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TED (EDWARD) BEKHOR

IRAQ

Photography by Hudson Taylor

Ted was born in Baghdad in 1941, the first grandson in the family. Their household included his mother, father, grandfather, two uncles and an aunt. The family was in the export-import business and had family branches in England, India and China. The family name “Bekhor” means first born in Hebrew.

Jews had lived in Iraq for 2,600 years, since the destruction of the First Temple, and had lived relatively well there. There had been one pogrom (Farhud) during the Nazi era in June 1941, the month Ted was born. In 1948, after the formation of Israel, Jews started being severely persecuted and were all thought to be spies for Israel. It was evident that they had to leave. Over a million Jews were uprooted in the Middle East, North Africa and Iran after 1948. Today, there are barely 4,000 Jews left in the region.

The first Jews left Iraq in 1950 and Ted’s family was among them. Everything was left behind: property, possessions, and even citizenship had to be renounced.

The majority of Iraqi Jews, about 175,000, went to Israel. Some also went to England, New York and Los Angeles. A number of families went to Canada, mostly Montreal. Many Iraqi families spoke Arabic, French, English and Hebrew.

Ted and his brother were sent to boarding schools in Switzerland and England, and in 1953, they were reunited with the family in Montreal. His family chose to come to Canada because they were able to get entry visas. Ted studied engineering at McGill and later, psychology and sociology, after which he received his MBA from the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. He worked in New York in the advertising business before returning to Canada to a career in marketing and brand building.

Ted bought and sold several businesses, including Para Paints and Precidio Inc. (plastics manufacturing). He and his wife Tobie met on a blind date in Toronto and were married in 1969. They have two sons, Adam and Jonah, and four grandchildren.