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Second group of Holocaust orphans at an English language class in the YMHA on Albert Street, Winnipeg, 1948
Courtesy of Frank Weinfeld


Hagibor Club soccer team, Winnipeg, 1948
Courtesy of Frank Weinfeld


Canadian Jewish congress representatives Sol Kanee (far right) and Ethel Ostry Genkind (to his right) interviewing a group of children at the International Refugee Organization Children's Centre in Priem, Germany, c.1947

 
NEW JEWISH HERITAGE CENTRE EXHIBIT EXPLORES THE HISTORY OF HOLOCAUST ORPHANS IN WINNIPEG AND CREATION OF A.N.A.V.

By Stan Carbone, July 4, 2011

The Jewish Heritage Centre has developed an exhibit on Holocaust orphans in Winnipeg. Situated in the Marion and Ed Vickar Jewish Museum of Western Canada/Elaine and Percy Goldberg Family Walkway at the Asper Jewish Community Campus the exhibit draws largely on photographs, newspaper articles, and first hand accounts to piece together a story of courage, perseverance and triumph.

Numerous organizations mobilized their human and financial resources to improve what were often the deplorable living conditions of Holocaust orphans in displacement camps following World War II. Among these were the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the Canadian Jewish Congress. The Congress was incessant in lobbying the Canadian government to issue permits to allow orphans to come to Canada. As a result by April of 1948 some 1,000 of them made their way to this country.

Between 1947 and 1949, 130 orphans settled in Winnipeg. As indicated in a 1948 report of the United Jewish Relief Agency “ as far as the placement of the Winnipeg children was concerned, the guiding principle was to place young children and girls in free homes and to make older children, particularly boys, self – supporting as quickly as possible.”

Sol Kanee, President of the Western Division of the Canadian Jewish Congress set up a local coordinating committee made up of representatives of several Winnipeg Jewish organizations and service agencies namely the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, the United Hebrew Social Service Bureau (U.H.S.S.B.), the Jewish Children’s Home and Aid Society, the National Council of Jewish Women, Y.M.H.A., B’nai Brith, the Bureau of Jewish Education, Congress Council, the Winnipeg Hadassah Council, and the Shaarey Zedek Sisterhood. With a grant provided by the Welfare Fund, the Congress also paid the expenses incurred by U.H.S.S.B. for social work services, room and board, clothing and allowances for the children.

The origins of A.N.A.V. or Ezrat Noar Vaed (Help Youth Forever) can be traced back to the arrival of the first Holocaust orphans in Winnipeg in 1947. These orphans, who would meet regularly at the Y.M.H.A, organized with the assistance of the Y’s Lou Rusoff, a club known as HAGIBOR (Hero). Its first President was Eugene Joseph. Some of the activities carried out by HAGIBOR included plays, discussion groups and athletic endeavours such as the creation of a soccer team coached by Y.M.H.A. staffers Jack Perlmutter and Leible Hershfield.

The exigencies, challenges and vicissitudes of daily life resulted in the dissolution of HAGIBOR about two years after it was formed. In 1972, a 25th anniversary reunion of orphans took place at the Rosh Pina Synagogue which also included representatives of the three levels of government and the Canadian Jewish Congress. The creation of A.N.A.V., a service organization dedicated to assisting needy children locally and in Israel, arose from that reunion. For over twenty years A.N.A.V. provided financial assistance to programs such as a summer camp for needy children organized by Jewish Child and Family Services, various and local Israeli health care centres and social services agencies as well as individuals who were in need.

In the 1990s A.N.A.V. terminated its activities, but not before it established an endowment fund with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. Some of its members along with other individuals and organizations were to play a valuable role in the creation of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre (HEC) of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. Today the HEC is a vital component in promoting the importance of Holocaust awareness and human rights advocacy to the Jewish and broader community of Manitoba. Despite their advancing age, survivors routinely volunteer their time to share their history and experiences and engage in a dialogue with their audiences that encourages tolerance and understanding.

If you wish to add to this important chapter in the history of the Winnipeg Jewish community please contact Stan Carbone at 477 – 7467 or [email protected].

 
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