Elise Kalles

I was a child in Poland when the Nazis invaded. My father secured a hiding place for us. My parents, two brothers, my grandmother, aunt and cousins who he was able to rescue from the ghetto, all lived in an attic that became our home for the duration of the Shoah. My father reached out to some employees of the mill that he had owned and, then tragically, was murdered by their hands. A few days later, we were liberated.

This piece of my life, as painful as it is to remember and talk about, is certainly the foundation that guides my life choices - my compass and my balance. It is because of my experience that I passionately believe that it is the duty of those who survived to educate others about the Shoah. I believe that it is only through education that we can truly fight against antisemitism, support and secure our homeland in Israel, and nourish the flourishing Jewish community in Toronto.

After the war, we found out that we had relatives in France who made arrangements to bring us to Paris. As grateful as we were, it was important to my mother that we reconnect with immediate family, and so when I was thirteen, we immigrated to Canada to join her brothers and sister. My brothers, Albert and Bernard, were like father figures to me growing up. They taught me about resilience, about remembering our past, but also to strive towards the future. Even though we had so little, my mother, Rachel Sliwinski Z"L, filled our home with love, and instilled in us a sense of appreciation and generosity. Tzedekah was very important in my mother’s home, as it is in ours today. I am so gratified that my family has an enduring commitment to many organizations whose missions are to make sure that Jewish life continues.

I know that my father, Moshe Sliwinski Z"L, would be filled with joy to see our lives now. His tears would be of gratitude that we survived, and delight for the legacy this Book of Life celebrates: the compassion, generosity and continuance of the Jewish people and our community.

It is with my mother and father always in my heart that I treasure every moment with my family: my husband, Harvey, our children, Michael, Corrinne and Shawna, and our nine glorious grandchildren. I can see in the faces and accomplishments of our children and grandchildren that they are connected to our heritage and dedicated to the continuance of the Jewish people. That fills me with great pride and hope. I am truly blessed with my family, surrounded by remarkable friends, and inspired by the strength of our community.


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