Born in Sighet, Romania, in 1927, my Zaida Anton Back, experienced a strong, vibrant Jewish childhood connected to family, friends, and community. His innocence came to an abrupt end in 1944. One year later, he was liberated from the horrors of Auschwitz, Mengele, Melk, and Mauthausen.
My great-grandfather Eliezer-Zvi Z"L, who perished, told him as they were being deported, "Stay strong, and if you survive — go to Palestine.”
Assisted by the Joint Distribution Committee, my Zaida Anton joined the Haganah with his twin brother, Srulie Z"L, and together they fought in Israel's War of Independence. My Zaida’s survival literally gave life to me and his great-granddaughter, my daughter, Orly Pnina Kinneret. He is my hero.
For the past fifty-eight years he continues to live with my Bubby Edith in Montreal, where I was born and spent most of my childhood. I cherish our bond and recognize that Orly and I share a special connection — a direct and rare living link to the Shoah.
I appreciate the strong Jewish foundation and values that my parents and grandparents instilled in me. Infused with the passion of Zionism, they taught me the importance of living a meaningful Jewish life connected to Israel. I enjoyed the privilege of a Jewish day school education, annual visits to Israel, including a high-school summer trip, and celebrating all the holidays. This led to my aliyah at the age of nineteen to Jerusalem,where I lived from 1993 to 1998.
Over the past fourteen years as a Jewish communal professional with UJA Federation, I have formed wonderful friendships and have worked alongside some of Jewish Toronto's most visionary and compassionate philanthropists, volunteers, and professionals. My work has enabled me to stand with Israel through the dark days of the Intifada and the Second Lebanon War, to witness the revival of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, as well as to experience the wonders of Jewish communities around the world.
Having once experienced this community's support firsthand at a time when I needed it most, this gift is my humble way of giving back, beyond my professional life, and doing my part to play an active role in tikkun olam. Through it I pay tribute to my family and my community. My gift is also, importantly, my opportunity to lead by example and pass on to the light of my life, my daughter, Orly, the significance of tzedakah and personal commitment to a vibrant Jewish future.
It is to Zaida and Bubby and my entire family that I dedicate this gift. As I inscribe my story in this Book of Life, I want Zaida to know that his journey to freedom will never be forgotten. I will forever draw strength from his remarkable courage. I celebrate the wondrous and timeless link between Zaida and Orly. It is my deepest wish that Orly nurture the seeds that have been planted for her, and that she carry forward this tradition and legacy with her children and grandchildren for generations to come.