Kaddish for D-Day in Canada to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy

The Jewish Community of France will say Kaddish on Sunday, June 8, for the Allied Jewish servicemen --- including 70 Canadians -- who were killed in France during the Second World War and are buried in the Normandy area.

We should do this, too. I'm calling it #KaddishforDDay.

Let's remember the names and sacrifice of each of these Canadian soldiers and airmen who went overseas and didn't come home, in the name of freedom. There’s the lawyer,  the Yiddish poet, the farmer, the optician, the father of three, the son of Russian immigrants, the insurance salesman. Some come from big cities including Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Others come from small communities including Inverness, Cape Breton, and Edson, Alberta. They were as young as 20, and as old as 45. Privates, Lieutenants. Gunners, Troopers.

These Jewish men who enlisted to fight for Canada and for freedom, lie in French cemeteries, their graves mostly unvisited. Yet their tombstones stand out among the rows of crosses, for aside from the Maple Leaf symbol, they also often have Stars of David on them. 
Courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada

France is honouring these men because I sent the organizer and note and asked them to, as part of that country's wider commemoration, one that originally wasn't going to include Canada's Jewish casualties.

And now I’m asking all Canadian Jews to remember these liberators, by participating in a national #KaddishForDDay. 

Let’s make it a Canadian national prayer. You can choose when to do it to coincide with the 70th anniversary of D-Day next week. How about on Yikzor for Shavuot? Or on the next Shabbat? Or sometime this summer? You can find a list and hometowns and bios/stories about the 70 Jewish casualties here on my blog. Feel free to print the information out, and share it.

I just learned that the Reform Jewish movement in the United States is doing a similar campaign called Normandy Kaddish.

This is an important opportunity to honour the sacrifices of men from our own communities. 

Jean-Max Skenadji, the organizer of the French D-Day 2014 Kaddish, and the CRIF, the main Jewish federation in France, were planning to honour only the 150 American Jewish servicemen buried at Colleville-sur-Mer, near Omaha Beach, the site of the U.S. D-Day landings June 6, 1944.

When I heard about this, I emailed Skenadji at his office outside Paris, and asked him to consider including our Canadians. He replied yes immediately.  He’s already invited Canada’s Ambassador to France, Lawrence Cannon, to be there.

“What would have become of us without the landing of the Allies on June 6?” the CRIF statement asks.

Already, several synagogues in Canada have taken up the challenge of # KaddishforDDay, including Toronto’s Beit Rayim Synagogue, where I am a member.

According to the rabbi, Chezi Zionce, Jews have an obligation to say Yizkor for every individual soul, which is why he will read the soldiers’ names out at Yizkor services on Shavuot, Thursday June 5.

“It’s about time, “ Zionce said of the long overdue D-Day prayers, noting that Israel marks Yom Hazikaron every year for her fallen soldiers and victims of terror. “It’s a wonderful thing and it’s also a great reminder for our new generation."  

In Montreal, Congregation Dorshei Emet will mark #KaddishforDDay on June 7.

“The command to remember, zakhor, is central to Jewish tradition, as is the value of gratitude, hakarat ha-tov,” wrote Rabbi Ron Aigen in an email. 

Let's remember and give thanks, as the French and Americans are doing, for the Canadians like Bombardier George Meltz. I first came across his grave on a trip to France in July,  2011. His tombstone in the Beny-sur-Mer military cemetery, near Juno Beach, has a Star of David on it, and the powerful epitaph, put there by his British war bride, Trudy:  “He died so Jewry shall suffer no more.” Before the war, he sold wallpaper in Toronto, and died  of his wounds after D-Day, in July, 1944, at age 25. 

Please follow @KaddishforDDay on Twitter, and use the #KaddishforDDay hashtag yourselves, and spread the word. And please let us know if your organization or synagogue will join the movement.

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