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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 1

This is the first of 8 Abe Arnold interview sessions.

This interview session (58mm 36ss) includes Arnold's early life in Montreal, his parents, and his family's circumstances living in Montreal's Jewish neighbourhoods.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 2

This is Session 2 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview.

This session includes Arnold speaking about his maternal grandparents and children; father’s siblings; Jewish holidays with his family; his work from the early 1940s (Joseph Gould and Sons in Toronto); education in drafting and mechanical drawing; service in the army; the onset of his illness; involvement in the Young Communist League; first article in Volchenblatt and Modern Digest; marriage to wife Bertha in 1945; freelance work for Montreal Standard, Canadian Film Weekly; work at Anglo-Jewish News Service (1946-47); attendance at meeting of the Jewish Press Association (1946); influential leftist literature; Gouzenko Affair; political climate in Ontario through the 1940s; and his family in the 1940s.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 3

This is session 3 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview, including session log and transcript.

Arnold begins the session by sharing the story of Abram in the Idolshop, a play he participated in as part of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association. He discusses growing into political consciousness. Arnold recalls his time living in Toronto then the move to Vancouver in 1948. Arnold recalls the work he did while in Vancouver, including detailed recollections of running the Jewish Western Bulletin, where his wife Bertha also worked. He recalls his activities and affiliations with several organizations, including the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith, and the Civic Unity Association (a human rights group), the U.J.P.O. and the Peretz School. He recalls the political climate in B.C. in the early 1950s, including elements of antisemitism that were apparent at the time, and the politics between Canadian Jewish organizations during this time. He recalls the purchase of their first car and house, and the birth of twin daughters all in 1951. Throughout the interview session Arnold recalls key players in organizations and politics, illustrating the relationships and interpersonal dynamics between them.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 4

This is session 4 of 8, of the Abe Arnold interview, including session log and transcript.

Arnold begins the session by remembering a family vacation the Arnolds took in 1953. He then discusses his work in the mid-1950s, writing columns which addressed antisemitism. He recalls the stigma of communism during these years and how that indirectly caused trouble for him in his work. Arnold details his work as the Research Chair for the Vancouver Centennial Committee (Folk Festival), and also some of the travel he did for his writing, starting the “first Jewish Archives collection” in Vancouver, and recalls the first International Festival in Vancouver in 1958. Arnold recalls his first trip to Israel in 1959. He discusses the Canadian Jewish Congress’ celebration of the bi-centennial of Jewish settlement in Canada, and being appointed Chairman of the Bi-Centennial Committee. Arnold discusses the B.C. Provincial Government’s troubles with the Doukhobors. He recalls doing a program on the C.B.C. and writing articles on human rights issues, and discusses his professional relationship with Saul Hayes (National Executive Director-Canadian Jewish Congress). Arnold recalls some of the artists he worked with while in Vancouver. He concludes the session by telling about a Quebec news writer who noted one of his articles on Jews in Canada as one of his preferred renditions of that history.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 5

Session 5 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview conducted by Nolan Reilly.

Arnold begins the session speaking about his health issues and the medical treatment of them while he was living in Vancouver. He then turns to speaking about his work at the Jewish Western Bulletin during the 1950s. He tells how he moved to Montreal in 1960 and began work as the Publicity and Public Relations Director for the Jewish Federation (later Allied Jewish Community Services), which was primarily doing editing work. Both he and his wife Bertha found better paying work in Montreal. Arnold also speaks about the special education one of his daughters required in Montreal, and working with his wife Bertha and other community members toward establishing such a class for children in their community. Arnold talks briefly about challenges his children faced during this time, one of his daughters enduring an illness, and there being not sport facilities for his son to continue his track and field, and later some difficulty with school. He recalls being hospitalized in 1961, to have a lung operation, and his wife Bertha then becoming ill with tuberculosis in 1963. Arnold continues to speak about his work writing and his involvement in politics in Montreal and becoming established in his work as the Executive Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress in Winnipeg, after moving there in [1966?]. He speaks briefly to the experiences of his children at this time, and concludes the session describing his participation in forming the Manitoba Human Rights Association in 1968.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 6

This is Session 6 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview.

Arnold begins this session speaking about his involvement with the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada in 1968. He details his growing interest in Jewish history in Canada, receiving grants to do research on the topic, becoming involved with an expanding circle of academic colleagues through these years and reviews the topics he researched and wrote about. He describes his role as the Regional Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress in the late 1960s and celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1969. Continuing with 1969, Arnold speaks about the establishment of a Manitoba Branch of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (related to the Manitoba Human Rights Association), and about the interaction the group had with the provincial N.D.P. at the time. He details some of the research he did during the late-60s and early-1970s, and details how he contributed writing to various Jewish cultural activities and events. Arnold remembers in detail his extensive involvement in establishing a temporary exhibit for the Manitoba Museum, which resulted in the first office space for the Jewish Historical Society. He recalls some of the oral histories the exhibit included, and also the production of short films by the C.B.C. Arnold recalls his involvement with the Plenary Assembly, and writing for the Winnipeg Jewish Post, and the Canadian Jewish News in Toronto while continuing to work part time at the Historical Society (until resigning in 1975). Arnold recounts his collaborating on a book with William Kurelek. He concludes the session by describing the dissolution of the Manitoba Branch of the CCLA and the formation of an ad-hoc committee on human rights and subsequently the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties in 1978.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 7

This is Session 7 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview.

Arnold begins by recalling his involvement with the Manitoba Historical Society in Winnipeg in 1967, and some work he did for the CBC in the latter 1960s. He tells about his freelance work in the early 1970s, including writing book reviews, writing articles for The Beaver magazine, lecturing at the University of Manitoba, and doing interviews with artist William Kurelek and later co-publishing a book with him. Arnold discusses his involvement with the Manitoba Human Rights association (later became the Manitoba branch of the Civil Liberties Association). He discusses in depth his involvement in the development of the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (M.A.R.L.) and his activities within the organization and recalls several of the group’s active members. Arnold recalls his participation in the development of the Canadian Jewish Historical Society and his participation in their conferences. He recalls M.A.R.L.’s special committee on Aboriginal rights in the 1980s and meeting with the Native Brotherhood of Inmates of Stony Mountain Penitentiary, and his appearance before the Manitoba Commission of Aboriginal Rights, established after the shooting of J.J. Harper. He discusses particular human rights issues before the Manitoba Legislature through the 1980s, including gay rights, children’s rights and the “French language question.”

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 8

This is Session 8 of 8 of the Abe Arnold interview.

Arnold begins the session recalling several vacation trips his family took in Canada over the years, and trips he and Bertha made overseas. He tells about his retirement, and his going back to research and writing then, and continuing his involvement with the Canadian Jewish Historical Society (while still writing for the Beaver and Outlook magazines), eventually taking the position of Acting President and then President. Arnold recalls some of the articles he wrote during this time which led him to complete his second book: Judaism: Myth, Legend, History, and Custom from the Religious to the Secular, and recalls the traveling he did for a book tour. Arnold then returns to 1966 to discuss the trip to Israel he and Bertha took that year. He then recalls traveling to Guyana with his wife Bertha, who was there in her capacity for Canadian Executive Service Organization, with which she became involved after her own retirement. Arnold recalls many of the people they met and visited there. He also recalls traveling to Costa Rica with Bertha, their daughter, and their grandson, to promote Jewish books. He recalls traveling to Russia in 1999 on a writing assignment, where he and Bertha visited several Jewish organizations and synagogues, a trip which they returned from early, as their daughter was very ill. Arnold reflects on some of the historical and fictional writing he did through the 1980s through to the 2000s and receiving an honorary degree from the University of Winnipeg in 2001, the Shem Tov award in 2003 (Jewish Community Council), the Manitoba Human Rights Award in 2004, and the Order of Canada in 2004.

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Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 1

Oral history interview session (51mm 32ss) with Roz Usiskin, conducted by Nolan Reilly, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2018. Interview is indexed and transcribed in full.

Usiskin tells about the circumstances that led her father to leave the Ukraine and eventually arrive in Winnipeg, Manitoba just prior to the First World War. Family life in the Ukraine was one of impoverishment and persecution for being Jewish and engaged in left politics. Describes attempts to bring his mother and sister to Winnipeg during the War, father joining the Jewish Legionnaires, and returning to Winnipeg to take up his job as a tinsmith. 1919 father participated in the Winnipeg General Strike. Usiskin describes her aunt, her father’s sister, in the Russian Revolution and her father’s successful efforts to bring his sister and mother to Winnipeg, her father and mother’s meeting in Winnipeg and subsequent marriage. Explores the hardship of the family’s life in Winnipeg, and difficulty of finding steady employment. Yiddish was spoken at home, Jewish education was emphasized, and Jewish traditions followed, although her father was a secularist and labour supporter. She speaks of the special relationship her father had with the children. Describes the Cold War and its effect on the family and friends is explored in some detail. Ms. Usiskin’s aunt joined the Communist Party of Canada and was a union organizer in Winnipeg and Toronto before moving to New York.

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Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 2

Oral history interview session (01hh 06mm 16ss) with Roz Usiskin, conducted by Nolan Reilly, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2018. Interview is indexed and transcribed in full.

Nolan Reilly, the interviewer, outlines the objectives and procedures for the interview with Roseline (Roz) Usiskin. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. In her narration, Usiskin elaborates on themes raised in the first interview session on her father and his family’s immigration to Canada, his search for work, and his meeting her mother. She describes her childhood and her family’s close relationship to the Jewish community. Yiddish was spoken in the home. Usiskin describes her mother as devoutly religious and her father as an atheist and a socialist. Jewish traditions she indicates were and still are important to her family but from a very secularist perspective. She describes in good detail her education through grade eleven as a combination of parochial and public schooling. Usiskin for many years attended public day school where she experienced what she describes as a process of Canadianization and then spent several hours each late afternoon and evening in the Jewish Peretz School. She describes a vibrant Jewish culture in North End Winnipeg that continued into the post-Second World War years. The family lived in the Boyd-Burrows neighbourhood, an area of primarily Jewish and Ukrainian immigrants. Her family home often had boarders to help with their finances. Usiskin concludes this recording session with an introduction to her siblings.

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