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Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Jews, Natives and Remembrance Day

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Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw

On Nov. 11, we remember the 1.5 million Canadian men and women who served our country in many wars, including the World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

 On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, we are silent, to memorialize the 100,000 Canadians who died in these wars  and those who continue to die in war zones such as Afghanistan.

 We focus on the reality that these men, sometimes boys, and women fought valiantly so we could be free people in a democratic country and actualize ourselves the way we see fit. Had they not fought for us, often as volunteers, Canada, and more specifically the Jewish corridor, would be crowded today with ugliness.

 On Nov. 11, we remember 4,000 Canadian Jews who enlisted for World War I and the 100 who died. We recall the 84 soldiers who were decorated for bravery.

This date is legislated as a time on our calendar when we stand tall and salute 16,883 Jewish community members who joined the ranks of the army, air force and navy for World War II;  and 2,000 more who did the same while hiding their Jewishness, fearing the consequences if captured by the Nazis. When you are silent at 11 a.m., know that 196 Jewish soldiers won military decorations, 500 were buried with stars of David and many returned home with wounds that lasted forever.

We are Jews and citizens of the world. It therefore behooves us on Nov. 11 to remember our courageous Jewish soldiers and honour our Jewish veterans, some of whom you can visit at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

 And we are Canadians, proud Canadians, and therefore it is incumbent upon us to remember our fellow nationals of all backgrounds who gave us the gift of the freedom to walk, talk and dress the way we want, as Jews, as human beings.

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

As Canadians we must make a special effort to remember our brave warriors – Native Canadians, who despite the fact they were not “official” citizens of Canada, and in spite of the belief they could not adapt to the mostly white battalions – volunteered anyway.

 Like blacks in the United States (harassed and humiliated by racists and bullies) who joined the American army, so too did our subjugated aboriginal people join the Canadian military. While the Canadian government, the church and RCMP (in concert with the whispering quiet of our own people and others) kidnapped their children and carried them off to residential schools, Native Canadians took the high road.

 On Nov. 11 we remember, therefore, with great pride that 3,500 Native Canadians, 35 per cent of the Native population of military age, enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. We think about the brave Olympic runner Thomas Longboat, an Onondaga Native (http://archives.cbc.ca/sports/athletics/clips/8011), a Native Canadian soldier who was a dispatch runner in France in World War I, and Lt. Cameron Brant, who died leading a charge in the second Battle of Ypres.

 On Remembrance Day, we remember the brave, not the wars. We are reminded not to take Canadianism for granted. We embrace all of our soldiers and thank them for our freedom today and guarantee them we will guard it with all our might.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

–John McCrae

 

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