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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.

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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.

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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.

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Roz Usiskin: A Life Lived

A video (31mm 32ss) created by Nolan Reilly (with technical assistance from the OHC) for Roz Usiskin’s memorial service held on October 16, 2023. The video is created using clips of the 7 interview sessions in this collection.

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).

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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.

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Interview with Abe Arnold, Session 5

Session 5 of 8, of the Abe Arnold interview.

Session Summary:
Abe 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. Abe 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. Abe 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. Abe talks briefly about challenges his children faced during this time, one of his daughters enduring an illness, and there being not sport facility for his son to continue his track and field, and later some difficulty with school. Abe recalls being hospitalized in 1961, to have a lung operation, and his wife Bertha then becoming ill with Tuberculosis in 1963. Abe 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 section describing his participation in forming the Manitoba Human Rights Association in 1968.

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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.”

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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.

Session Summary:
Abe 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 anti-Semitism. He recalls the stigma of communism during these years and how that indirectly caused trouble for him in his work. Abe 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, his starting the “first Jewish Archives collection” in Vancouver and recalls the first International Festival in Vancouver in 1958. Abe recalls his first trip to Israel in 1959. Abe discusses the Canadian Jewish Congress’ celebration of the bi-centennial of Jewish settlement in Canada, and being appointed Chairman of the Bi-Centennial Committee. Abe 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). Abe recalls some of the artists he worked with while in Vancouver. Abe concludes the session by telling about a Quebec news writer who noted one of Abe’s articles on Jews in Canada as one of his preferred renditions of that history.

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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.

Session summary:
Abe 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. Abe recalls his time living in Toronto then the move to Vancouver in 1948. Abe 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 anti-Semitism 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 Abe recalls key players in organizations and politics, illustrating the relationships and interpersonal dynamics between them.

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