On Sept. 20, the first Military Family Appreciation Day will give Canadians the opportunity to officially recognize and thank Canadian military families for the daily sacrifices they make on our behalf.
This marks a first in Canada’s history, a country which is quite possibly one of the most accepting and prosperous societies Jews have ever lived in.
The Canadian Armed Forces provide protection for our community to pursue its goals and live out its values, whether in the forms of education, faith and dignity for others, especially through the countless charitable causes our community is widely known for.
But as the child of a mother who survived the Holocaust and a father who fled Czechoslovakia as the Nazis sealed the border in 1938, it is my family that represents the greatest value to me as a Jew and a human being. What is true of myself personally, I believe is also true of the Jewish people as a whole: more than any other pillar of Jewish life, it is the family that has sustained our civilization throughout history, whether it be the survivors who found new life by rebuilding their destroyed families, or at Rosh Hashanah, when despite our differing beliefs about the divine, the family always reigns supreme, whether in synagogue or around the table enjoying apples and honey.
This is where I find great affinity between the core of the Jewish community, i.e. the Jewish family and the military’s command centre, i.e. the military family.
In 2017, my wife Lillian and I decided to show our appreciation to military families with a loved one deployed overseas during the December holiday season by distributing 1,500 gift cards. We signed the accompanying note: “On behalf of the grateful Jewish community of Canada.” With more than 3,000 troops deployed abroad at any given time, Lillian and I wanted to do more.
I approached other Jewish business leaders who recognized how military families endure difficult separations and the constant worry of having a loved one on the front line. These individuals became Founding Donors of the Together We Stand Foundation, and we launched officially in 2018 by distributing 2,550 Family Gift Boxes worth $450, containing pre-paid credit cards and gift cards supported by sponsors such as Cineplex Entertainment and Spinmaster.
This year, in addition to expanding the number of gift boxes to 3,000, we felt the time had come to honour the service of the approximately 60,000 Canadian military families who support our soldiers as they pursue their often-dangerous missions in 20 countries and provide emergency relief on the home front. Surveys indicate that about 10,000 military families move annually within Canada, while 65,000 dependent children of regular force families are growing up with at least one of their parents away from home for close to one year at a time. Moreover, these kids must adjust to new schools and the formidable challenge of making new friends in different cities or provinces.
Together We Stand worked with Gen. Andrew Leslie (Ret.) (LPC) and a number of bi-partisan politicians to gain all-party support for a unanimous consent motion moved in the House of Commons on June 19. The motion designated the third Friday of each September as Military Family Appreciation Day. The driving force behind this accomplishment was our vice-president, Laura Grosman, who was also the catalyst behind the National Holocaust Memorial in Ottawa, which opened in 2017.
Canada has come a very long way since the dark days of Mackenzie King’s None is Too Many, Jewish immigration policy. This country gives us a safe and welcoming environment to nurture our most precious resource, the Jewish family. It’s now our turn to honour Canada’s most precious resource, the military family.
How to get involved