While the atrocities experienced by Jewish Europeans during the Second World War are well documented, less recognized are the sacrifices made by Jewish members of the Canadian Armed Forces who, according to veteran Jack Cahan, volunteered to fight at a rate higher than any other cultural group in the country.
“When I speak to various audiences, they walk out about two inches taller because they didn’t know so much about the participation of the Jewish population,” said Cahan, a former national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada.
To commemorate those members of North York’s Jewish community who served in both World Wars and the Korean War, a memorial was erected outside of the group’s Toronto post at the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre. After seven years of planning the monument opened in November, thanks in part to an almost $29,000 contribution from the federal government.
“There was a lot of mixed emotions amongst the veterans,” said York Centre MP Mark Adler, who was in attendance at the Nov.7 event. “Some were very emotional, some were crying, others were happy that this is finally taking place.
“That there’s going to be a lasting monument, not so much for them but for future generations to see.”
On the front of the four-foot high, black marble wall are almost 500 names of local Jewish veterans who died while serving the country. On the back are the names of nearly 500 surviving vets in the area, including Cahan, a former pilot.
The Jewish Canadian War Memorial is important, Adler said, so the contributions of people like Jack Cahan are not forgotten.
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