A photo of the grave of a Toronto Jewish soldier who was killed in Normandy in July 1944 is front and centre at a new exhibit documenting the contributions of Jewish people to Canada. The Canadian Jewish Experience 2017 organization recently unveiled the collection in a downtown Ottawa office building just steps from Parliament Hill. I was in Ottawa this weekend to pay a brief visit.
Called “Celebrating Canada-The Jewish Experience”, the exhibit sits in the lobby of a federal office building on Metcalfe Street, which also houses the Department of Canadian Heritage. The nine fixed panels trace the origins of Jewish life in Canada from the earliest days, and outline themes including War and Peace. That’s where you will find the Meltz photo.
It is a very special photo for me. It shows the grave of George Meltz, 25, who served with the Royal Canadian Artillery. The photo was taken in 2011 by my husband, John Friedlan, during our family trip to the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. The site is located near Juno Beach, where 15,000 Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 on D-Day. Meltz and over 2,000 other Canadian war casualties are buried there.
Our visit to that cemetery, and John’s photo when we found Meltz’s grave, sparked my now-six-year-long journey to research and write my forthcoming book Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and WWll.
Organizers of the CJE2017 exhibit approached me months previously, asking for a contribution to help show the sacrifice of Canada’s Jewish community in the war effort. John was happy to have his photo in the show, and we are proud to showcase the story of one of the 17,000 Canadian Jews who put on a uniform to fight Hitler in the Second World War.
The photo is one of only four on the same War and Peace Panel: next to it are a portrait of the late Barney Danson, who was a war hero and went on to become a prominent politician; and a photo showing Canadian Jewish military chaplain Issac Rose, a captain, somewhere in Italy, blowing a shofar (ram’s horn) while holding a religious service in 1944. You can read about Meltz, and also about Danson and Rose, and their war service, in Double Threat.
The CJE2017 experience is on view at 30 Metcalfe Street in Ottawa, and also in other cities in Canada including Winnipeg at the Jewish Heritage Centre. It is coming to Toronto on November 13-24 at Queen’s Park.