A Special Tribute to Canadian Jewish War Veterans
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Fourth stanza of ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
This Sunday, November 11, is Remembrance Day in Canada and also in many other Commonwealth countries. The history of the Jews in the Canadian military and of their exploits and experiences dispels the myth that Jews have not contributed their share in the Canadian Forces. This includes the Boer War (1899-1902), WWI (1914-1918), WWII (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as in Canada’s ongoing military activities throughout the world. We salute all of you.
During World War I, 38% of all Jewish males 21 years and over in Canada served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. 4.5% won decorations for bravery and distinguished military service, in comparison with 3.4% Canadian soldiers of all origins.
For Canadian Jews, the Second World War was the Jewish community’s most sustained war effort ever. Out of a population of approximately 167,000 Jewish men, women and children, over 16,880 volunteered for active service in the army, air force, and navy. There were an additional 2,000 Jews who enlisted, but who did not declare their Jewish identity in order to avert danger if captured by the Nazi forces. All of this at a time when Canada had the shameful reputation of being the only western country to completely close its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution.
Of the 16,880 who served, which constituted more than one-fifth of the entire Jewish male population in the country, 10,440 served in the army, 5,870 in the air force, and 570 in the navy. 1,971 Jewish soldiers received military awards. Over 420 were buried with the Star of David engraved on graves scattered in 125 cemeteries. Thousands returned home with serious physical and mental wounds.
Saskatchewan Jews were among the first to volunteer during both World War I and II, and many lost their lives in the European trenches. The province honoured those who sacrificed their lives, including a number of Jewish heroes, by naming several lakes and mountains of the vast northern region after them.
A website link provides the date of death and place of burial of many of Canada’s Jewish service men and women who died serving in the Canadian Forces in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The data was originally compiled by the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives, Montréal.
Bernie M. Farber is the former chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress. He is completing a history on the exploits of Canadian Jewish war heroes. This morning, in Canada’s National Post, he paid tribute to Canadian Jewish war heroes. Click here to read his article.
In closing, we honour and pay our respects to all Canadians currently serving in the Canadian Forces. >Click here< to view our video.
Alan Simons- Publisher, jewishinfoNe.ws >>>
Editorial content and photo credits: Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, Jewish War Veterans of Canada (JWV), National Defence-Canada and the Jewish Canadian Military Museum.
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From: Michael Levenston, British Columbia, Canada.
My father was a Canadian Jewish officer in WWII. I have published his wartime letters home to his mother in Toronto as an electronic book that can be read on an iPad. It includes videos and family photos.
Canadian officer Lt. Col. Gerald Levenston wrote over 160 wonderfully descriptive letters home to his widowed mum in Toronto during WWII. Gerald describes setting up the largest hamburger stand in Europe for the Canadian troops, fighting Rommel’s men at the Battle of the Kasserine with the 17th/21st Lancers, etc.