Monday, November 7, 2016

Kingston's Jewish War Heroes: a Remembrance Day lecture and dinner Friday November 11, 2016 in Kingston, Ontario

Tickets are still available for the event:

Friday 11th November 2016  

“How Canada’s Jews Fought WWII”

Remembrance Day Service, Shabbat Dinner & Guest Speaker

Kingston Jewish Council (KJC), Queen’s Hillel, and Beth Israel Synagogue Adult Education are pleased to announce a wonderful opportunity to honour and remember our military veterans and all 17,000 plus Canadian Jews who served in WWll, at a special event on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.
The evening will start with a Kabbalat Shabbat Service, including a time to honour all Fallen Soldiers. A Shabbat dinner will follow.  Professor Ellin Bessner, a journalist and professor of journalism at Centennial College in Toronto, will talk about Kingston’s Jewish War Heroes, and preview her new book “Double Threat: Canada’s Jews, the Military, and WWll”.
This will be a very special evening.   We hope you can attend.

For more information, and to reserve a spot, please contact:
Paul Gilmore   or Ian Sarfin at
FREE for members of the Canadian Forces in uniform.
$20.00 for adults, $12.50 for students, $10.00 children under 10
Location:  Beth Israel Synagogue, 116 Centre Street, Kingston, Ontario K7L 4E6
Payment by Cash or Cheque (made out to KJC) at the door.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War ll: Double Threat". My new book about the 17,000 Jewish Canadians who defeated the Nazis

The cover /New Jewish Press

Just in time for the 71st anniversary of the end of the Second World War, I am thrilled to announce my new non-fiction book. Double Threat: Canadian Jews, The Military, and World War ll is a journalistic look at the untold stories of the Jewish Canadian men and women who served in uniform during the dark years of the last great war.  At least 10 per cent of the Canadian Jewish population answered the call, whether as volunteers or as conscripts. About 450 didn't come back: some lie buried in graveyards from Normandy to Hong Kong, while others have no known final resting place. 

Double Threat: Canadian Jews, The Military, and World War ll is the untold story of why so many Jewish Canadians served, what life was like for them as Jews in uniform, and how they confronted antisemitism both at home and abroad while fighting to win the war and liberate their brethren from the horrors of Nazi work camps and death camps. 

“He died so Jewry should suffer no more.” 
These words on a Canadian Jewish soldier’s tombstone in Normandy inspired the author to explore the role of Canadian Jews in the war effort. As PM Mackenzie King wrote in 1947, Jewish servicemen faced a “double threat” — they were not only fighting against Fascism but for Jewish survival. At the same time, they encountered widespread antisemitism and the danger of being identified as Jews if captured. Bessner conducted hundreds of interviews and extensive archival research to paint a complex picture of the 17,000 Canadian Jews — about 10 per cent of the Jewish population in wartime Canada — who chose to enlist, including future Cabinet minister Barney Danson, future game-show host Monty Hall, and comedians Wayne and Shuster. Added to this fascinating account are Jews who were among the so-called “Zombies” — Canadians who were drafted, but chose to serve at home — the various perspectives of the Jewish community, and the participation of Canadian Jewish women.

The cover was adapted from a 1943 propaganda poster issued by the Canadian Wartime Information board.

Double Threat is due out November 11, 2017.  
Hard copies are available for consumers to buy at Indigo/Chapters, and also through Amazon, Target, and also as an ebook.  
For booksellers/retailers/librarians who want to order copies, the purchasing information is below.

Ellin Bessner is a journalist and a professor of journalism at Centennial College in Toronto.

320 pages • 6 X 9 with photographs
Paper • $269781988326047
epub • $109781988326054
HISTORY/ Jewish / Canada / Military

General inquiries

New Jewish Press
170 St. George St., Room 218
Toronto, ON
M5R 2M8    
Ampersand Canada’s Book & Gift Agency Inc.

Cheryl Fraser 604 448 7165
Ali Hewitt 604 448 7166
Dani Farmer 604 448 7168
2440 Viking Way, Richmond, BC V6V 1N2
T 604 448 7111, toll-free 1 800 561 8583
F 604 448 7118, toll-free 888 323 7118

Lorna MacDonald
T 250 382 1058, F 250 383 0697

Judy Parker
T 204-837-4374, F 866-276-2599

Suite 213, 321 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, ON, M4M 2S1
T 416 703 0666, toll-free 866 736 5620
F 416 703 4745, toll-free 866 849 3819
Saffron Beckwith ext. 124
Morgen Young ext. 128
Karen Beattie ext. 120
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Jenny Enriquez
T 416 703 0666 ext. 126, toll-free 866 736 5620
F 416 703 4745, toll-free 866 849 3819

For individual sales 
University of Toronto Press
5201 Dufferin St.,
Toronto, ON    M3H 5T8
T 416 667-7791, toll free 1 800 565 9523
F 416 667 7832, toll free 1 800 221 9985
san 1151134

Friday, July 22, 2016

Enlisted because his friends had died in Dieppe: Toronto veteran Larry Levy dies

Larry Levy, April 2016 (Photo by Ellin Bessner)
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Larry twice this spring at his Toronto home, where he gave me some amazing stories about his World War ll service, being Jewish in the military, even about a brothel, and the first open-air Jewish service held inside Germany in March 1945. He was a sweet, and energetic Jewish war veteran. I was writing about him on Friday morning and holding his file in my hand when the Legion emailed me to let me know he had passed away. Beshert. I am only sorry he didn't live to see his stories in my forthcoming book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Canadian Dieppe Raid Veteran says it was supposed to be just another drill.

Miriam and Hon. Col. David Lloyd Hart, MM with Ellin Bessner
(Ellin Bessner photo)

I just interviewed a 98-year-old Canadian Jewish veteran of the 1942 Dieppe Raid from World War ll, Hon. Col. David Hart. He was on a landing craft just off the beach from Dieppe operating a radio wireless set. The then-Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals was credited with saving 100 Canadian commandos, who hadn't received the signal to retreat. It had been sent from the raid headquarters ship offshore but they were too far away from the action. So he relayed the message again, and got through, amidst the murderous German gunfire on that terrible August 19 day. Hart and his wife Miriam still live in Montreal, in their own home, and were gracious to give up part of their Saturday to meet with me. His eye- witness recollections will be in Chapter 7 of my book "Double Threat" about Canada's Jews in Uniform in World War ll. They are about to celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. Note the wartime photo of then Sergeant Hart in the background. It shows his citation for winning the Military Medal, which he picked up from the King at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in late 1942. Watch this wartime newsreel of the event. You can see Hart and his two brothers at about 8 minutes into the video.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Decorated Jewish Canadian World War ll doctor dies in Toronto: the pathologist who was also a hero of Sogel

Dr. Nathan Kaufman, MBE and MiD, (courtesy Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel)
One of the most highly decorated Canadian Jewish medical officers during the Second World War has died. Captain Nathan Kaufman, a Montreal native, was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire and was mentioned in despatches for his actions in Germany in April 1945. He went on to become a famous pathologist and was professor emeritus at Queen's University. He died Wednesday in Toronto, in his 100th year. Captain Kaufman and a Toronto dentist , Captain Harry Jolley, were tending to wounded men in an Canadian army medical field dressing station when it came under attack. Both unarmed Jewish officers put down their stethoscopes and picked up discarded weapons to fight off the German paratroopers and civilian snipers in Sogel. Funeral/internment is Sunday in Kingston. (Photo courtesy Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A lost Winnipeg airman's WWll logbook is now back with his family, seventy three years after his death. I helped.

It was sent back to the grieving father in Winnipeg in 1948. To the wrong address. That's why Samuel Jacob Donen's RCAF log book went back to Ottawa, and was placed in the Jewish airman's military files, where it sat for nearly seven decades. The family never knew it existed. I found it. On the eve of Remembrance Day, 2015. Here is the story. 
Thanks to Bernie Bellan at the Jewish Post and News in Winnipeg for publishing it this week.

Larry Donen, holding his uncle's Log Book.

Samuel Jacob Donen, in uniform. (Ellin Bessner photo)

Donen grave in Accra, Ghana.

Last page of log book. (Ellin Bessner photo)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing the Wrong: What Canada should know about the Jewish servicemen and women in WW2

It's been one year exactly since I received the green light from my college, Centennial College, in Toronto, to take a year Sabbatical in order to research and write my book about the untold stories of Canada's Jews in Uniform in the Second World War. The letter came from the Professional Development Leave people in late February 2015. Hard to believe nine months have passed! But some 250 interviews + seven cities + 15 archives + 2 FOI requests + tens of thousands of words later (and counting) +  six speaking engagements + 60 SDHC memory cards,  I am well into the manuscript. 
Centennial College's Centre for Organizational Learning and Teaching 
asked me to conduct a webinar about my research so far. If you missed the live broadcast, here is the replay. Don't panic if you see a different person when it starts: she is introducing me. I begin shortly after.

Speaking to Toronto Jewish veterans Legion Branch 256

Researching at Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Winnipeg

Interview with Hy Chud(novsky)

Skype interview with Bill McAllister

Interview Elaine Zadjeman