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.
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.
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: