The Roy clan can trace its roots back to 1860.
Fifty members of the Roy family came together recently in Toronto for a reunion and a celebration of Marmel (Mary) Roy’s 75th birthday, who came from Israel.
Farley Mernick, whose late mother Belle Mernick was Marmel’s sister, planned the reunion and served as its emcee. He welcomed his aunt Marmel and spoke of the history of the family, who had come from Staszow and Bogoria in Poland.
Mernick’s grandfather, Yechiel Chaim Roy, came to Toronto in 1911, and his wife, Esther Faigl (Gula), followed in 1918 with their two children. Most of the family on both sides was killed in the Holocaust.
“My zaide Yechiel, who was an ardent Zionist and Orthodox man, immigrated to Israel in 1950, a year after my grandmother died,” Mernick said in an interview.
Marmel was born and raised here, attending the Central High School of Commerce. But in 1963, she followed her father to Israel with her two children after a failed marriage.
In an interview, she said she always had a strong Zionist inclination but was not interested in remaining observant like her father. In Israel, she joined a secular kibbutz in the northern Galilee called Kibbutz Dovrat.
During a visit to Toronto in 1973, Marmel met a Lubavitch rabbi who rekindled her interest in observance. Soon after she returned to Israel, she left the kibbutz and moved to a neighbourhood called Afula Elite. In 1980, she went to New York and met privately with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Mernick said in an interview that “along with celebrating Aunt Marmel’s 75th birthday, we pay a well-deserved tribute to her for the sacrifices she made on behalf of her family and for Israel.”
He singled out her volunteer activities in Israel and her work with Shifra Puah, a network of Lubavitch volunteers who provide meals and assistance to women who are pregnant and housebound and to new mothers post-partum.
“She visits some 50 new mothers each month, brings them gifts, speaks to them of any problems they may have, and if they are interested, she teaches them about family purity,” he said.
Mernick discussed his family research, and his recent visit to Staszow and Bogoria.
“It was exciting to research the family roots,” he said. “We have circulated the family tree to the members of our family. I am delighted that there are four generations of Roys here at the reunion.”
“It was a very leibedeck reunion,” Marmel said. “We talked about old times, old friends. I am a very strong Zionist and when I come back to Toronto, I feel like a tourist.”
Along with her volunteer activities, Marmel swims, walks and does folk dancing regularly. She appears much younger than 75.
“Materially, I don’t have as much as I had when I lived in Toronto, but spiritually, I am much richer,” she said. ♦
This article first appeared in the Canadian Jewish News, and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2003 by Cynthia Gasner.