Metro Morning

A man with regrets: Torontonian says sorry for anti-Semitic act in 1950s

A Toronto man who heads an investment firm says he took out a personal ad to apologize for punching a Jewish boy in the 1950s and he wants the world to know that people can change.

'If you make a mistake, clean it up and drive on,' says man who is now CEO of an investment firm

Tom Caldwell, chairman and CEO of Caldwell Securities, says it's never too late to say you're sorry and he is sorry for punching a Jewish boy 65 years ago at a Toronto school. (CBC)

A Toronto man who heads an investment firm says he took out a personal ad to apologize for punching a Jewish boy in the 1950s and he wants the world to know that people can change.

Tom Caldwell, chairman and CEO of Caldwell Securities Ltd., told Metro Morning that he wants to make amends for the schoolyard act that happened in Toronto 65 years ago. He said he has regrets about it, but feels better now that he has apologized. 

"To Howard Rosen, sorry I punched you at Runnymede Public School in the early 1950s. Tom Caldwell," reads his ad in Canadian Jewish News.

Caldwell, who has not yet received a response from Rosen, said he remembers the incident well. He was walking past "this young lad" while they were in elementary school, Grade 2 or 3, and he punched him. He was called into the principal's office but he didn't own up, making up a "lame-duck" excuse instead.

"I punched him because he was Jewish. I knew that in my heart. I knew that over the years and that's why it really bothered me. I didn't grow up in an environment that was anti-Semitic." 

Caldwell said he thinks "kids pick this stuff up," and added, "children can be extremely cruel to one another."

Victim may have switched schools

He said there was no provocation from the boy. 

"I felt badly. Poor little kid. He's sitting at school and he gets whacked. It must been of great hurt and upset to him."

Caldwell said he knows it must have upset Rosen's parents as well and said it's possible they may have moved their son to a different school after the punch. He said he doesn't remember seeing him at school after the incident.

Caldwell said he wanted to apologize but at first didn't know what to do and then he decided on the ad.

"I'm in the investment business. One of the things I've learned a long time ago is if you make a mistake, clean it up and drive on," he said.

Too much of a time lag

"Apologize as quickly as you can. I admit, the time lag is a little excessive in this case."

Caldwell said he has not been consumed by guilt, but occasionally "it would flip through my mind." 

"Maybe it's nice to know for people who have been bullied that people do change. They do grow. They do feel sorry for things they did wrong."

Caldwell said he thinks it would be great if his story prompts others to apologize for what a late friend of his once called "the cringes."

"I'm glad I did it," he said.

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