Yizkor Book Leads to a Reconnection with the Jewish Community of Toronto
My shtetl, my beloved, like in a dream
I wander at night, accompanied by the Milky Way;
A shadow turns silvery, it touches the moon,
As though only a step would bring it closer to me.
I see no dead, I see no graves.
I shut my eyes against the force of fate;
I see no ruins produced by devils,
Frightened by sorrow, we search for a ray of light.
(excerpt from the poem Bleeding Shtetl written by Helen Bierstone-Podoliak)
This excerpt from a poem written by Helen Bierstone-Podoliak, which describes the destruction of her hometown, Miedzyrzec, Poland, during the Holocaust, is part of a Yizkor Book, or Memorial Book, that was prepared by the Toronto Jewish community in memory of the Jewish people throughout Europe that perished during the Holocaust.
The story begins in the 1950s, after the establishment of the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum. Immediately upon its founding, a Friends Association was established in Toronto, whose members met many times with Yitzhak Antek Zuckerman, who was a deputy-commander in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and one of the founders of the museum. These friends were the leaders of Immigrant Benevolent (Landsmanschaft) and Holocaust survivor societies in Toronto in the 1950s.
Handwritten in calligraphy, this special Memorial Book is a collection of dedications by over 40 Jewish Toronto-based organizations and unions, as well as synagogues that understood how important remembering the Holocaust was for this community, as well as fighting against all forms of discrimination and oppression. Many of the pages, both in English and Yiddish, were written in memory of specific communities like Lodz, Vilna, Warsaw, and Lvov. Others were written in commemoration of Jewish resistance or the Jewish children and youth that perished. Every page is signed by at least one member of the specific organization or union.
Written over 50 years ago, the Memorial Book was entrusted to Yitzhak Zuckerman during one of his visit to Toronto in the 1960s, and has been preserved in the museum's archives ever since.
In an open letter to the Jewish community, the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum archive staff has recently made contact with various Jewish organizations in Toronto in order to connect with the sons and daughters of those Jewish leaders, to tell them about the Memorial Book and to introduce them to the museum, to the establishment of which their parents contributed greatly.