Recalling our history
An architectural rendering of the proposed Jewish Legion Centennial Pavilion to be built in Windsor, N.S. (image from MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Ltd.)
David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi will be among more than 1,000 men remembered when the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Legion is commemorated next year in Windsor, N.S.
These two prominent Jewish community leaders, who became the first prime minister and second president of the state of Israel, respectively, were part of the legion, which was approved by the British War Office as a Jewish military contingent for active duty during the First World War. Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi, as members of the training squad, earned 50 cents a day and slept in a bell tent on Nova Scotia earth.
Jewish recruits from across Canada and the United States assembled at the Imperial Recruits Depot, located at Windsor’s Fort Edward, in 1918. Fort Edward served as a basic training centre and point of departure for all North American recruits of the Jewish Legion. Once their training was complete, they went to England, where they joined other Jewish battalions for the last phases of the campaign against the Ottoman Turks. This Jewish fighting force, which included the 38th, 39th, 40th and 42nd battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, would become known as the Jewish Legion.
In a letter to Windsor’s mayor in 1966, Ben-Gurion wrote, “In Windsor, one of the great dreams of my life, to serve as a soldier in a Jewish unit to fight for the liberation of Israel, became a reality. I will never forget Windsor, where I received my first training as a soldier and where I became a corporal.”
The Jewish Legion Centennial Society, chaired by former Atlantic Jewish Council executive director Jon Goldberg and guided by Sara Beanlands, principal of Boreas Heritage Consulting Inc., is commemorating the centennial of the training of the Jewish Legion in Windsor. In conjunction with the town of Windsor, West Hants Historical Society and the Atlantic Jewish Council, events are planned for the town in May and September of 2018. As well, a distinct earthworks Centennial Pavilion will be built, with considerable private funding, near Fort Edward. Names of the more than 1,000 North American Jewish trainees will be listed on a Wall of Honour at the pavilion.
To donate to the Centennial Pavilion or for further information, contact Goldberg at [email protected] or 1-902-221-2174. For historical information or to include a name of a Jewish Legion soldier, contact Sara Beanlands at [email protected] or 1-902-483-7999.