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May 16, 2016 5:47 pm

Canadian Businessman Buys Newspaper Ad to Apologize for Punching Jewish Schoolmate 60 Years Ago

avatar by Shiryn Solny

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A screenshot of Thomas Caldwell's ad in the Canadian Jewish News. Photo: Screenshot.

Thomas Caldwell’s ad in the Canadian Jewish News. Photo: Screenshot.

A Toronto man has purchased a newspaper ad to publicly apologize to a Jewish boy he had punched during his youth, BuzzFeed reported on Friday.

Thomas Caldwell placed the classified ad in the “People Search” section of the latest issue of the Canadian Jewish News. It reads: “To Howard Rosen, sorry I punched you at Runnymede Public School in the early 1950’s.”

Caldwell, an Irish Protestant, who attended Runnymede in Toronto’s West End some 60 years ago, told BuzzFeed Canada that though many kids at his school and neighborhood were Protestant or Catholic, only a handful were Jewish. Rosen was one of the few.

Caldwell recounted walking up to Rosen one day at school and punching him in the face. When called into the principal’s office and asked why he had hit his schoolmate, he simply replied, “Oh my hand slipped.” But, he said, the principal knew he was lying.

The Toronto native, who is a donor to the Neshama Playground — designed for children with special needs — explained that over the years he has thought about the incident and decided to apologize for his actions after a conversation with a fellow donor to Neshama (which, incidentally, means “soul” in Hebrew).

“The thing that bugged me is that in the back of my mind I knew it was an antisemitic thing,” said the father-of-two, who owns a large investment business and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. “I used to box and I punched lots of guys. I’m from Northern Ireland and I was probably more likely to punch a Catholic in those days — but this bugged me.”

He said he called the Canadian Jewish News about placing the ad, and a woman from the newspaper told him she was unsure of where to place it. Caldwell quipped, “Well, don’t you have a guilt column? I became a Catholic and I’m sure we have one.”

Caldwell said the ad made him feel better about something that had bothered him for many years.

“I’ve had opportunities at my age to face mortality on a couple of occasions, and the only regrets I have are where I’ve hurt people,” he said. “I didn’t have any grand design here, it was just a little ad in a paper and if the guy happened to see it, fine. Maybe it’s an encouragement for people who have been subjected to that [kind of treatment] at whatever age that sometimes people can change.”

He said that if he should hear from Rosen, “I’ll ask him to lunch and shoot the breeze.”

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  • Abu Nudnik

    Forgiveness isn’t my strong point but I’ve got to say that the churlishness of some commenters makes me sick. A long memory is a sign of great honesty. His guilt clearly went deep. That he could maintain contact with his childhood is a testament to his moral character.

    Has no one heard the phrase, “Better late than never?”

    PS: You site needs work. It takes forever to type/correct here.

  • judorebbe

    Mr. Caldwell –
    If you ever have the urge to take a swing at another Jew (and I’m about your age and probably half your size), feel free to contact me …

  • nat cheiman

    WOW!!!!! what a gesture of morals and goodwill. I salute you Tom Caldwell.

  • Eliot Schickler

    I say that in order to forgive Tom, he needs to offer his face for Mr. Howard Rosen to punch it a few times and others who are outraged to do the same! Apologizing is one thing, but in order to be totally forgiven, he needs to take his medicine and as far as I’m concerned, he hasn’t!

  • racy we

    You’re a good man and your heart is in the right place. Why did it take you so many years to apologize? You probably lost out on a good friendship. Good luck to you. I hope you meet him again. You’ve done good things in your life.

  • anon

    Big Like!

  • Joseph Gottdenker

    Tom is a good friend of mine and has contributed to numerous Jewish causes that I’m involved in and I’m sure many more that I’m not involved in. As a matter of fact he had me join him as a major sponsor of a photo exhibit entitled “And I Can Still See Their Faces”. A wonderful collection of pre-war Jewish photos from Poland. He’s quite a guy and doing this doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • Leon Sturman


    I am not Mr Rosen, but I want to thank you for your apology. Your Catholic “guilt” is the same type of guilt I feel as a Jew. BUT, I never hit anybody!

    In Judaism we forgive. I’m sure Mr Rosen will forgive you.

  • duPont

    I guess it’s better late than never. It’s a shame that Mr. Caldwell didn’t do it far sooner so that he wouldn’t have had to carry around the guilt of it all these years. We should all aspire to treat each other with love and compassion regardless of our differences. It is precisely those differences which make our communities great. Mr. Caldwell sets a great example for all of us.

  • Yaakov

    The old line is that Jews created guilt and Catholics perfected it.

    Teshuva is open to everyone. Glad that he is making tikkun for his past actions.