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Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 7

Oral History interview session (51mm 32ss) 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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. Ms. Usiskin begins with reflections of historical and contemporary anti-Semitism. A recent, deadly attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh prompted this discussion. She expresses concern for her children and grandchildren. Ms. Usiskin also raises her concern with the state of Israeli politics which disturbs her greatly. The subject of history of Zionism and Israeli is a subject raised on several occasions in previous in interview sessions. She next describes teaching at the University of Winnipeg for a number of years after gradation. However, she preferred to work in the community and left academia to become the first Executive Director of the newly created Multi-Cultural Resources Centre of Manitoba. She describes her extensive involvement with this organization that encouraged cooperation among Manitoba’s ethnic and immigrant communities. It was a very active organization under her direction, and she details much of that activity. Ms. Usiskin left this organization to become deeply involved through the Jewish Historical Society in the creation of the Jewish Heritage Centre to be located in the newly founded campus of the Jewish Asper Centre in south Winnipeg. She describes how these decisions reflected significant differences among Jews in Winnipeg about their relationship to the broader community. It also spoke to the different aspirations of many Jews who were moving from the North End neighbourhoods of their immigrant parents to the more affluent areas of south Winnipeg.

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 6

Oral History interview session (51mm 32ss) 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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. Ms. Usiskin begins with a description of personal changes she confronted in the early 1960s with the death of her parents and several other individuals to whom she was close. Her children were more independent by this time and all these changes led her to consider what she might do going forward in her life. She decided to return to school and continue onto university. Mr. Usiskin supported this decision. The small business they owned was doing well, which meant they could afford Ms. Usiskin’s desire to attend university. She describes in detail her experience at university, including the lifelong friends she made there among the students and professors. Ms. Usiskin did exceptionally well in her undergraduate years at the University of Winnipeg. She next describes the completion of her MA degree in Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Her research that she describes here focussed on the history of the political, religious, and cultural diversity of Winnipeg’s Jewish community, a subject she continues to work on to this day. Ms. Usiskin provides a detailed description of being a married woman of thirty-nine with three children attending university with students much younger than herself. The feminist debates of the time led her to reflect on her view of the world. Her generation was politically radical but conventional in their personal lives. Discussions of gender and sexuality, for example, she explains introduced her to new and exciting perspectives. She concludes with a lengthy reflection on the fact that progressive changes are being made on issues of gender and sexuality but they made not be as radical as some think them to be.

Rielly, Nolan

Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 5

Oral History interview session (01hh 14mm 22ss) 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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. Ms. Usiskin begins the session with a description of Sid Bagel, her brother in law, being forced to abandon a doctoral programme in the United States during the Cold War, because Ms. Usiskin’s best friend whom he was marrying was associated with the communist movement. They instead moved to Vancouver where he completed a doctoral programme at the University of British Columbia. Ms. Usiskin then provides a detailed description of her marriage to Larry Usiskin. The wedding was small with the ceremony held at the rabbi’s home and the reception at her family home. They initially resided in the home of Ms. Usiskin’s parents but moved at several years to a newer house in West Kildonan. Their son Michael was born in 1951. They would have two others boys in the next few years. Ms. Usiskin’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1950 and suffered greatly until his death in 1965. He was a great letter writer and conversationalists who grew increasingly frustrated with his declining ability to do either because of the disease. Ms. Usiskin describes the impact this had upon their family. Her mother died in 1966 from cancer. Ms. Usiskin continues the interview with her recollections of raising three boys in a busy household amidst the expectations of their extended families and the society of that era. She describes how her community activities involved many evening meetings, but Mr. Usiskin happily spent time with the children. The interview session closes with Ms. Usiskin reflecting on their hopes and expectations for their children as they grew to adulthood.

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 4

Oral History interview session (01hh 41mm 08ss) 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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. She describes how in 1946 she and her community of friends continued to feel the aftereffects of the war. Learning about the Holocaust, she explains made her grow up faster. She explores how the emerging Cold War significantly effect her life. The UJPO supported the Soviet Union and some of the organization’s members joined the Communist Party of Canada, although she never did. Ms. Usiskin describes detail of a very difficult period for her and her community. Phones were wiretapped, police informants attended their meetings, and some of their events were disrupted. Family discussions especially with her aunt now living in New York became very guarded and circumspect. She declares that the Cold War was a terror for her and others and that she continues to experience the effects of the period. Ms. Usiskin describes beginning of the decline of the UJPO and the Jewish left due to the pressure of the Cold War and the actions of the Soviet Union, including the revelations about Stalin, the invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, its treatment of Jews. The decline of Yiddish is another topic explored by Ms. Usiskin which she experienced within her second generation of Jewish immigrants. This is attributed to living in an English speaking society but also to the emphasis on Hebrew considered the biblical language of Jew with the rise of the new state of Israel.
Ms. Usiskin speaks next about meeting Larry Usiskin, her future husband, through the UJPO. A detailed description of the history of Mr. Usiskin’s extended family is provided. His family in Winnipeg was very poor and much more radicalized that Ms. Usiskin’s family. Their interest in one another focused on a shared interest in books, music, travel, and politics. Both families were happy with the marriage. Mr. Usiskin’s family were progressive and secular (expect for her mother who was somewhat more conservative).

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Roz Usiskin, Session 3

Oral History interview session (01hh 05mm 01ss) 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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. Ms. Usiskin begins this recording session with a deeper explanation of the difficult circumstances her father, his sister and mother experienced in Ukraine before emigrating to Canada. Ms. Usiskin next provides a detailed exploration of her involvement in the United Jewish Peoples Order’s Order (UJPO) from in the early 1940s to the present. The UJPO proved to be a significant personal, cultural, and political centre of Ms. Usiskin’s life. It was through the UJPO that she became the director of the organization’s summer camp for children. She also taught as a young woman in the Peretz school in Winnipeg. Ms. Usiskin continues on to describe the growing awareness in the 1940s of the Jewish community of the Holocaust. She explores the difference she experienced between the response of the UJPO and other Jewish organizations to the Holocaust. UJPO always emphasized resistance from the its earliest to its present-day activities undertaken to commemorate the Holocaust. Ms. Usiskin describes a particularly emotional visit with her husband to the Anne Frank Museum.

Reilly, Nolan

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. Ms. Usiskin agrees to be recorded. In her narration, Ms. 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. Ms. Usiskin describes her mother as religious devout 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. Ms. 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 Two 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. Ms. Usiskin concludes this recording session with an introduction to her siblings.

Reilly, Nolan

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.

Ms. 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. Ms. 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.

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 8

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

Session Summary:
Abe begins the session recalling several vacation trips his family took in Canada over the years, and trips he and Bertha made overseas. Abe tells about his retirement, and his going back to research and writing then, and continued 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. Abe recalls some of the articles he write during this time which lead him to complete his second book: Judaism: Myth, Legend, History, and Custom from the
Religious to the Secular, and recalls the traveling he did as a book tour. Abe 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; Abe 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. Abe 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), and the Manitoba Human Rights Award in 2004, and the Order of Canada in 2004.

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 7

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

Session Summary:
Abe 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. Abe discusses his involvement with the Manitoba Human Rights association (later became the Manitoba branch of the Civil Liberties Association). Abe 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. Abe 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.”

Reilly, Nolan

Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 6

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

Session Summary:
Abe 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 Abe speak 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. Abe 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. Abe recalls some of the oral histories the exhibit included, and also the production of short films by the C.B.C. Abe 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). Abe recounts his collaborating on a book with William Kurelek. He concludes the session by describing the dissolution of the MB 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

Reilly, Nolan

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