Creating a legacy for Canada’s Jewish WWII veterans: Ellin’s keynote in Toronto May 2019

Usually I don’t talk about myself when I speak to audiences around the world about “Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military and WWII”, my new book published by the University of Toronto Press. I always make it about the voices and stories of the nearly 17,000 Canadians of Jewish faith who put on a uniform, went to help defeat Hitler, and rescue the survivors of the Holocaust.

woman public speaker
Ellin speaks at Book of Life gala event in Toronto (May 14, 2019). David Matlow photo

But when the organizers of a major fundraising event for the Toronto Jewish community, known as “The Book of Life” asked me to be the keynote speaker in May 2019, they told me to talk about how doing this important work on behalf of Jewish veterans intertwines with my own story. It is not a position I am comfortable with, or deserve, and it was, admittedly, not very easy for me to have the attention focused on me.

Honourees pose for a photo
The honourees for the 2019 Book of Life pose for a group photo at Beth Tzedec Synagogue May 14, 2019 (courtesy UJA Federation of Greater Toronto).
Audience at Synagogue
Audience at Beth Tzedec synagogue for the Book of Life gala, May 14, 2019. Courtesy UJA Federation of Toronto.

But for the past eight years, since beginning to research what would eventually become the book “Double Threat”, I have become deeply attached to those nearly 450 Canadian heroes who didn’t come home, as well as to the thousands of Canadian Jewish boys (and nearly 270 women) who did. (Even though I haven’t met them all, of course!) And it has changed my life, and my family’s life. And it continues to be a great honour to be able to go around telling audiences about some of the stories of these Canadian Jewish soldiers, sailors, airmen and merchant mariners who endured and overcame antisemitism at home, in the barracks and on the battlefield, in WWII.

So here is the speech, courtesy of The Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto, and UJA Toronto. With my sincerest thanks for giving me this incredible opportunity to get a little personal!

Watch Ellin’s speech here:

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