“Honouring our heroes. Honouring our loved ones”

We will remember them

Nous nous souviendrons d’eux

Thank you Canada!

Merci Canada!

“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.”

 

 

“The soldiers had arms missing, legs missing, pipes and gadgets holding their faces together – it was the sight I was not prepared for…that’s when the movie ended, and the reality of war set in.” – Mort Lightstone, Captain (Ret’d). Korean War veteran, Royal Canadian Air Force.

 

 

      by Alan Simons

TORONTO, CANADA- On the front lawn of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto, stands a 30-metre-long granite wall, etched with scenes from Canada’s military history. The Ontario Veterans’ Memorial is dedicated to every man and woman who has served with courage to protect our freedom in times of war and in peace.

On Sunday, November 11, starting at 10:45 am we will honour our veterans and all Canadians currently serving in ongoing military activities throughout the world by remembering their selfless courage and commitment during Ontario’s Ceremony of Remembrance to be held at the Front Lawn of the Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, Canada.

In an official capacity, I have been given the honour of participating at the Ceremony, where I will be laying the wreath on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada.

For the Jewish community of all ages living in Toronto and the surrounding area, I extend an invitation to you to attend and be part of this moving ceremony.  As Jews, especially at this time, irrespective of where you live, we need to proudly stand up and be counted more than ever before! 

As for me, when I lay the wreath, I will not only be thinking of my family members who served their country proudly and with distinction, but I will be honouring all of our vets and civilians in gratitude for their sacrifices. 

Lest We Forget.

In addition, in my thoughts, I will be quietly honouring members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh who were massacred a few days ago in their synagogue, simply because they were Jews. And I will also be honouring the six worshippers who were killed and the nineteen others injured last year when a lone gunman opened fire after the end of evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre Mosque in Quebec City, Canada, simply because they were Muslims.

I have a personal debt of gratitude in attending the Ceremony of Remembrance. During WWI, my grandfather, Louis Cohen, served in the British Army fighting in the trenches in Belgium. He somehow managed to survive, never to speak of his ghastly experiences until a few hours before he died in the 1970s.

My great uncle David Wienburg, born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, served in the 1st Bn. Border Regiment. Uncle David died aged 23 on Thursday, April 11 1918. He is remembered with honour at the Ploesgsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium.

During WWII my dad served in the Royal Air Force. His brother served in Europe and North Africa, where he was a tank driver. Both my dad and my uncle survived.

My sister’s partner flew the Hampden, known as the flying suitcase, which alongside the Whitley and the Wellington was the backbone of Bomber Command at the outbreak of war in 1939. He was shot down on three separate occasions over enemy territory and captured. As a POW he escaped three times, was sent to Peenemünde, Stalag Luft III, where he played an active part in Operation Escape 200 (The Great Escape), Oflag IV-C (Colditz) and finally he was sent to Bergen-Belsen. He survived.

Many years later he found a photo of the Hampden at an aircraft museum. My sister had it framed after her partner wrote on the back of the photo:

“The last of 20 bombing operations over Germany. Operation Wilhelmshaven. Delayed action pencil slim armour piercing bomb, a Barnes Wallis experiment. We didn’t make it. ‘Jerry’ was waiting for us with flak and a Me 109.”

He survived the crash. All his crew died.

With exception of my great uncle David, they all withstood the horrors of war, all in their own way, all with their thoughts and memories remaining shut to their family and friends for most of their lives. Our heroes. Our loved ones.

Lest We Forget.

As a young boy living in London, England, I always accompanied my dad and uncle to the Remembrance Day Service and Parade held each year in November by AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women. Literally, thousands attended. Proud Jews. Proud to be British. Proud of serving their country. There they were, all together, Jewish men and women of rank and file, with the VC, the GC, the DSO, the MM and DFM as well as a plethora of Croix de Guerre and Légion d’Honneur recipients.

Lest We Forget.

I will also be thinking about our grandchildren. Those far too young to have personal knowledge, thank God, of the ravages of war. 

On Sunday, November 11 we will remember those who died for us. They came from every background, every religion and every culture.

“Sadly, for the vast majority of Jews living in Canada, young and old, we have failed miserably in advising them of the part Canada’s Jewish war veterans contributed to Canada. It’s not too late to show them your support.”

The history of the Jews in the Canadian military, both male and female, 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.

Lest we forget

JWV 1 Nov 2011During WWI, 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. It is my understanding 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 few years ago I received an email from Janet Chernin, of Nova Scotia who told me her aunt, Section Officer Rose Jette Goodman of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, (r) was the first member of the Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force to lose her life on active service in World War II. She was just 23 years of age. The New Glasgow News wrote of her passing: “… She made her choice; she has given her life for her country.  She served—and died—that men may fly. That we may win this war.” Janet has pictures and newspaper accounts.

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. 

Elie Wiesel once said: “Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.”  Let us reflect on Elie Wiesel’s message and recognize that all our children and grandchildren are part of our innermost self.  And let us remind them that as adults we are here to safeguard their future against the antisemites, the Islamophobes and the sick and demented racists of our society.

Come and join me and your neighbours.  Sunday, November 11 at 10:45 am on the Front Lawn of the Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, Canada, or simply consider participating in the Remembrance Day service in your city.

Lest we forget.

Editorial content and photo credits: The Ontario Veterans’ War Memorial, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg; Canadian Jewish Heritage Network; Jewish War Veterans of Canada (JWV); Veteran Affairs, Canada; The Royal Canadian Legion; National Defence-Canada; Mort Lightstone and the Jewish Canadian Military Museum. “They shall grow not old,” is attributed to the poem “For the Fallen”, by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943).

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Diaspora Jews. What do we want? Leaders!

OPINION | Alan Simons

“Popularized by the American sociologist Barry Glassner, the culture of fear is the concept that people may incite fear in the general public to achieve political or workplace goals through emotional bias.”

“Non-Jews do not care a damn about our achievements!”

     by Alan Simons

Egged on by Trumptwits International (2016) Inc., the culture of fear is proliferating world-wide at a frightening rate. And for a great majority of diaspora Jews steeped in their historical obsession that at last resort now there’s always Israel to flee to, are becoming more inward-looking and hell-bent on building their own protective wall against antisemitism. In addition, promoting the never-ending old joke such as, “When does a Jewish fetus become viable? When it graduates from medical school.” Or, the study that Jews are the world’s most-educated religious group or  22.5% of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to Jews, not only isolates us more than ever from the society we live in, but our non-Jewish neighbours couldn’t care less and for the most part are sick to death of us continually asserting ourselves, ploughing a knife into them on these subjects. In essence, non-Jews do not care a damn about our achievements!

Encouraged by the rhetoric of Mr T, who just hours ago in a political speech referred to himself as a “Nationalist”, for many a frightening euphemism for white nationalism, we are experiencing a terrifying political infectious disease containing no international borders. White nationalism and Nazism is rampant today and Trumptwit is a language common to many people, irrespective of the country one lives in.

Today, we are experiencing an upsurge from politicians, the antisemites, the hate mongers, and tenured university bigots, who publicly vilify and delegitimize diaspora Jews.

Diaspora Jews have become fearful of the political consequences now taking place in many of their respective countries, a trait not particularly acknowledged by many of them before Trumptwits International was incorporated in 2016. Yet, it’s always been there, hasn’t, hovering in the background, waiting for the Trumptwits to ignite the fire.

J.J. Rousseau, the 18th century French philosopher said, “The Jews in Dispersion have not the possibility of proclaiming their own truth to humankind; but I believe that when they once have a free Commonwealth, with schools and universities of their own where they can speak out safely, we shall be able to learn what it is that the Jewish people have to say to us.”

To which I might add, today we Jews are still trying to communicate, to coexist with each other, let alone trying to figure out what we have to say to all the billions of non-Jews!

Communication is about giving-taking, asking-answering, sending-receiving. It’s not something we Jews are known to be good at. Yes, I recognize in many countries Jews sit on various inter-faith committees that encourage dialogue and cooperation. And the work they are doing in their field is mind-boggling, until the name of Israel is asserted by them!

As Frank Luntz, the US-based political and business pollster has pointed out, “Why do Jews make such lousy communicators? For hundreds of years, we used the great art of language development to entertain as well as educate. It is no coincidence that so many of the great intellectuals, academics, writers and performers come from our ranks.”

He adds, “The ability of Jews to understand and connect with people transcends international boundaries. It is in our culture and in our blood. But over the years, we have developed some very destructive communication habits that have seriously undermined our efforts and the causes we believe in. Our words lose their resonance and our style and tone offend. We assert when we should inform. We reject when we should interject. We push people away when we should pull them in.” As he remarked, “Non-Jews do not want to hear our complaints. They want to know our solutions.”

We need a leader to bring us together, a leader amongst the diaspora ranks, each in our own particular country we can point to, who stands head and shoulders above us, to communicate to non-Jews on our behalf. Sadly, no one in Canada, or the USA or the UK is there such a person willing to come forward on our behalf, unless they see an Israel component to the message.

So, what do we want?

“You Jewish people. What exactly do you want?” How many times have we heard this question from non-Jews? Well actually, we don’t know what we want, do we? Which is abysmal, since as Jews we’ve had more time than anyone else to come up with the answer. Perhaps we will never reach an answer. Perhaps there isn’t one. Perhaps we don’t want to. Perhaps we are so ingrained in believing no one really cares about who we are. And after so many centuries of us having to endure pograms and genocides, we have turned to indifference as many Jews now have in the USA. For many, being a Jew is simply down to going out on an early Sunday morning to purchase a dozen bagels, lox and cream cheese. And as for Israel? Well, they wish it would just go away!

What this all boils down to is this: Trumptwits International (2016) Inc. and its ever-increasing mob mentality, has become unable not only to differentiate between ignorance and conscientious stupidity but the ability to make intelligent decisions. And coupled with Nationalism, we diaspora Jews, are in for a rough time if we don’t get our act together and communicate as one.

It was Napoleon Bonaparte who was overheard to say that in politics, stupidity is not a handicap, a statement Trumptwit subordinates in their eagerness to please their leaders are making every effort to accept.

It’s been said Trumptwits are analogous to the zebra mussel, a species originally native to the lakes of southern Russia and accidentally introduced to numerous other areas. It has become an invasive species in many different countries worldwide, including the USA and Canada.

To quote Elie Wiesel: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” As diaspora Jews, our alarming silence and our indifference to the nationalists and their cronies will be our demise. Our willingness, as diaspora Jews, to openly declare our achievements in the fields of arts and letters with non-Jews and at the same time use them instinctively for self-preservation, no longer works in today’s society. 

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The T Word.

OPINION| Anthony Dayton

Which one is your cup of tea?


Please be advised before reading on, should you choose to, that you are hereby being given a trigger warning: the subject of the next few hundred words could bring about an unhealthy increase in blood pressure, of foaming at the mouth and even of acts of violence in many readers, the subject being the current POTUS, the very President of the United States of America himself.

So virulent has proven the response of “the resistance” to the leader of the free world (full apologies to Canadians, but for the moment it is not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau), that merely to mention the name emotes a visceral response, so much so, that the name now joins the pantheon of words that cannot be uttered, the N-word is the classic example for our times, and so are known only by their first letter. Merely to mention the name, or anything related to it, even in passing, is to focus the listener’s attention, not on the actual subject, but rather on the T-word itself.

For example, mention Elizabeth Warren and her – shall we say, s-t-r-e-t-c-h – in self-identifying as Native, and the listener, in this case, my dear sister, will immediately respond by deriding not Mrs Warren, Harvard’s quite white first woman of colour, but Mr T, for the sin of labelling her “Fauxcahontas.”  

Being partial to cheap puns, and given that the DNA tests Senator Warren herself decided to take revealed that she is no more Native than the average American, meaning that the slick play on the word/name Fauxcahontas is not inaccurate, I rather thought the name clever, if not, shall we say, presidential, when deployed by the current holder of said office.

Not so my own sister, who was more than willing to give the erstwhile senator a pass in order to slug it out with her tormentor, he of the orange hair, and by extension, me, for having uttered the name in the first place. There passed a moment of awkwardness until we could once again regain our rhythm and discuss the difference between her southern climate and my more temperate weather zone.  

For one’s star to have risen, or fallen, depending on the view, so quickly that he must now be referred to by the “T-word” is extraordinary. It is surprising that sociologists, culturalists, psychologists and the like have not begun to publish a storm of PhD theses analyzing the phenomenon. Perhaps they have more important avenues of interest to explore, or perhaps they fear their efforts being rejected out of hand when submitted to their advisors bearing the five-letter name that shall be nameless. And so, I suggest to them The T-word or even Mr T (more apologies, this time to actor Laurence Tureaud) that they might not miss such rich, fertile academic endeavours.

Having acknowledged this singularity, it is time to unpack it, to deconstruct it so as to glean some insight into postmodern society and into ourselves. However, the good editor of this publication, while bravely permitting a very risky topic that could destroy his entire legitimacy, albeit not without the stricture of a 400-word limit (we are now over 500 and counting), might well have run out of forbearance at this juncture. And so, most rare today, this essay leaves you to ponder yourselves the Mr T marvel, unhindered by the random and unenlightened thoughts of its writer, who in actuality knows no better than you. (Though if given another five hundred words, would probably take a shot!)

Anthony Dayton is a Canadian life-long educator, sometimes writer, part-time photographer.

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