With a voice calm and steady, barely a trace of an accent, BlackBerry at his hip and shirt sleeves rolled up just enough to reveal the tattoo on his left forearm from Auschwitz-Brikenau, Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger, 83, spoke to some 20 adults and about 50 Grade 8 students at Deer Park Library in Toronto recently. He gave a detailed account of unimaginable strength, bravery, heartbreak and sorrow. And the group of 13-year-olds, not a single Jewish child among them, listened with reverence. He made everyone, even the adults, feel at ease. “I was just your age,” he said, looking at the teenagers, “that is where my story begins.” The children had many questions, and when Leipciger answered, he spoke gently and chose his words carefully. He also referred to Armenia, Rwanda and Darfur. This is what happens when people hate, he cautioned.
My friend’s grandmother died last week. At the funeral, I sat with my mother, and a row of old women sat behind us speaking Yiddish. “Listen,” mother said, “you don’t hear that much anymore. Soon you won’t hear it at all. Who will tell their stories when they go?”
Leipciger spoke on the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht. I didn’t realize until he had finished speaking that it had been raining the whole time. And, just for a moment, the rain looked like glass.
Erin M. Gano
‘Offended’ by reality
Prof. Cameron Johnston does not owe anyone an apology (“Professor’s comment raises tensions at York,” Sept. 22). Cameron was alluding to the opinion that all Jews should be sterilized to illustrate his point that “opinion” was not relevant to his course and that everyone is not entitled to his own opinion. Many people once held the opinion that Jews should be sterilized: perhaps some still do. If professors are to be expected to shelter students from the unpleasant facts about genocides and other mass atrocities on the grounds that they might be “offended” by reality, we might as well all pack up all our texts and read fairy tales to them instead.
Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann
Services at Darchei Noam
Thank you to columnist Avrum Rosensweig for his praise of the warmth of Shabbat services at Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam (“Yom Kippur: staring at your own eyes,” Oct. 6). CJN readers are invited to join us any Shabbat to share Rosensweig’s feeling of being “so welcomed, more than at any other shul we’ve visited.” And should you wish to be hosted by a congregant during your visit to our beautiful synagogue, please contact our office.
President, Congregation Darchei Noam
Election victory ignored
I was disappointed not to see any coverage of Jonah Schein’s election victory as the New Democratic Party MPP for Davenport riding in The CJN last month. Among other aspects, this is another good news story about the renewal of the Jewish community of downtown Toronto.
Editor’s note: The CJN has been trying to arrange an interview with Jonah Schein since his election. We hope to publish one in the near future.
What purpose in the signs?
For weeks I have observed and pondered about the purpose and value of blue-and-white signs scattered throughout the area with the words “Jewish Toronto Lives Here.” At first I thought, cynically, it would give antisemite’s direction on where to write their hateful graffiti. But then that made no sense, since the signs were deliberately placed by a Jewish organization. Then I wondered if other religious groups followed suit and placed signs such as “Christian Torontonians and Muslim Torontonians Live Here,” if that would then create an eyesore throughout the area, again with no obvious discernible purpose for the presence of the signs in the first place. As a result, I have concluded that the signs are a colossal waste of money and serve no useful purpose and should immediately be removed by the organization that spread them in the first place.
Antisemitism in Lithuania
That the swastika is still part of the Lithuanian culture is not really surprising (“The swastika is a ‘historical legacy’ in Lithuania,” Nov. 10). During World War II, even the Nazis were taken aback at the bestial cruelty of their Lithuanian guards toward their Jewish prisoners. They were the “guards of choice” to man the freight cars transporting Jews to the death camps and were even referred to by their German overlords as “mad dogs.” Random firing of their guns into the crowded cars was an amusing pastime. This kind of psychopathic hatred of Jews is, as you pointed out, historical in nature. The obvious reason why it has not been rooted out after so many years can only be explained by the fact that both the government and the clergy of Lithuania do not consider it a problem but merely a fact of life that’s too unimportant to criticize or even address.
Mount Sinai Hospital board election
Running to be one of the public representatives on the board of directors of Mount Sinai Hospital was an exhilarating, but draining experience (New Mount Sinai board members seek change,” Nov. 10). On election day, the hospital administration took the unusual step of changing the legally prescribed registration form to require voters to agree in writing that they could not vote if they had or intended to cast a ballot at any other health-care institution on the island of Montreal. This was in direct contradiction to guidelines issued by the Agence. No other health and social service institution – not the McGill University Health Centre, nor the Jewish General Hospital, nor Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, nor Miriam Home and Services – attempted to impose such a requirement.
In my frustration over what I considered to have been improper conduct by the administration, my comments on election night to The CJN went too far. Mount Sinai has an excellent and well-deserved reputation for quality care provided by a dedicated team of health-care professionals. In no way were my remarks intended to detract or imply criticism of the excellent group of health-care professionals who work so hard to serve our community. I presented my candidacy for election because Mount Sinai is important and because I believe it is time for renewal. As a member of the board, I will dedicate myself to working with my colleagues to ensuring Mount Sinai remains a leader in its field and a vital part of our health and social services network. I look forward to collaborating with and supporting the professional team at Mount Sinai as we strive to preserve and enhance this critical institution’s reputation and performance.