Scores of strangers turned up in below-freezing temperatures weather to honor the life of a Holocaust survivor at his funeral.
Before 85-year-old Eddie Ford of Toronto, Canada, died last week from cancer, he made a good friend in Rabbi Zale Newman, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. For the better part of a year, Newman visited Ford and listened to stories about his childhood in Budapest, including during the Holocaust, when Ford was reportedly hidden by a Christian family.
Ford’s dying wish was to have a Jewish funeral having regretted not partaking in particular Jewish traditions. “He asked me to teach him certain basics,” Newman said, according to the National Post. “How could I not?”
Jewish funerals include a “minyan,” a tradition of ten Jewish people required to form a congregation. Believing that Ford only had one surviving relative, Newman invited his Facebook community to the January 31 funeral. “Attention Toronto Jewish Community!” he wrote. “We need to have a minyan present tomorrow at noon for a sweet Holocaust survivor who passed away…Can you come escort a Hero of the Holocaust for his final journey…This is a huge PURE act of kindness. Won’t take long but please dress warmly.”
Only three people RSVP’d to Newman’s invitation, however, when the rabbi arrived at the service held in freezing temperatures and snowy conditions, there were an estimated 150 people waiting to pay their respects. “Friends, last night I faced the very real possibility of performing a funeral for a sweet Hero of the Holocaust all alone,” he wrote on Facebook. “It would be just Eddie Ford…me and our Father Above.”
“…When I arrived at the cemetery in a wind chill of -27, far to the north of Toronto, I couldn’t get in because of the line of cars. I assumed there was another funeral taking place at the same time and I wondered how we would find Eddie’s resting place,” he shared.
A Holocaust survivor received a proper memorial service thanks to strangers who connected through a rabbi’s Facebook post. #TheMoment
“I stopped people who were walking and they all said they were going to the funeral of Mr. Ford. I had to park far away and walk in the freezing wind to join an estimated 150 people in a huge, warm circle of love, as we gave Eddie a sweet, proper, fitting, loving send off to the Next World.”
“I am in tears just thinking about how humbling and awesome it is to be part of the Jewish People who on very short notice; would drop everything, leave whatever they were planning on doing, drive a long distance, to stand outside in a open field, on a super freezing, blowing, windy day to escort a sweet, little Jew from Budapest, who was unknown to almost all them, on his final journey,” Newman wrote. Newman didn’t reply to interview requests from Yahoo Lifestyle.
Filmmaker Ronen Israelski was at the funeral and interviewed a mourner. “It’s incredible, heartwarming. I just thought…I had to come to this thing,” the guest told Israelski. “It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. This is so much more important than anything.”
Posted by Ronen Israelski on Thursday, January 31, 2019
A woman named Elyse Friedman, who says she is Ford’s niece, contradicted Newman’s statement that roughly 150 strangers showed up to celebrate his life.
Friedman wrote on Newman’s Facebook page, “Everyone in Eddie’s (admittedly tiny) family were heartened by your post and by the response of the Jewish community. We wouldn’t have had a minyan without you. However, these stories in the newspaper and on TV are very inaccurate. My dad, Eddie’s brother, lived just down Bathurst from him and visited him at least once a week in hospital (and regularly at his apartment before he was hospitalized). I believe he mentioned that to you at the funeral. I also visited my uncle in the hospital and so did his nephews and their kids. It was lovely and heart-warming that approximately 30 to 40 strangers took time out of their day on the coldest day of the year to attend my uncle’s funeral. I send lots of love and thanks to them, and to you for putting out the post, but can we please be true and accurate with the story?”
Friedman was not immediately available for comment.