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