Before Beth Tzedec became Canada’s largest Conservative Jewish synagogue, with 7,000 members, it was formed by the amalgamation of two historic Toronto congregations, who each played a big role in mobilizing support for Canada’s war effort during WWII. This is what I told the audience during a lecture there Monday night as part of an event headlined “Books of the Jews”, showcasing the new books of four Toronto Jewish authors, including me. Hundreds of members of Beth Tzedec’s founding congregations served in the Canadian military, including from some of the most famous Jewish families: Ben Dunkelman, whose family owned Tip Top Tailors; David Croll, who was the mayor of Windsor; Lou Somers, who was a football star at the University of Toronto and worked for the Financial Post; Gurston Allen, whose family held a chain of movie theatres, ran the Canadian Jewish Congress War Efforts Committee; Albert Glazer, who would win a Distinguished Flying Cross for his work with radar on board RAF planes and Royal Navy vessels during the Siege of Malta in 1942; Dr. Nathan Levinne, who became head of family medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital; Somer James, who won a bravery medal with the Merchant Marine, and so many more. You can read about these men and others, in my book “Double Threat”.
There is a beautiful framed scroll in the hallway of Beth Tzedec, which lists the names of all the men (and women) who served in both World Wars, and there are asterisks beside eight of the names, to signify those who didn’t come home. Many places in Canada have similar scrolls in their hallways: these were designed by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson, and mass produced after the war for church halls and other places of worship.