TORONTO — Jack Buchman, 80, stood beside his youngest grandson, Jesse, as they recited their bar mitzvah portions at Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Synagogue recently, thus fulfilling the mitzvah that he was deprived of during World War II.
The octogenarian, surrounded by his wife, Roma, family and friends, has bitter memories of losing most of his family and the hunger and horrors of his near-death experiences during the war. But now he rejoices in the many blessings in his life, family, business and community involvements.
To commemorate his 80th birthday, Buchman published a memoir for his family titled A Place to Belong.
“I published the book for my family to know where I came from and who we are,” he said.
The book is a panorama of events from Buchman’s childhood in Warsaw, the Holocaust, his survival, starting over in France, coming to Canada, family life, successes and failures in business and community involvements. It also contains some advice to his family.
There are many photos to help make his stories more immediate. He also lists his life’s “mantras,” and there’s a section that he calls, “Pappy’s Commandments.”
“My book is a tribute to the Jewish spirit of survival,” he said.
Above all, he cherishes family.
He writes of meeting “the love of my life,” Roma (Rinde), also a Holocaust survivor, in Paris in 1950.
And of building a loving family in Toronto – his son, Danny, daughters, Pauline Schwartz and Annette Mincer, their spouses and 14 grandchildren. “They are the focus of my life.”
His affection for his wife is still evident: “I am so proud of my wife, Roma, who continues to educate the young generation, Jewish and non-Jewish schoolchildren, on her Holocaust experiences – the experiences and the lessons to learn from the tragedy,” he said.
After arriving in Canada in 1951, Jack had many jobs before he established a lumber and building supply business that prospered and became a chain of Lumber King stores.
As well, he became involved in real estate development. He retired at the age of 75.
He has participated in many charitable causes including B’nai Brith, Baycrest Foundation, Tel Aviv University and Israel Bonds. For his volunteerism, he has received several awards.
After the bar mitzvah celebrations in Toronto, 22 members of the Buchman family travelled to Israel, where the eldest and youngest Buchmans will again celebrate their bar mitzvahs at the Kotel – the Western Wall – in Jerusalem. The family will then tour Israel together. Buchman’s advice to his family is: “Don’t forget the past so as not to make the same mistakes in the future.”