“Northern Lights” has my chapter on Canadian Jewish military history
There’s an important new book out by the Canadian Jewish News. It’s called Northern Lights: A Canadian Jewish History. It tells the history of Canada’s Jewish community through the archives and photos of the country’s award-winning Jewish weekly newspaper.
It was supposed to be a project to mark the 60th anniversary of the CJN’s founding. In 2018, then editor, Yoni Goldstein commissioned me and others to contribute a chapter. My chapter was to be about the history of Jewish Canadians in the military: from the earliest days of settlement in New France in the 18th century, the Plains of Abraham battle in Quebec City in 1759, and up to today.
Goldstein commissioned chapters from high profile Canadians such as former Lieutenant Governor the Hon. Myra Freeman, of Nova Scotia, journalists Marsha Lederman, Bryan Borzykowski, and Jay Teitel, as well as from political scientist Gil Troy, human rights champion Hon. Irwin Cotler, and more. They wrote about the arts, politics, business, etc.
The book was supposed to be published in the spring of 2020. It was supposed to be distributed to every paying subscriber to the CJN.
Then Covid Happened
Fast forward to April 2020. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic interfere with the publication of the book, but the financial crisis which hit all newspaper and digital advertising worldwide, led to the closure of the Canadian Jewish News. Many were left wondering what would happen to the book?
Happily, two copies arrived at my home last month. After donning gloves and disinfecting the wrapper in my laundry room, I opened the parcel and was so thrilled to see the beautiful book “Northern Lights”. My chapter is called “Fighting for Canada”.
Watch Ellin open the parcel here:
In the chapter, you meet the members of the community’s founding Jewish families including the Harts, who served on the British military side during the battle for New France in 1759. Subsequently we talk about some of the generation of 4,700 Jewish fighters who served in WWI, including William “Bill” Tobias of Winnipeg, and Myer Tutzer Cohen of Toronto.
- Veterans Affairs Canada recognizes Canadian Jewish contribution to WWII
- Why a Montreal hockey player turned down an NHL tryout to fight Hitler and save Jews
The 17,000 in World War II
You will know that I documented the stories of many of the 17,000 Canadian Jewish men and women who helped defeat Hitler in my recent book “Double Threat”, published in 2019. But other veterans who did not make it into the book are now in this chapter, including Alex Polowin, 96, a navy rating from Ottawa, and Montreal’s Reuben Gorodetsky, a member of the famed Black Watch regiment. He was killed in 1944.
We touch on those who served in Korea, including the war hero who never got a medal Mike Levy, and Toronto’s RCAF Capt. (Ret.) Mort Lightstone. The chapter moves through the Cold War, UN Peacekeeping operations, and the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia, where you meet Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Ed Fitch, of Victoria, B.C., who was the highest ranking Canadian Jewish army officer.
You will also meet some current serving Jewish regular force members, including Maj. Garret Book. Book served in Afghanistan in 2013, as you can see in the photos below. Book’s family contributed some great photos of his deployment and we hoped they would all be used in “Northern Lights”, but there wasn’t room.
Special thanks also to Maj. Gen. Fitch, OMM MSM CD, and Lt. Col (Ret.) R.S. Garber, CD, MA, MBA, of Ottawa, and Maj. (Ret.) Jonathan Knaul, of Toronto, and Capt. (Ret.) Lazer Danzinger, of Toronto, (both in the book) who all generously helped with the research and fact-checking.
Northern Lights is a beautifully designed and solidly researched coffee-table book, with important journalism in it. I’m told that subscribers of the former CJN should be receiving their own copies shortly. It is also available for the general public from the publisher Lola Stein Institute’s website.
Take a sneak peak at some of the pages of the book.
7 thoughts on “New Book: How Jews contributed to Canadian history”
How do I get a copy of this book? I’m a Toronto girl living in Northern California.
Thanks for the review and contribution. I’m excited to enjoy this.
Hi Jill. I will reply to you privately. Thanks for the note.
Looks so interesting! I just watched the video and can’t wait to read the book.
My sister just received a book and she’s highly recommending it. Where can I get a copy of Northern Lights?
Where can we get a copy of this book?
At long last, armed service recognized that changed the world. And how appropriate that Ellin Bessner is also recognized among her historian and writer peers. Congratulations!
I too am interested in a copy of your book.
I live in Richmond Hill.