BF: And, and when did it suddenly dawn on you, did you have a vision to create and found a Jewish Genealogical Society? What was the process for you?
CE: Whilst I was doing this I was reaching out wherever I thought of that could give me some idea about genealogy, and the only genealogical society that was here in Vancouver was the BC Genealogical Society, which really wasn’t familiar with Jewish history. And I kept saying to myself, from 1986, what we need here is a Jewish Genealogical Society.
BF: Were these being formed around the country at the same time? Were you aware of them?
CE: I wasn’t aware of it. I knew that the Family History Centre had some records and at that time it was very difficult for me to get out to Burnaby to go there, and when I did go they really couldn’t find anything for me. So I continued working, I’d given up working at that time but I was working on the family history and used to come into the Centre an awful lot and somebody in the Historical Society found out what I was doing. By this time it was in 1990s and the girl that was in charge of the Historical Society asked me to come and talk to her and to tell her what I was doing. So I told her the story of what I wanted to do, so she said, “Well, why don’t you start?” I said, “We need a Jewish Genealogical Society here,” so she said, “Why don’t you start one?” So that time the first book was completed and I felt that I had the time to promote…
BF: And the experience, I would say.
CE: Yes, so I looked up various places where we could rent some space for a meeting and Temple Sholom was the most reasonable. So I put an ad in the Bulletin to say that there was going to be a meeting of Jewish genealogy at such and such a time and whoever turned up, we were going to have speakers there, and we had over thirty people attend.
RT: We were talking about how a group of Jewish people in Nelson formed a cultural association and had an alliance with Canadian Jewish Congress, who helped them in various ways. What were some of the things that happened with Congress’ help?
MD: Well, my particular interest was in the cultural part of it because of the diversity of the Jewish types. I, being quite interested in the Yiddish language, but unable to share much of it because of lack of Jewish speaking people and the—so my interest was the cultural part, the having seders and holidays. And we began to celebrate them in a non-religious way. And so occasionally we’d rent space in a church or community centre and have, you know, potluck and so on. And then there would be some emphasis on the Jewish particular holiday.
The most recent one was I think around less than a year ago. We were able to get maybe twenty, thirty people together for a holiday celebration and at that time my, one of my youngest grandchildren was studying music, the violin, and David Feldman came along with his band of—he was trying to start a klezmer band—and my grandson got very enthusiastic. He was only, like, thirteen or younger, and picked it up very,very well (laughs).
DG: What are some of the things you’ve done with the organizations?
IZ: Oh just…I think in Haddassah I’ve just done the ordinary things that everybody does. You know, I work at the bazaar, [laughing], I bake, it seems to me one was always baking for Haddassah. I wasn’t too active with Council ‘til latterly actually after I retired from Sisterhood. And with Council, on behalf of Council…Council gave me the opportunity to establish [through a hire] an adult daycare centre.
IZ: Which was extremely gratifying.
DG: Okay, tell us about it.
IZ: It was myself and a young woman who had never been in the community and dropped out of the community and Dorothy, I don’t even remember her name. But she was interested in Jewish Family Service Agency. And her family was not affiliated with the [community], but she—it was the Jewish community—but she was interested in it. And the two of us, over a period of two possibly three years, were able to prove the need, we knew the need was there, get it together, get a…receive money from Federation to operate minimally for one year. And during that year we established our credibility and we were able to convince the government to sponsor us because they had shut the door on establishing any more adult daycares. In fact, we convinced them there was a need for adult daycares for Jewish seniors who were really very uncomfortable in non-Jewish society, especially when the holidays came around. So ever since its inception there was a waiting list.
JA: This was a…man that came in, and he said, you know, he [was] from the East, said he was Jewish. He had no friends at all. And he hadn’t eaten that day and [so on]. So you know the first thing I would do is feed them, you know send them down to the counter in the centre, you know. And I kept an account there when I sent someone down she knew that she had to feed them and, you know, a proper meal. And I took out a $10 bill because that’s usually what it ran into, you know. [Inaudible]. And he didn’t pick up that $10 bill. And for some reason, I thought, you know, [he] probably, you know, expected more. And he said, “I just can’t take it. I’ve been lying to you, I’m not Jewish. I’m an Arab.” So I talked to him a while. I didn’t give him a $10 bill, I gave him a $5 bill and I phoned the, a worker at the Salvation Army there. I said, “I have this young man here. He has no connection here at all. He is of Arabic nationality and I’d like you to take care of him.” So she said, “Send him round, send him round.” And I worked with the Salvation Army, I worked with the United Church. The United Church was very, very…they just believed me that’s all. If I sent them, they didn’t give further investigation. And the same thing with the Salvation Army. I always, even now, I never pass a Salvation stand, [when] I don’t stop to put something in.