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Jewish Veterans of World War II who are Members of General Monash Legion.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak taken at another event.



By Rhonda Spivak

About 175 - 200 people, of all ages attended Shaarey Zedek Synagogue’s Friday Evening General Monash Rememberance Service on November 5, 2010 honouring those who served in the Canadian Forces in World War II including the more than 17,000 Jews.

The special Shabbat service opened with the presentation of the colours by the veterans of the General Monash Legion. The Shaarey Zedek choir sang beautiful renditions of the traditional prayers, such as Licha Dodi.

After the Shabbat service was completed, a special Remembrance service began. Children from the Gray Academy of Jewish Education recited the poem, In Flanders Field, in English, Russian, Spanish, French and Hebrew, showing the ethnic diversity of Jews in Winnipeg who have come from many different countries of origin. The children “give us a sense of what a peaceful world would look like,” said Rabbi Green.

Several veterans of the General Monash Legion then took turns reciting the names of  Winnipeg Jews who had fallen in World War II and the Israeli War of Independence. After each name of fallen soldier was recited,  a veteran stood on the bimah and dropped a poppy.

Chaplain Harold King, the Senior Base Chaplain at the Canadian Forces Base at Shilo, two hours west of Winnipeg, who has served in Afghanistan twice, delivered the keynote address, which he described as an “opportunity not only to be with those who have valiantly served, but also to tell the stories of those now serving, those who have picked up the torch thrown by previous generations”, including those now serving in  Afghanistan in “defence of freedom and human dignity."

King referred to the Afghanistan war as “difficult but necessary,” a war that has reminded us as a society “that to do the right thing carries a high price.”

He spoke of how Canadians, with our relatively high standard of living compared to  “2/3rds of the world”, have had the “luxury of forgetting the cost of freedom and democracy, and have taken it for granted, as evidenced in “low voter turn out in most elections."

He spoke of his grandfather and father-in-law and “the high price” paid by the  faithful years ago.  His grandfather who served in World War I “experienced the horrors of trench warfare” and came back “changed for life”, not “even willing to pick up a rifle ever again” and walking with a limp due to a bullet wound.

He spoke of his father-in-law who fought “his way against the Nazis through occupied Sicily, into Germany, and was “tormented with the graphic images of what he saw and did for the rest of his days.”

King spoke of the need to confront evil, rather than "walk away” from it.

As he said, “We too must hold back the hand of the oppressor so that others may have full and abundant life..”

He  said that the “cost of not doing the right thing" is even "higher and more damaging, longer lasting for the aggressor will be free to victimize and subjugate and terrorize the weak, the different, those who think or act differently…”

King added that the sacrifices of “our veterans from the Second World War and Korea won for the people of Europe, Japan and Korea, liberation from tyranny..freedom and democracy."

King then passed around the photo of  a little girl Natalia  he met in Afghanistan, a blind girl from Kandahar City who came to one of the Canadian camps with her school for the blind. The Canadian military gave her gifts, doted on her, and gave her a “teddy bear almost as big as she was.”

He said, “In that brief visit at our camp, Natalia caught a glimpse of a different way of being….the Canadian way of love and caring for all people, especially those who are challenged in some way."

He added, “The people of Afghanistan are gradually realizing that the old ways of revenge and hatred do not need to be the final word. There is something better.”

King concluded by saying, “As we remember all of those who have gone before us—then  and now—let us also pledge to honour them and our G-d by continuing to do the right thing, so that they rest from their labours, and that the world becomes as it should.”

After the service, King told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the war in Afghanistan was particularly difficult because the Taliban often came and destroyed what “we had just built,” indicating that often when a school had just been built the Taliban comes and destroys it. 



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.