Gitta Ganz was born in a small village in Romania, into a family of eight children. Six family members miraculously survived the concentration camps. At the end of the war, at a German displaced persons’ camp, she met Sam z"l; he was 18 and she was 19.
“Dating an older woman was best thing that happened to me,” Sam jokes. “I was a little nothing. She calmed me down pretty good!” In 1948 they came to Canada and married three years later.
“We were teenagers with no education, no trade, not a word of English between us,” Gitta recalls. “We got off the train in Toronto and JF&CS was there along with JIAS. They helped us with everything. They even put us up with room and board in a Jewish woman’s house on Euclid [Avenue].”
“We didn’t even know what a streetcar was!” adds Sam. “Our JF&CS social worker bought us four tickets for a quarter and had to show us how to board, tear the tickets and place them in the collection box. We thought College Street was pronounced ‘Col-lay-gah’”
During those years, Sam and Gitta made a pledge that one day, if they were successful, they would support Jewish agencies, Israel and anyone living in poverty. Fortunately, Canada treated them very well. Sam, along with his father and brother, founded Ganz Bros. Toys Ltd. in 1950, and it wasn’t long before Sam and Gitta fulfilled their pledge.
“We never forget that we are part of both the Jewish community and the broader Canadian society,” Gitta says wiping away a tear. “We hope our actions serve as an example to our children, Howard and Mindy, and to our grandchildren, and that they continue to honour these values.”
“We believe in helping people, period.” adds Sam. “We also love Israel and we try to go once a year, but I’m 83 and this young lady is 84. We’re getting a little oldish for all that travel.”
“He’s always joking,” laughs Gitta. “But in all seriousness, as Jews, we all have a stake in protecting the future. And so, we all must do our part.”
Sam Ganz passed away on Saturday, June 21, 2014. He will be greatly missed.