A Canadian soldier died in battle 70 years ago. What he died for continues to guide our work. That soldier is George Meltz.
George Meltz was born in Toronto, the youngest of 10 children to Nathan and Rachel Meltz. George worked as a salesperson and installer for the Maple Leaf Wallpaper Co.
On Sept. 6, 1940 George enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces and was assigned to the Third Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. In October 1941 he shipped out to Liverpool. While in England he met and married Trudy Lewis of London. He also trained for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Nazi occupied Western Europe.
Seventy years ago on D Day, June 6, 1944, Bombardier George Meltz was one of 160,000 Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy. One month later, on July 8, 1944, he was killed by a sniper. He was 25 years old.
Around 2,000 Canadian soldiers are buried at the Canadian Military Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, Juno Beach, France. One of those soldiers is George Meltz. Each of the many gravestones in this cemetery contains an epitaph. This soldier’s epitaph reads “HE DIED SO JEWRY SHALL SUFFER NO MORE”.
As the co-chairs of Toronto’s 2015 UJA Campaign, we have had an opportunity to consider whether Jewish suffering has indeed stopped. We have asked ourselves “did what George Meltz die for come to be?”
Thankfully, this brave soldier and millions of other Allied troops defeated the Nazis and liberated the concentration camps. With the Allied victory, the worst suffering that the Jewish people have experienced in our long and difficult history came to an end. Sadly however not all Jewish suffering has ended.
Anti-Semitism remains and is rearing its ugly head ever more frequently and in more places. Our right to a Jewish State is constantly under challenge, and the efforts to delegitimize Israel are increasing in intensity. We can never let down our guard, not even for a minute.
In Toronto, Jews still suffer. According to the 2011 Canadian census, 12 per cent of Toronto’s Jewish population lives below the poverty line. That is roughly 20,000 of our fellow Jews.
Toronto is the home of 10,000 Holocaust survivors, the very people who George Meltz and his fellow soldiers liberated. Twenty five per cent of our survivor population, or 2,500 people, live below the poverty line and 200 of these survivors are on a waiting list for basic social services such as home care support.
These people have suffered enough. United Jewish Appeal is helping them. Three agencies funded by UJA donations provide support to Holocaust survivors in three general areas: Circle of Care provides home care services, Jewish Family and Child provides emergency financial assistance, and Jewish Information Services assists in processing reparation payments.
UJA has created the Holocaust Survivor Services Access Center which is a single point of entry for social services for Toronto’s survivor population. Only one application is needed to access all necessary services, and this collaborative model enables our survivors to access better, faster and pinpointed help. Only UJA has the breadth and expertise to bring services offered by various agencies together to fashion collaborative solutions for difficult social issues. The beneficiaries of this collaboration are all of us.
We may never achieve George Meltz’s objective to end all Jewish suffering. But we should keep trying.
Andrea Cohen and David Matlow are the Chairs of Toronto’s 2015 UJA Campaign.