Bernard Reed: Early Memories of Talmud Torah School
Location:Vancouver Talmud Torah
Date:Wednesday, April 28, 1993
ID:Digital audio recording #: 19-93:19
RK: You said you started to go to the Talmud Torah when you were about five or six. What are your early memories of that school?
BR: First of all, it was an afternoon/evening class. There was no parochial school in those days; it was unheard of. So you went, starting 4 o'clock for an hour, an hour and a half, depending on what grade you were in. And if you were in the senior grade you went from about 7:00 to 8:30. And I went there for many years, and then my parents moved in the 30s to the 800 block West 13th. Fairview was then opening up and many Jewish families moved into Fairview, diluting the East End, which was the original immigrant area. And from there, I went for a year or so to evening class from 7:00 to 8:30 at the old Talmud Torah. And then somewhere around 1931, I believe it was, they built the community centre on 11th and Oak and they started to have classes upstairs in the afternoon, of course, and . . . my class transferred to the . . . community centre, so I finished my schooling there. I carried on until I entered university and then I stopped. My class, which was around 5 or 6 [people], carried on roughly the same way, and then when we entered university we quit because it wasn't feasible. In those days the Talmud Torah was Ivris b'Ivris. The teacher spoke Hebrew and we spoke Hebrew to the teacher. I mean, if we struggled, we struggled, but it wasn't acceptable to have a conversation in English except to rescue the conversation, so to speak. In that way we became somewhat fluent.
RK: Right. Who were the 5 or 6 people in your class?
BR: At that time, at the end, there was Sammy Wolfe, Mitchell Snider, Gertie Zack. I think that's about it. I can't recall any other at the moment, at the final class, because through the years you lost students and then they would move in a couple of students, but was the last one that ended.
RK: It’s interesting that you went until you entered university.
BR: Mind you, I entered university at age 15. I’ll tell you another interesting thing was we had a junior congregation for a number of years at the old Annex on Heatley Avenue and the students carried on the entire congregation themselves, without the assistance of the teachers. In other words, we dovened, there was a chazan, we read [the Torah], we said maftir. I said maftir at the age of ten, because we knew everything. And we used to go every Saturday. There was about three or four of us. We would go to . . . the old synagogue and we would sit in front of the centre bimah and we would go there religiously. And then sometimes they were stuck for a maftir, so somebody would lean over and tap one of us on the shoulder and say, "Zog Maftir" and one of us would come up and we would say maftir. We could read it sight. So it was a nucleus of about three four of us. And then in the afternoon we went to the Rex theatre and watched the cowboy movie for 10¢.