Wednesday, November 7th was a very special and moving day for all Canadians.
Our government apologized for the “none is too many” policy that led to the denial of refuge for the 907 Jews on board the MS St. Louis. This resulted in the murder of 254 of these innocent people by the Nazi killing machine.
Being in the audience at this historic moment in time gave me the opportunity to be surrounded and to speak with the six survivors of the St. Louis that were in attendance. They were all very touched by the apology and the five survivors that were not from Canada kept telling everyone how lucky we are to live in Canada!
I will write more about this momentous afternoon but here is a taste.
We started in the House of Commons, where our Prime Minister made the formal apology in a speech that will be remembered for the ages. We also had the opportunity to hear the apology echoed in very touching remarks from the Leader of the Official Opposition as well as leaders of our other governmental parties.
We then enjoyed a reception put on by the Leader of the Official Opposition after which we made our way to a reception put on by the Office of the Prime Minister.
All of the pictures below were taken at this reception.
I had the great honour of sitting next to Eva Weiner, one of the survivors of the St. Louis. It was a privilege getting to know such a strong woman with such a noticeable love of life.
The hosts for the evening were two of Canada’s Jewish MP’s, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt. They spoke about how proud they were of the Canadian government and that this would be one of those moments they would never forget.
The Torah Day School of Ottawa boys choir sang Ani Ma’amin as well as led the audience in O’ Canada.
We then heard prayers from Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda.
Rabbi Bulka, introduced as Canada’s Rabbi, led us in a beautiful prayer for the occasion as well as the Prayer for Canada that we say in our synagogue and in many synagogues across Canada every Shabbat.
We then heard from two Ministers. Minister Jim Carr spoke about his very personal Jewish and Canadian story that very much echoed the story of many Jewish Canadians, including the story of my own family.
Minister Karina Gould then shared her thoughts and reflections of the day as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Minister Gould so perfectly described what had transpired that day saying "today represented the very best of what Parliament can be."
Next, Minister Pablo Rodriguez spoke about what the apology means for Canada, after which the Prime Minister took the stage. He spoke so beautifully about the Canadian Jewish community and then introduced Ana Maria Gordon and her son Daniel to address the audience. Ana Maria is the only surviving Canadian passenger of the St. Louis and it was quite emotional when her son Daniel shared a poem that his daughter, Ana Maria’s granddaughter, wrote about her grandmother’s courageous response to the holocaust.
Eli Rubinstein, the National Director of March of the Living Canada then took the stage. In what was one of those simply awe-inspiring moments, he led everyone present in the Mourners Kaddish and the singing of “Oseh Shalom. “ It was the most fitting end to a remarkable day.