Dozens of people turned out in temperatures of -20 Celsius (-4 F) for the funeral of a Holocaust survivor who was slated to be buried with only his brother in attendance in Canada last week.
Rabbi Zale Newman put out a call on Facebook when he heard Eddie Ford, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor originally from Budapest who lived in Toronto, was to be buried without a minyan (Jewish prayer quorum).
According to the Ynet news site, Ford was not connected to a Jewish community in the city but asked to meet with a rabbi as he came to the end of his life in an oncology ward at the city’s Sunnybrook Hospital.
Two days before Ford died, Newman met with him and promised him a proper Jewish burial. After he received the news that Ford had passed away, Newman posted the funeral details on Facebook but held little hope that people would show up as the post received few responses and Canada was going through a particularly cold spell.
But unbeknownst to him, the post was widely shared and dozens turned up to the Pardes Chaim cemetery to bury a man they had never met.
“When I saw the post on Facebook, I realized the gravity of the situation. Here was a Holocaust survivor who needed to be buried. So I didn’t think twice. I just left everything and got there as soon as I could,” filmmaker Ronen Israelski, who documented the event, told Canada’s CBC News.
“This lonely survivor received a hug from the Jewish community of Toronto and from our Jewish heart. I know something about the Holocaust because my father is a Holocaust survivor, and I could not bear the thought that this person would be buried alone,” Israeliski said.
Newman said he was astonished by the fact that so many people had dropped everything to ensure they could attend the burial.
“When I arrived at the cemetery, I couldn’t get in because of a traffic jam. I thought there was another funeral at the same time and I wondered how we would find Eddie’s resting place. I asked people and they told me they were on their way to Mr. Ford’s funeral,” Newman said, according to Ynet.
“I walked in the freezing wind and when I reached the grave, I found 150 people in a huge warm circle of love,” he said. “I am crying and thinking how sad and amazing it is to be part of the Jewish people, who at short notice will leave everything, go a long way, and stand in an open field in a freezing wind, to accompany a Jew from Budapest on his final journey.”