Remembrance Day: Do Orthodox or Frum Jews care?

Kaddish, Aveilus (the period of mourning), Yahrzeits, Yizkor, Tisha B’Av, the Three Weeks, Sefirat Ha’Omer, Tzom Gedaliyah, The Holocaust, fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism.

When it comes to remembering and commemorating the memory the dead, its hard to find people who do more than the Jews.

Yet on this upcoming Friday November 11 – Canadian Remembrance Day, I have a very hard time believing frum Jews will care about remembering.

Remembrance Day is the Canadian National Day of Remembrance in honour of the country’s fallen soldiers. For what it’s worth, it’s probably the saddest day on the calendar in Canada.

But will any Orthodox or Frum Jews be sad? Will they be commemorating the dead? Will they even care?

Call me out on this if you want, but this is just an observation of mine: Unless there is a Jewish element involved (and that includes Israel related events too), I find that the majority of most frum yidden not only don’t care, nor do they even acknowledge ANY secular holiday/important day INCLUDING the “harmless” ones like Remembrance Day, which have absolutely NO religious overtones or anti-Semitic elements.

We all know Jews have their own ways of commemorating things, and thus frown upon goyish customs like moments of silence. According to the Rambam and other great sources, we are not supposed to engage in things that the goyim do. For example, our dress is different. Our language is different. Our holidays and meaning behind them/observance of them is different. That my friends, is called chukas hagoyim.

So fine, don’t wear a poppy. If that’s too goyish for you, then G-d forbid you lower your holy madrega of dressing like gentiles.

But it’s the atmosphere and aura that emanates from frum yidden that screams  “it’s a goyish thing so who cares” or “what day of commemoration? I’m too busy learning in the beis to care about this nareshkeit. News to me…

But here’s what I think: Sure, the day has absolutely no element of yiddishkeit. It was completely created by goyim and it is typically observed. And yes, you have a CHOICE to commemorate it or not.

But even with that option that is a result of the those who paid the ultimate price. The fact that you have the CHOICE is a testament to the men and women that paid the ultimate price. (Thanks to my uncle for that one.)

Why should there be no acknowledgement of Remembrance Day? We’re no different than goyim when it comes to who the soldiers are fighting for… And let’s not forget the role Canadian forces played in World War II.

My point is, frum yidden DO have a measure of hakaras hatov to the Canadian soldiers and it’s I believe it’s a chilul hashem if we just ignore this appropriate opportunity to do so.

And I’m not talking about in-your-face displays of remembrance. All I hope is that frum Jews be respectful and not come off as apathetic towards something that has genuine and heartfelt meaning to the goyim.

This is not appeasement, this is being respectful.

And this is NOT like Halloween and other goyish-related/religiously charged/historical anti-Semitic related events. Observing a yahrtziet of fallen soldiers by wearing a poppy or acknowledging that the loss of life is sad is one thing – – – that is, there is no religious ideology involved. (That one comes from a good friend of mine. An edited piece, but nonetheless meaningful)

UPDATE FROM 2012: This also makes me wonder about what happens (if anything) at religious schools. It’s come to my attention this year via work (a news station) that some schools have decided or given their students the decision to opt out of Remembrance Day ceremonies.  Now besides this being overall offensive (Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said it best in a tweet : ” I think its offensive. They don’t opt out of the freedoms secured by our war dead.”), it’s absolutely no excuse for this to be coming out of a public school. But for some reason, it wouldn’t shock me if there was nothing at all at some very religious schools here in Toronto. I don’t know… It just seems like a smack to the face.

But let me say this, I don’t see the harm in us participating in remembrance day. We are obligated to pray for the welfare of our country and its leadership. I think it would be good to show that we also remember on remembrance day – as a kiddush Hashem. All Jews in Canada have a measure of hakaras hatov to the soldiers & it would be a chilul hashem to not deliver it at this appropriate time.

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Posted on November 10, 2011, in Chabad, controversey, Current Events, Frummies, Jewish Community and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I do believe that what you are saying holds a slight element of truth , but you are being extremely harsh on the Frum community. I am a Frum-poppy-wearing jew who feels sorrow for the loss of Canadian soldiers. There IS sympathy within the community. I have seen several frum schools selling poppies in their front office and many jews wearing them in the streets.
    As well, just because you have not observed people wearing poppies or standing for a moment of silence does not mean people are not feeling sympathy towards the deceased at this sad time.I am sure if you would ask Frum Jews how they feel about non-jewish soldiers dying they would express their remorse. And you are correct; Frum Jews do have a sense of Kavod Habriot. All of Hashem’s creatures are important to us.
    I must admit i am not in total agreement with jews standing for a moment of silence; i believe it leaves much more of an impact and is much more productive to be saying tehilim or praying in commemoration of the lost lives.
    I am slightly offended by your accusations, and i think your harsh use of language was unnecessary.

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  2. Great article! However, while I agree with you on some points, I disagree on others.

    Typically, when we as Jews are required to commemorate something, we have specific ways of doing it, like through having seudos, reading from the Torah/Megilah, or the many other funny things we do, like not eat bread on Pesach or live in a Sukkah for a week. From my perspective, and perhaps others see it the same way, wearing a poppy and observing two minutes of silence don’t really accomplish anything to “observe” Remembrance Day, as they have no biblical or rabbinical sources. Some people might take it a step further than me, like you wrote in your post (albeit sarcastically), believing that because it’s a goyish way to commemorate the day, they’re not even going to consider it. Unless, and I highly doubt this ever happens, Rabbis enact it as a mandatory holiday to observe, you won’t find a lot of Orthodox Jews caring about it.

    That said, you’re right that we should respect what our soldiers have done and still do, and one might argue that we do that in our prayers for the welfare of Canada, In some ways, it’s similar to Jews not caring about Fathers’ or Mothers’ Days, because we have a constant obligation to honour them, not just when their names are on the calendar.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and be strong in your beliefs.

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  3. Shikkered Shvigger

    The quote you have attributed to our wartime Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, is incorrect. The actual quote is “none is too many” not “one is too many” and it was not uttered by King, but rather an immigration officer for the Canadian government.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/None_Is_Too_Many:_Canada_and_the_Jews_of_Europe_1933-1948

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  4. I really don’t think frum Jews ignore the holiday as a sign of disrespect; I think that it’s hard to mourn something that was so long ago. Take the days you mentioned in your intro, for example. Our hearts aren’t in it. Are we crying on fast days or watching movies to pass the time? Sure, the Holocaust was awful, but are we crying as much as we would be if we or our friends were in it now? If we can’t even mourn the deaths of our own people properly, then kal vachomer how are we supposed to mourn the deaths of the goyim properly? Most goyim don’t even mourn their OWN people’s deaths properly! So the question isn’t “do you care?” rather, it is “how much do you care?” If wearing a poppy and having a moment of silence is the MAXIMUM a person ca mourn, what is the minimum? What falls between not giving a crap and wearing a poppy? Someday 9/11 will be remembered with the same intensity as Pearl Harbor is today. People care more about what happened lately. Events become less significant as time passes unless they are somehow directly affecting you.

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  5. That said, this website rocks!

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  6. I think many orthodox Jews participate in most aspects of Canadian society including honoring November 11th as Remembrance Day.

    My Great-grandfather fought as a Jewish soldier from Canada in WWI. He lost his leg in battle and yet upon his return made sure it would not stop him from living life to its fullest, including the religious aspects of such as making minyanim etc.

    I was at a Shabbas meal on Friday where the entire table expressed sympathies with all Canadian soldiers and the losses that Canada has endured to ensure our freedom as a minority in this country.

    On a side point, great idea for a site but so much more room for growth!
    There is so much hack in Toronto that you have not been covering, but I see the site is young so I expect big things in the future.

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  7. I don’t know if Frum Jews are any different than most segments of the population in this regard. What percentage of the general population honours Remembrance day? I doubt that percentage-wise there are fewer Frum Jews than anyone else.

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  8. Don’t forget many Canadian Jews fought and dies in WWII

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    • Bobby Orr-Somayach

      Yup. That was the chief rabbi of the armed forces. He happens to be an extremely nice and educated fellow. That’s Canada for you! 🙂

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  9. HI

    I am in the UK, though so happened to see Canadian remembrance day on-line, and was most moved to see a Rabbi giving an address.

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  10. How easily we forget….
    Canada’s shameful record on Jewish Immigration during WWII
    ‘None is Too Many.’ Thus spake an anonymous member of Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s cabinet just prior to and during WW11 about Jewish immigration to Canada when
    asked how many Jews should be accepted into
    the country, during the time of the Nazi
    persecution of the Jews.
    This phrase described the immigration policies
    of the Canadian government, which closed its
    doors to Jewish refugees* who were fleeing the
    Holocaust. During the Second World War,
    Canadian policies were anti-Semitic and Jewish
    refugees were treated differently than other
    European refugees.
    Only 5000 Jewish refugees were allowed to enter Canada during the 12-year
    period of the German Nazi regime. Most other Allied countries admitted
    tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants in an attempt to save them from the
    Holocaust. It was not until after the war that Canadian immigration policies
    regarding Jews began to change.

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  11. Shkoach! A great reminder that Remembrance Day is a day that all of us should remember those who fought and died for our freedom and still do. Historians as well as politicians have said that if Germany hadn’t fallen due to the help of Canada and other countries, another few years and they may have hit our shores. The fact that we, as Jews, frum or not, are able to practice Judaism in this country is in part BECAUSE of those who died on the battlefields of the Somme, Dieppe, North Africa and the shores of Normandy during the two World Wars as well as those who died in Korea, Vietnam, and the many other countries Canadian soldiers have and still fight in for our freedom.

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