In spirit of honouring Chanukah, Bold and Mighty wishes to remember the sacrifices of Jewish Canadians who served with the Canadian military during the World Wars. Chanukah is a Jewish celebration which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; marking the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire during the Maccabean Revolt which took place between 167 and 160 BCE. According to Jewish traditions, because of the desecration of the Holy Temple by the Seleucid, the Maccabees could only find a day’s worth of olive oil to fuel the Temple’s Menorah’s eternal flame. However, miraculously, the oil lasted for 8 days which allowed for the procuring of more oil. As a result, the holiday is observed over 8 days and 8 nights; starting on the 25th day of Kislev (the ninth month of the Hebrew year).
The history of Canada’s Jewish community is indeed rich and colourful; dating back to at least the late 18th century. By the First World War, 100,000 Jewish people resided in Canada; a number of whom would serve in the Canadian military during the Great War. The First World War saw the participation of approximately 38% of Canada’s Jewish males of military age; 4.5% of whom would be awarded decorations for their exceptional service.
During the Second World War, the participation of Jewish Canadians was quite significant. When Canada declared war in 1939, 160,000 Jewish people resided in Canada; many of whom would respond to the call to arms with great enthusiasm. Roughly 16,000 Jewish men and 200-300 Jewish women served in the Canadian military during the Second World War. The percentage of Jewish men who served stands around 39% of the population of military-aged men of the Jewish community; among the higher rates of enlistment. These statistics could, however, be an understatement and the percentage could in fact be higher when considering the number of Jewish people who did not declare themselves as Hebrew when they enlisted due to the risks involved should they have been taken by Nazis as prisoners of war.
During the Second World War, approximately 196 Jewish Canadians were decorated. One of these was Flight Lieutenant Eli Baker. Baker was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the 1939-45 Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, the Defence Medal 1939-45, Operational Wings for two tours, as well as the Pathfinder Wings. Thea Ginsburg is another decorated Jewish Canadian who served with the Canadian Forces during the Second World War. She served with the Royal Canadian Navy and was awarded the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, as well as the War Medal 1939-45.
Baslaw, Morton, Elliot Gluck, J.L. Granastein More Konick, Freda Lithwick, and Cy Torontow
There I Was: A Collection of Reminiscences by Members of the Ottawa Jewish Community Who Served in World War II. Ottawa.
Simons, Alan. "A Tribute to Our Jewish War Veterans of Canada." Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). November 10, 2015. http://www.cija.ca/jewish-war-veterans-canada/.
Tulchinsky, Gerald. Branching Out: The Transformation of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Limited, 1998.