseki.
Neither has any financial value or application in Young’s day-to-day routine in Canada, where he’s the founder of The Social Projects Studio and a distinguished visiting professor of social innovation at Ryerson University. But due to their provenance and how they came into his possession, both are among his most precious belongings.
In his other life, halfway across the globe in Kenya, Young is deeply involved with the Maasai tribe. This ancient, semi-nomadic community has embraced him — literally — when it officially inducted him as an elder member in a traditional ceremony in 2013. The feeling is mutual, as reflected in his words and actions.
Young has cofounded a conservancy with and for the Maasai where he’s also developing a cultural centre; he’s contributed financially to their community; he’s involved in a new safari business with them; he’s bought land and is building a house there; he’s made friends among tribe members that he considers family and he’s effusive in his praise and affinity for the Maasai.
To some, it might seem unlikely that a nice Jewish boy from a white, upper-middle class family in Toronto would become so engaged with a rural, tribal community in the Great Rift Valley. In Young’s eyes, it’s a natural extension of his decades-long career, and not unrelated to his Jewish background.
In March, Young will travel to Kenya as part of his close relationship with the Maasai and to work on his projects there. It will be his seventh trip since his maiden voyage in 2013 when he first became smitten with the community.
FULL STORY Jewish Torontonian turned African tribal elder spearheads nature conservancy (Times of Israel)
Photo: Eric Young with his Maasai ‘brother’ Nelson Ole Reiyia