Veteran takes new post

New legion president proud of Jewish heritage

Murray Jacobs says it’s important to remember the sacrifices of the Canada’s soldiers — past and present.

That’s why the North Yorker is taking his duties as the newly installed president of General Wingate 256 Legion seriously. The legion recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.

“We have a very active group,” the 88-year-old said.

Located on Marlee Ave., Wingate is the Royal Canadian Legion’s only Jewish branch.

Jacobs said he’ll continue to work on special events and projects like the annual poppy campaign and the legion’s remembrance march, set for late summer at Mt. Sinai Cemetery on Wilson Ave.

“This remembrance is for those men and women who gave their lives for Canada during the Second World War and also for the soldiers that are fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere,” Jacobs said. “It doesn’t make any difference whether they’re Canadian or American, it’s just a remembrance for all them.”

The branch’s cenotaph at the cemetery memorializes Jewish servicemen who died and are buried overseas, as well as the partisans who fought the Nazis.

The march takes place prior to the High Holidays, which is generally a solemn period of reflection for Jews.

Members live all over the GTA, but the legion itself has many ties to midtown Toronto.

When it first formed, the legion branch met at a veterans’ hall at Crawford and College Sts. The branch later purchased its own house on Bathurst St., north of St. Clair Ave. West. When the house was expropriated for the Spadina Subway in 1968, it moved to Eglinton Ave. and then to its current location in the Zionist Centre on Marlee.

The 142-member Wingate 256 also helps support the Sunnybrook Hospital Veteran’s Wing, and was instrumental in forming the hospital’s Jewish chapel.

The legion is named after Major General Orde Charles Wingate, a British Army officer and non-Jew who became an ardent Zionist shortly after he arrived in Palestine in 1936.

Like many Wingate vets, Jacobs visits classrooms as part of the Dominion Institute’s Memory Project. During the Second World War Jacobs was a member of the Royal Canadian Mechanical Engineers unit. He arrived at Juno Beach just days after D-Day.

When he speaks to students he wears an army beret that is affixed with a Star of David patch.

“The odd time there’s some Jewish pupils and they’ll say to me ‘Well how come you’re wearing the star?’

“I say ‘Well I’m Jewish and I’m very proud to be Jewish’.”

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Jul 9 2009 12:31 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto