ID: How long were you are Gordon House, Albert?
AM: I was there about four or five years and then I stayed with the neighbourhood house as a director of another house. Yeah, in 71, 73, I became the director…
AM: Kitsilano House.
ID: And was that an umbrella organization of…
AM: Yeah, Gordon House has four or five neighbourhoods around the city.
ID: Gordon House was one of them, or?
AM: Gordon House was one of them, everybody was in an area, and in every area they had their own peculiarities. Like when I was working at Kitsilano it was also at the time of the hippies. So because I spoke French and many hippies came from Quebec, so the City of Vancouver asked me, no that was during Gordon House years, asked me to go to the YWJ where they created as place for the hippies because they didn’t want them to be all over town. So they had them in a place and there was a couple of social workers and myself who were kind of the supervisors to try to make sure they don’t go into mischief. So every time I went home I had to change all my clothes of the smell of tobacco, drugs, and all that every night it was a difficult thing but, I also learned how to do other things. When I was working with the hippies except explaining to them the idea of Canada values, laws, and things like, because they would come to me saying, “Albert, why does the narcotic policeman run after me? I was just making a living.” To them selling drugs is just making a living, you know they say, “Albert, why don’t you talk to the Narcs? Tell them to leave me alone.” So I had to explain the two worlds. But then long, long ago in the ‘60s there was a bit of a riot in the West End, and of course the city wanted to know why were many hippies and that on the rampage. So I went and interview many of them and I found out that one of the major complaints was that there was not dental health. You know, many of them were in pain and there was no way you know, at that time St. Paul had once a week somebody who would came for emergency, but that’s all. So, I decided to do something about it, I went to Gordon House, my supervisor was a strong lady, you know, no it was another supervisors, if you can do something, so I went to some kind of get together of dentists and I invited myself in the cocktail lounge and that and I convinced few dentists if can give some time to help these people of that. Anyway I found one who was a bit of an idealist who organized with me, but we didn’t have a place. So I used the Gordon House kitchen to have our first, I remember having a flashlight and that and a dentist. Anyway, after a little while the word went around, and I got second hand dentist chair, tools ,and that I had 10 or 12 dentist, and every Wednesday night all the hippies, all the people who could not have a dentist, they would come to Gordon House to have dental care, no questions asked. I have an article about it, you can have see it. But that was one of the things, you know, I always, when I saw a need I said let’s do something about it.
BD: Well, we were on the, there wasn’t a Canadian set up at all at that time.
ID: Not in the Eastern part of Canada?
BD: No, we were all part of the American, we had regions. We were part of the ‘Western Interstate’ which was California, Seattle…Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Albert I think was included too but there was nothing there. We were already organized but we were part of the Western Interstate. And then, I’ve just forgotten the year that…maybe I have it here, when the Canadian, the National Council of Jewish Women was formed. Of course we severed our roots, severed our connections, we were still part of the international group, but we became a separate organization with our own government, with our own rules, and bylaws, and so on and so on.
In 1924 when Council first started, it was only of course volunteers that did everything we used to do. And now my particular job at that time was carrying treats, like carrying chocolate bars, rice pudding on occasion.
ID: To whom?
BD: To the old ladies in the incurable ward of the Marpole Hospital.
ID: My goodness.
BD: That was part of my job there. It reminds me, you know now volunteer work is an entirely different story but in those days it was terribly important.
ID: [It’s probably as important today].
BD: Council’s work in the community was really recognized those days because we worked in various fields. They had tag days, they’d call on Council for the Community Chest drives, [and they’d] have over the years too, those days we had Council—there was a tag day almost every Saturday, you know, for some thing or the other. Always Council was called upon and always we provided the volunteers for the Community Chest after that was started. And wherever you were needed in the community, you were called upon, and you found volunteers to do it.
ID: And this was sort of Jewish representation for community work?
ID: And was it hard to find volunteers or could they offer their services readily?
BD: People had help, help was attainable in their homes for very reasonable amounts of money. Some people paid $25 a month for help, yeah. I didn’t, I never believed in that sort of thing, I always paid more. But we all had help so that we were free to do work in the community.
ID: Yes, that makes a difference.
BD: In the early days too, when all this immigration was going on following our organization’s beginnings we organized what we called the Well Baby Clinic. There was a lot of immigration here and hardly any of the women in Council could speak Jewish [Yiddish]. Couldn’t understand it, couldn’t speak it, but there was a great need for, for giving these people advice, whether it was to take care of their babies, whether it was to help them to become, to have a bit of a social life, and that sort of thing. And that’s where we did a good job. Our Well Baby Clinic was conducted in the Heatley Avenue synagogue, which was the first synagogue in Vancouver. It was Schara Tzedeck in reality but it was Heatley Avenue. We used to meet in the big hall…
ID: Now this was strictly the Jewish immigrants that had come and were coming to the Well Baby Clinic?
BD: That’s right, they came to the Well Baby Clinic. And it was my job, it was Dr. Davies who was the doctor, girls like Frances [Weinrobe], Charlotte Boyaner, Jenny Chess was the nurse incidentally, you know she’s Jenny Brotman now.
MS: Did you also not have an involvement in 1949 with the redeemed children of Europe who were brought over by Canadian Jewish Congress? Could you tell us something about that?
LZ: Well, that came to be, also that came under as part of my responsibilities, the work of Canadian Jewish Congress and the Jewish Family Service Agency which was a functional part of the Jewish administrative organization so I became involved with the absorption of those children which had come in the same year that I had arrived. They had come some months before I did and had been placed in homes, some that came were actually adopted. But I became directly involved with them too. We organized a club that met to sort of retain the relationship that those youngsters had. They came with fears and with traumatic experiences and so on and they needed a lot of attention and a lot of support and this was given through Jean Rose and her committee and through the staff of the Jewish Family Service agency which about that time was, consisted of Jessie Allman, and so there was quite a bit of involvement with those children and in later years other waves of immigrants that came too.
Interviewer: Ann Krieger & A. Myer Freedman
AK: Okay, tell us about Habonim please.
DN: Habonim is spelled H-A-B-O-N-I-M, Habonim Lodge is a fraternal, cultural group of Jewish culture and Zionism. That was one of the most effective groups that give us for many years already the leaders of Vancouver. It existed for several years ‘til the war.
AK: What war?
DN: The Second World War. Rabbi Zlotnick left for South Africa as the head of the youth educational department and then the Habonim Lodge kind of more or less broke up. Now, as to other Zionist and Jewish activities I want to…
AK: Just a minute, before you stop that, you said it had a cultural, you were a cultural group.
AK: Did you also study the culture of Palestine?
DN: Palestine, and Jewish history, and Jewish education in general. See, this is all that was…
AK: And Rabbi Zlotnick was the leader?
DN: Rabbit Zlotnick he was our leader and a spiritual advisor.
AK: Your spiritual leader and your cultural leader.
DN: And really he was…We wish we could have afforded a time to keep him but the, we couldn’t.
AK: He went on to bigger things.
DN: That position…For that matter I’ve seen Rabbi Zlotnick in Israel. I have a letter, the last letter he wrote with his own handwriting and I value it very, very dearly. In 1939 I built myself a house in Vancouver.
AK: Where is it, was it located…
AK: Where was it located?
DN: At 585 West 28th. But my way of planning the house was this: a nice living quarters for ourselves but a place for Young Judaea or the Zionist group to meet so therefore I have a complete basement with a recreation room large enough to hold 150 to 200 people, complete kitchen facilities, and that’s where most activities of the Jewish youth, particularly Young Judaea and the Zionist groups.
AK: Did you say ‘I’? Or do you mean your wife and you? She must have been quite a woman to have allowed this to happen.
DN: So this is where I wanted to say…
AK: This must be quite a woman.
DN: I’ll come to that.
DN: My wife, of course, was very much Zionist but when we first got married, I mean, [I won’t say that], we had quite a bit of disagreement. She was a Jabotinsky-ist.
AK: What does that mean?
DN: Jabotinsky he was a member…
AK: Would you spell that please?
DN: I can’t spell that.
DN: Ja-bo-tinsky. You’ll find that…Jabotinsky was a revisionist, a militant man. And his ideas were that, don’t wait ‘til they’ll give you Palestine…
AK: Take it by force.
DN: Take it by force and he was the one, and she was with him. I of course was a pro-Weitzmann-ist, to obtain Israel, a state, a Jewish state…
AK: You’re speaking of Chaim Weitzmann.
DN: Chaim Weitzmann. A Jewish state by peaceful and political way of doing it. And [we] had quite a big arguments ‘til one day we came to the conclusion that it doesn’t lead us anywhere and we had to, that politics had to be left aside if we wanted to succeed. And then we did, and then it was fine. My wife gave us a tremendous help and doing all this work, all my Zionist work and all the entertaining, [all that]...
MW: So that was my first experience with Hadassah. Then I guess not very many years later, because it was 1947 so I was 22 years old so it was just a couple of years later that I came to Vancouver to see my brother but I decided to stay because I loved Vancouver.
MS: Yeah, I think it started off…you see my dad was never very religious growing up. He was the only boy after four older sisters and he was like the Messiah and so, but he was kind of a bad boy, not like a bad, bad boy but like a jazz guy and out late. And he moved here from Winnipeg and he never was interested in his Judaism and ironically you know, he met my mom who was also a jazz aficionado, like a blonde haired non-Jewish girl who liked jazz and that’s how they met. And then obviously they got serious but he knew that, “Okay, now if I’m going to get married I’d better, she’d better convert,” and my mom was actually very open to it because her parents, my grandparents, were very open, amazing people. So she already actually had an affinity for Judaism and what it stood for. So of course she was the boss, my mom, and she created the Jewish house even though my dad would be like, “Are you kidding me, we’re going to keep kosher.” But of course along the way they got more and more involved and more and more religious. I remember when we joined Beth Israel synagogue, I was probably in Grade 1, and in those days new members got to sit on the bimah [a raised platform in a synagogue] and my dad and I got to sit on the bimah and it was actually one of the most memorable moment of my Jewish life is being so proud to sit in this beautiful and sitting on the bimah.
So anyways the first involvement I think my parents had in the Jewish community was probably through the synagogue and they got involved. At one time my dad was president of the Men’s Club, my mom was president of the Sisterhood and I was president of USY [United Synagogue Youth, and then my dad went onto the board of the synagogue and he was involved in JNF [Jewish National Fund] and did a lot of work for the Jewish Family Service Agency. He started the Jewish Film Festival, that was one of his big things, when he was president of the Jewish Festival of the Arts he got the Jewish Film Festival off the ground. So he was very interested in cultural arts and my mom was very involved with the Sisterhood, Women’s League on the regional level and she went to Sisterhood conventions and was very involved in Hadassah. Until the day she died she was doing the books for her Hadassah chapter.
HP: So, it wasn’t until I was here [Nelson, BC] and living in what I would have to call ‘Jewish isolation’ that I suddenly started to really feel the need for more community.
RT: Was this before or after your boys were born?
HP: Before. And so I started doing things. Like when we would go to visit my parents in Calgary, I would go to shul. I would sort of sneak off by myself on a Saturday morning and go to shul because I felt so isolated here that I actually felt a need to do that when it was available to me to do. And that may have also been because I was working at a church. I don’t know, you know. I was pretty heavily steeped in Christianity and feeling kind of foreign.
And, then, it would be the year that...Our son was born in May 1994, and sometime after that, and while he was still very small, somebody called a meeting by putting an ad in the paper. They rented the Elks Hall and put an ad in the paper saying that there was going to be a community Shabbat meal and a meeting of the Jewish community and please come if you were interested.
So, by that time I knew several people who were Jewish. By that time I had also, I had organized a Rosh Hashanah party the year before, you know. There was a guy downtown who owned a restaurant who was Jewish and I kind of bullied him into doin’ it at his restaurant.
RT: Was that Krieger?
HP: Yeah. With the Japanese restaurant?
HP: Yeah, yeah. So, I had just kind of bugged him and bugged him and bugged him until he did it. Right. And I was so surprised.
RT: Did lots of people come?
HP: Lots of people came and most of them weren’t anybody I had expected. [Laughs]. And I met all kinds of people I had never heard of and the place was packed.
BB: When did the two of you start getting involved in community activities?
BN: I got involved right away, because, having two children and no family, I didn’t want to work. It was too difficult. And, by getting involved in non-profit organizations, I could meet people, and, you know, get to know the community. When we first came here, Irv found a place to live on 16th and Trafalgar, so not too close to the Jewish community. But, it was good for about six months, and then we were able to buy a house, that was right in Oakridge, behind what is now the fancy liquor store, on Ash Street. So we were then quite close. And, I first started out with National Council of Jewish Women because I’d been involved somewhat in Montreal, then the whole cause of Soviet Jewry got going just about that time, in, maybe, 1970, I think. And, I’ve never been sure how I ended up chairing that committee for Soviet Jewry [*part of a movement against anti-Semitism in Soviet Russia], but it was very interesting. And we did organize demonstrations and publicity and, it was a good introduction to a lot of people in the community. People that possibly, we wouldn’t have met, or I wouldn’t have met and people that we’ve remain good friends with since then. So, that was a big one.
JY: So my first question was basically how and why the oral history program started, why did you start it and how it began?
CL: Well I can honestly say looking back it started by chance almost. It started by chance, a chance meeting that I had with three Barish brothers who were uncles of Irene [Dodek], they were her mother’s brothers. And I became acquainted with them at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre which at that time was the new Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, and which originated in the 60s, early 60s, and these three Barish brothers were retired farmers from Saskatchewan. And their, the family and they had spent some three quarters of the century on the, on the farm which was really the first real Jewish farm settlement on the Prairies, called the Wapella Jewish farm settlement because it was northeast of Wapella, Saskatchewan. The chance was that the oldest brother Eli Barish had seen my daughter Anita who was a pre-teenager at that time at the Jewish Community Centre among a bunch of other kids, they were visiting the Community Centre…
ID: It was a Purim carnival.
CL: …and he looked at Anita and said, “She looks like my old girlfriend on the farm but 60 years earlier, she looks like Rose Brotman,” who was my mother who were also at the Wapella farm settlement and where my mother was brought up. Well Eli had, she had been his sweetheart on the farm and her memories as a young girl were manifested in my daughter so when my wife came to pick her up they met her and confirmed that indeed she was the granddaughter of the, of Eli Barish’s girlfriend at the farm. So these brothers, there was really no recorded history of the settlement, nothing, and these brothers had such vivid memories of the pioneer life on the farm and their subsequent life as successful farmers, so I got very interested in their stories. I really felt that this was an unknown story and a story that really should be broadcast to the Jewish community in general, community, so I think the dates were 1968, 1969. I bought an old reel to reel tape recorder which wasn’t a very high fidelity and it was a big thing, very awkward and I started to interview these brothers.
ID: You were the one that had the idea first of a bazaar. How did you get that idea?
MG: There was a woman came here from Toronto and she started to tell us, she spoke at one of our Hadassah meetings and she told us about the bazaar in Toronto. And I absolutely fell in love with the idea and I spent a great deal of time with her and she described to me this huge event but it went to the public and it was held at the Pacific Exhibition grounds in Toronto. And she told me what it involved but the key to that bazaar was selling commercial space which we had never done. We had had bazaars before at the old Centre at 11th and Oak but they were not open to the public and they certainly didn’t have commercial space and it was what our members put on.
ID: So who did you sell to?
MG: And so we, you had to sell to firms to…
ID: Just a moment, you, you, put on the bazaar, you sold things to…
MG: Well I’ll tell you how we got there. You’re a little ahead of me.
MG: I wanted to have the Seaforth Armouries because it was the biggest place in town. I wanted to move from the Jewish Community Centre at 11th and Oak to the Seaforth Armouries but we couldn’t rent it, they don’t rent it. But at that time Bernie Isman, who by the way will be 100 this month, he will be 100 this month, was the president of the Veterans Association, there were 33,000 veterans, he was the president and I appealed to him and he was able to get the Armouries on condition we made a donation of $300. So that’s how we got the Armouries. And then, it was 20,000 square feet, that’s a huge place coming from the Jewish Community Centre. Then we decided, we had to have a blueprint, and I didn’t really have a clue of how to arrange the space but Goldie Edwards who was a very good friend of mine worked with, knew Alvin Narod and Alvin Narod was a builder here in town.