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A Change Is Gonna Come - Isi Davis

posted 19 May 2017, 03:27 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

THE NATIONAL

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY CEREMONY

AT THE WAR MUSEUM IN OTTAWA

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A Change Is Gonna Come

There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Songwriter: Sam Cooke


Yes, it’s been a long time since the world turned its back, on the Jews of Europe, - World War II. From the Nazi rise of power, through to the outbreak of war, the world had access to a wide range of information and evidence about the Nazi’s actions and policies towards the Jews. Whilst, there may have been responses from individual politicians and some organizations, there was little protest from governments at the time. This political weakness encouraged Hitler to continue his brutal policies against the Jews.

I attended the showing of the film Beyond Paranoia, May 10, 2017 at the Lodger Synagogue.  Moderated by film maker Monique Schwarz.
As the film depicts, Anti-Semitism is alive and well and maybe thriving in your neighborhood, in particular at the very body that was established, The United Nations, which chartered the Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately the United Nations is rife with Anti-Semitism. The title Anti-Semitism in the United Nations, was carefully chosen. It does not charge the UN, an independent world organization with Anti-Semitism. Instead the UN expresses openly its policies and it expresses its dislike for Israel.  These Anti-Semitic states are themselves ripe with human rights violations, which have not been challenged. Instead Israel has been virulently demonized whenever possible.



THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A HOLOCAUST MUSEUM IN OTTAWA


March 25th 2011- Tim Uppal, former MP for Edmonton, was responsible for the initiation of Bill C-422, The National Holocaust Act.  Before that Canada was the only allied nation without a Holocaust monument, in its Capital.

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The monument was to be a lasting tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and a symbol of Canada’s diversity.  Since then, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem was privileged to carry out the annual National Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremonies, in Ottawa.

Every year, I have attended these ceremonies and have had the rare opportunity of hearing first-hand experiences from survivors as well as dignitaries. I have also met with some members of Parliament and most recently with the Israeli Ambassador to Canada, his Excellency Mimrod Barkan.  The Ambassador, was my niece’s boss at the Israeli Embassy in Paris.  Since I am a member of the Zachor Coalition- Maramoresher Society of Toronto, I have also had the opportunity to be part of the Candle Lighting ceremonies in the past. This year I thought it would be befitting that my wife, who is also a member and other members of the Zachor Coalition, light a candle with, The Hon Rona Ambrose.  For the past two years I have met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May QC MP leader of the Green Party, the Hon. Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP and The Hon Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party.  The masters of ceremonies was Fran Sonshine, National Chair, Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.
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Although, the various leaders of the parties spoke to the audience, regarding how important it was to remember the Holocaust, they never mentioned Israel once. All the leaders stayed until the completion of the ceremonies except, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who left shortly after his speech to the audience.

One of the highlights of the ceremony was a video and testimony by Felix Opatowski, who I understand passed away last year and one of our shul members’ father. A book was written commemorating him, Gatehouse to Hell.  May he be remembered by all who knew him.

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Felix Opatowski was born in Lodz, Poland, on June 15, 1924. He was liberated in Austria by the US army on May 9, 1945, and worked at a US army base where he married his wife, Regina, in 1947. Felix and Regina arrived in Toronto in 1949; they were married for 69 years. Felix passed away in 2017.

Felix Opatowski is only fifteen years old when he takes on the perilous job of smuggling goods out of the Lodz ghetto in exchange for food for his starving family. It is a skill that will serve him well as he tries to stay alive in Nazi-occupied Poland.


With dogged determination, Felix endures months of harrowing conditions in the ghetto and slave labour camps until he is deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in the spring of 1943, where he is recruited as a runner for the Polish Underground and implicated in the plot to blow up the crematoria.

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Gatehouse to Hell is a candid memoir and heart-rending account of a teenage boy who comes of age in desperate conditions, putting himself at risk to help others, forming bonds of friendship and holding onto hope for the future.


Following his testimony, a candle lighting ceremony took place. Each of the leaders spoke about the Shoah. The Hon Thomas J. Mulcair, leader of the NDP spoke about the experiences of his wife’s Grandparents as Jews, during the war. To me his speech gave some validity to his commitment to the memory of the Holocaust.

It’s rare that I become emotional, but when The Hon. Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party, Leader of the Opposition spoke, she could hardly keep her composure. Ms. Ambrose, took the ceremony very seriously and there was a constant flow of tears in her voice, I will admit I too shed a tear.

For more information, I encourage anyone interested in attending next year’s ceremony to contact Sarah, at the Lodger Synagogue. Isi Davis (full story + pics)

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