Canadian Jewish community leader and real-estate developer Franklyn D. Medjuck died at his home in Halifax on March 14 at age 71, and was buried at the Eretz Hachaim Cemetery in Israel on Wednesday. Medjuck is survived by his wife, Hedda, his children, Bena and Jacob, their spouses, four grandchildren and two brothers, Ralph and Harold. This op-ed is based on the eulogy delivered at his funeral by his daughter.
My father’s passion for Israel began early. His own grandfather, Yehoshua Medjuck, who made aliya in 1935 from Halifax, died here during the War of Independence in 1948. He was buried on the Mount of Olives under the cover of darkness and the precise location of the grave was unknown for decades.
Dad made it his personal mission to find that location, and after decades of research and interviews, he was eventually able to set a stone on the correct place.
Franklyn D. Medjuck was born in the Grace Maternity Hospital in Halifax on October 17, 1944, on the 30th of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. He was the third son of Blanche and Irving Medjuck and they lived on South Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In truth, he lived almost his entire life within just a few blocks of that home, starting school as a primary student in the very first entering class of the newly built Gorsebrook School on the corner of South Street and Robie Street in the early 1950s. He later attended Queen Elizabeth High School, farther up on Robie Street and then Dalhousie University, around the corner from home, for both his Bachelor of Commerce and his Law degree.
He did, of course, do some traveling, especially when he attended University College London for a Masters degree in Town Planning at the end of the Sixties, then traveled through the Far East with his friend Brian Bloom.
My father was a good person in every sense of the word. A good friend, he was respectful, charitable and funny.
He valued time spent together, he stayed in touch with friends and relatives over the generations and at great distances. And he was great with words. He loved to write and talk and learn new things.
He loved riding bikes together, baking bread, flying kites and telling jokes. He had ever-evolving plans for his vegetable garden and for all the trees and flowers at the cottage. He loved to plant trees! For my father, his name and good reputation were paramount. He was always going to be the person who helped someone privately, or who gave generously of his money and his personal time to help raise someone’s spirits or to help pay for a community event. He honored his family history each year by sponsoring an annual Purim seudah in memory of his mother, Blanche, whose yahrzeit is on Purim. In recent years he would go to New York to celebrate Purim with his grandchildren, but would always make sure to find a minyan to say Kaddish for his mother. How poignant it feels that next week we will be getting up from Dad’s shiva on the day before Purim. We are told that the month of Adar is meant to be joyous, full of merriment and fun, but for our family, this has always presented a challenge because we have too many important yahrzeits in Adar... and now we have one more.
Dad grew up surrounded by Zionist Jewish values at summer camp and in the Jewish community of Halifax.
Around the time of the Six Day War in 1967, he became enchanted with a passion to live in Israel, to work the land and help build the country. In 1970, he made aliya, lived in an absorption center in Ashdod and studied Hebrew.
He was hired by the City of Jerusalem to work in its Urban Planning Unit as a Development Control Officer. As he used to tell it, those were exciting times to be working in city planning for the Iriya, the Municipality of Jerusalem – there was huge economic growth, a population explosion and great prosperity; while at the same time they had to provide basic sewage treatment to some neighborhoods, including within the walls of the Old City.
Eventually, he returned to Halifax to marry and start a family, and he began to work with his brother, Ralph, who is also a lawyer with similar interests in real estate and development.
Both civic and social minded throughout his life – both locally and in Israel – Dad founded the Domus Legis Society (the Law fraternity at Dalhousie University) and was active in Tau Epsilon Phi, the Jewish fraternity on campus. He later served on the committee for the 75th Commemoration of the Halifax Explosion; he co-chaired the Detailed Area Planning Committee for South Halifax, he served on the Barrington Street Heritage District Committee, and he co-chaired the 40th reunion of his Dalhousie Law School class in 2007.
He also edited two books about Nova Scotia’s Jewish history, which dates back to 1750.
My father went with a good friend on a secret mission to the Soviet Union to seek out and meet with Jewish families who were trying to get to Israel from Moscow, Odessa and St. Petersburg.
While all of the Jewish paraphernalia that they packed in their suitcases was confiscated on arrival at the airport, they still managed to meet with many Jewish individuals and families who were secretly trying to emigrate, including Yuri Kosharovsky, who later made aliya and became a minister in the Israeli government.
Over the years, he visited Israel regularly – for countless family trips, holidays, celebrations and community events, staying connected to his beloved homeland and nurturing numerous close friendships here. This included treasured time spent working the land, learning about herding and milking sheep at Moshav Ram-On near Afula.
When Dad realized that he was turning 60 years old, he decided to challenge himself in a number of ways. He wanted to show that 60 for him was still young and adventurous. Despite a lifelong fear of heights, he rappelled down the side of 23-story building in downtown Halifax to raise money and awareness for the Abilities Foundation of Nova Scotia. Also that year, he fulfilled a lifelong dream by volunteering in the Israeli army, through the Sar-El program, even if all he did was pave sidewalks and clean out steel oil drums. Then, just he was about to become a grandfather for the first time in 2005, he trained for a charity bike marathon in Israel – five days of cycling nearly 350 km. from Jerusalem to Eilat. He was unstoppable back then! He actually did that bike marathon twice, the second time was in 2013, as he was approaching the age of 70, together with my brother Jacob.
Dad was also a generous supporter of the Ilan Sports Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan. The Medjuck family also helped build the Beit Giora youth center in Kfar Saba, including an annual basketball tournament that dad loved to sponsor and attend.
Everything he did during his lifetime, especially his acts of charity, were intimately connected to the character and integrity of who he was as a human being and a Jew.
In 1980-81, he and mom spent a sabbatical year in Israel with me and my brother, when we were aged seven and four.
Dad served more than 40 years on his synagogue board, including multiple terms as president. He established an Endowment Fund in the 1980s, meeting with many members of the community to help them direct their tzedaka toward the long-term financial stability of the congregation. He developed deep and lasting relationships with many of the rabbis who came through Halifax over the years, four of whom live in Israel today.
Israel was always a way for him to live his ideals, even if the reality of day to day life can sometimes feel more practical than idealistic. He was aspirational about his religiosity, his Zionism, about keeping family connections strong, and about nurturing a strong future for Yiddishkeit in general. It was this passion which brought him to desire to be buried here, what he would have described as finally owning a small piece of property in Israel.
In his final months, Dad was worried about his unfinished tasks, things he had started or dreamed of starting, household projects, and future family celebrations that he would miss.
We assured him that he prepared us well and that he is leaving things in good hands. We promised to take care of each other and keep his memory strong in our hearts and in our lives.
And we will.
We have been blessed to know him, and we will honor his memory with tzedaka and acts of loving kindness by doing good deeds in the world and by treating those around us with love and respect. I am so sad to say that this past year on Rosh Hashana, our beloved Fischel Dovid ben Alexander Ziskin v’Chaya Bluma, zichrono livracha, was not written in the Book of Life. Baruch Dayan Haemet!