Spirit Matters – Yom Hashoah in Cornwall Ontario 2013 by Shirley Barr – April 19, 2013

Spirit Matters – Yom Hashoah in Cornwall Ontario 2013 by Shirley Barr – April 19, 2013


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CFN – Yom Hashoah is a yearly commemoration of the Holocaust, serving as a reminder of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. The gathering offers healing and remembrance to the participants. Originated in Israel in 1953 by the Israeli government, Yom Hashoah serves as a focal point for Jews all over the world to bring attention to the annihilation of millions of individuals and families of Jewish origin. The reason this particular group of people was targeted for destruction was due to their religion. Initially, Jews were tolerated, then gradually as Hitler developed a plan to unite the German population and build a war machine he created a diabolical plan that could have resulted in eradicating all Jews and any other human being who could be labelled as an “other”.


It is interesting to note that it seems that “othering” is used by anyone who wants to exercise supremacy over anyone else. I discovered in my research that of the millions who were massacred by the Nazi regime, those who had a label were subjected to the most horrifying acts ever devised by the human mind. Anyone who had an intellectual or physical deficiency, who had a different religion from the traditional Christian German denominations was a target, people of sexual orientations other than heterosexuals, different races, all encountered brutal, cruel, relentless persecution and extermination. It is important to take the time to ponder the lessons embedded in the commemoration of Yom HaShoah if only to commit ourselves to taking a stand to live our lives in such a way as to uphold a standard of peace and good conduct.

It turns out that the gathering held in Cornwall may be one of the only ones in North America, and perhaps in the world that was supported and organized and attended by a majority of people who are not of Jewish origin. That makes this gathering extra-ordinary. About one hundred people attended this years event, many of them from the village of Williamstown, a community who welcomed a Jewish family- the Kaplan family found refuge there for a few years.This is a story every Canadian should know since it demonstrated what being a Canadian is really supposed to be about- creating a tapestry that treasures all human diversity. I know that is what I believe, that being a Canadian is all about being magnanimous- a quality that goes beyond tolerance and includes compassion and relatedness. As Canadians we ought to make an effort to identify those who have been named “Righteous Among Nations”, non-Jews who performed heroic acts to protect Jews during times of persecution.

Please take the time to watch these three videos which will give you a background for our Cornwall gathering.

Neil Macmillan & John Towndrow talk about the local Cornwall event.

Gary Friedman introduces speaker.

Ilona Weinstein & Ellayne Kaplan tell their Family Story at Yom HaShoah in Cornwall Ontario 2013


“None is too many”- this was the unofficial policy of the Canadian government towards those of Jewish ancestry during the years surrounding World War II. Canada could have taken a large portion of the German and European Jewish population but, to its eternal shame, it actively worked against offering them shelter. It is at odds with the spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity to “other” anyone. I pray that we may discover our inherent humanity and overcome these deep, long standing prejudices and learn to create a tapestry that truly reflects and includes the principle of the oneness of humanity as a way forward to reorganize ourselves into a peaceful world community.


Shirley lives and works in Cornwall and is a member of the Baha’i community.

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