I arrived in Canada in 1951 as a 15-year-old survivor of the Shoah. My father, a businessman and a leader of the Mukacevo Jewish community, had the foresight to obtain forged Christian identity documents, which saved the lives of his sister, wife and two sons, but not his own.
Upon landing in Halifax – with less than $200 – we had great hopes for a new beginning. I worked and continued my education, achieving a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, where I met my wife, Elke, at Hillel. Throughout our careers, in Boston, Rochester and now in Vancouver, we were involved in the Jewish community, including lobbying for the release of Soviet Jewry, participating in Israel advocacy activities, and funding educational scholarships locally and in Israel.
The fund commemorates the five women who had the most profound influence on my life: My mother Blanche, who became a widow at 36 and who transmitted to her children the importance of education; Aunt Helen, who served as a second mother to us; Aunt Rose, who risked her life three times to smuggle us out from the brick factory, the deportation assembly point to Auschwitz; Aunt Elisabeth, who taught me the love for music; and Aunt Janka, who was murdered with her husband and two children in the Shoah. The beneficiary of the fund is King David High School, based on the well-established Jewish value and principle, that education is a primary path from poverty to social responsibility and a productive life.
Robert and Elke Mermelstein