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David Eisenstadt

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Do You Know the Wingate Veterans?

Posted: 11/09/2012 6:22 pm

Everyone knows there are Jewish War Veterans, but did you know there is a Jewish Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Toronto?

No beer fridge or bar, but like other Branches, a surviving membership that cares for Canada and warriors who served with bravery through two World Wars and the Korean War.

As November 11 approaches, I always look for a Wingate vet and donate some cash, usually three or four times, as I lose my poppies often because I never pin them on properly.

As my friends, 91 year-old President Murray Jacobs with wife Millie at his side, and his members beat the bushes on street corners and shopping centres distributing those poppies (long days, sore feet, cold weather), I'm reminded their numbers are dwindling. And that will be evident as they diligently prepare for the Branch's Annual Remembrance Day Service (11am in front of the Miles Nadal JCC, at the corner of Spadina and Bloor) in Toronto.

In 2012, there are fewer Wingate vets and more unmanned boxes. But the members soldier on. Here's their story:

In the 1920s, long before the name it now bears; the Jewish brigade was a member of the Great War Association while its first president was installed in 1932, a charter for a Jewish veteran's Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was granted in 1934.

As a compromise, 1933 was chosen as the "Anniversary" date. In the mid-40s, the Jewish Brigade officially became the General Wingate Branch. The name was chosen to honour Major General Orde Charles Wingate D.S.O., a non-Jew and distinguished British Army officer, who became an ardent Zionist after he arrived in Palestine in 1936.

At the beginning, the legion branch met at a veteran's hall at Crawford and College Street. After assisting the Bloor Jewish Community Centre to raise funds to build the "Y", Branch 256 was to have a place to meet, but instead, were given funds towards the purchase of their own house on Bathurst North of St. Clair Avenue West. The house was expropriated for the Spadina Subway in 1968. The Branch then moved to Eglinton Avenue and finally to its present location in the Zionist Centre on Marlee Avenue.

Wingate 256 helps support the Sunnybrook Hospital Veteran's Wing and several years ago was instrumental in forming the hospital's Jewish chapel. Funds raised from poppy donations help care for veterans and their families where needed. Medical equipment for community health facilities and for medical research are also Wingate beneficiaries. There are monthly Shabbat Services in cooperation with several Synagogues.

There is an annual memorial march and service at Mt. Sinai Cemetery, where stands a magnificent cenotaph funded and maintained by the Branch -- a place which memorializes Jewish servicemen and women who died and are buried overseas, and those who fought in Israel's War of Independence and partisans who fought the Nazis.

Let us never forget!

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  • Ottawa

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with veterans following Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Friday November 11, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

  • Ottawa

    Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk salutes after laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Friday November 11, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

  • Quebec City

    Soldiers parade in front of the cenotaph during a Remembrance Day ceremony Friday, November 11, 2011 in Quebec City. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

  • Toronto

    A man wraps a thermal blanket around a veteran to fight off the cold as they take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony at the war memorial at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, November 11, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

  • Kandahar

    Two Canadian soldiers comfort each other as they pay their respects to a fallen comrade at the war memorial after the last Remembrance Day ceremony at Kandahar Air Field.

  • Kandahar

    Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay lays a touches one of the plaques at the war memorial during the last Remembrance Day ceremony at Kandahar Air Field Friday, November 11, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

  • Kandahar

    A soldier pays his respects to fallen comrades at the war memorial after the last Remembrance Day ceremony at Kandahar Air Field Friday.

  • Kandahar

    Sgt, Renay Groves, from St. John's Nfld, 21 Elecrtonic Warfare Regiment, sheds a tear during the last Remembrance Day ceremony at Kandahar Air Field Friday.

  • Melbourne, Australia

    People come to a halt to observe a minute's silence as a lone bugler plays the Last Post at an inner-city intersection on Remembrance Day, in Melbourne on Nov. 11, 2011.

  • Melbourne, Australia

    A lone bugler plays the Last Post at an inner-city intersection as cars and people come to a halt to observe a minute's silence on Remembrance Day, in Melbourne on November 11, 2011.

  • London

    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh greets veterans during a service to mark Remembrance Day in the memorial garden at Westminster Abbey in London.

  • London

    Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, salutes during a service to mark Remembrance Day in the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London.

  • London

    Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, notices the mascot of the 3rd and 4th battalions of The Mercian Regiment 'L/Col Watchman V', a staffordshire bull terrier, as he meets veterans during a service to mark Remembrance Day in the memorial garden at Westminster Abbey in London.

  • Alrewas, United Kingdom

    A veteran pays his respects as he takes part in the two minute silence at the National Memorial Arboretum on Armstice day on November 11, 2011 in Alrewas, United Kingdom. Sir James Hawley KCVO, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, led the list of dignitaries at the Armed Forces Memorial during Armistice Day commemorations at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.

  • Ottawa

 
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