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JHSBC Oral History Collection
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Iris Andrews

Oral History interview with Iris Andrews. Born in 1933, Iris lived in London before moving to Vancouver once war broke out in 1940. Iris’s maternal grandfather was the first in her family to come to Canada, arriving in Vancouver in 1911. He opened a kosher bakery called Mother Hubbard Bakery on the corner of West Broadway. Iris’s maternal grandparents belonged to the Beth Israel congregation prior to the construction of the synagogue on Oak St. Her paternal grandparents were from Balaya Tserkoff, Russia (Now Bila Tserkva, Ukraine). Her paternal grandfather was a soldier in the Russian Army in the calvary before being designated a free man. Iris’s paternal grandparents arrived in England in 1903, where her grandfather began to works as a cigarette maker. Iris lived in Vancouver from 1940-1945 as war evacuee, and later returned to the city with her husband and two children in 1962. Iris was very active in the Jewish community; she was involved with Sisterhood at Beth Israel, she joined the Nordau chapter of Hadassah-WIZO, she worked as a Rabbi Secretary at Beth Israel, and she was on the committee for the Beth Israel museum.

Leslie Andrews

Oral History interview with Leslie Andrews. Born in 1929, Leslie grew up in a village a few miles out from London, and he speaks about what the Jewish community was like as he grew up. Leslie’s father was a tailor, and he collaborated with Leslie’s mother to start a clothing shop in London that sold waistcoats and petticoats called Andrews and Goldberg. During World War II, they moved their shop out of London to Aylesbury, and had contracts to make raincoats for the British Armed Forces. Leslie talks about the complications he had with both his secular and Jewish education in England. Leslie went to school to become a pediatric pulmonologist and proceeded to work in physical medicine. After the war ended, Leslie met his wife Iris, and became the first person in his family to come to Canada, emigrating to Vancouver in January 1962. He began working at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Center. Leslie, Iris, and their children attended Beth Israel synagogue, and were quite active in the Jewish community in Vancouver, with Iris working as a secretary and Leslie acting as chairman for various committees at Beth Israel. He talks about how the Jewish community in Vancouver has changed since he first arrived in British Colombia.

Naomi Frankenburg

Oral history interview with Naomi Frankenburg (1926-2015) detailing her life in Canada and her involvement with various organizations within the Vancouver Jewish community. Naomi was born in London, England and immigrated to Vancouver, BC in July 1959 with her husband, Dennis Frankenburg and their first four children, Robert Frankenburg (b. 1948), Ruth Frankenburg (b. 1950), Francis Frankenburg (b. 1952), and Lucy Frankenburg (b. 1955). Her fifth and youngest child, Charles Frankenburg, was born in Vancouver in 1960. Naomi describes herself as a passionate Zionist and recounts the anti-Semitism that was occurring in Europe. Naomi describes Dennis Frankenburg as a businessman and accountant who managed an import and export business in Vancouver.

Amongst the numerous leadership roles she undertook, she was the founding president of King David High school, formerly known as Maimonides Secondary School. Naomi recounts her leadership positions in various organizations, in particular her time as a member and as national president of Hadassah-WIZO. Naomi became known for her public speaking skills and fundraising skills, which she exercised in various fundraising roles, such as chairing the Hadassah Bazaar, a campaign that supports women and children in Israel. Other notable organizations Naomi discusses her involvement in include the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Jewish National Fund, the Beth Israel Sisterhood, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the BC Forest.

Naomi summarizes her children’s accomplishments and lives chronologically, starting with Robert Frankenburg, the eldest, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, has a Doctorate in Public Administration, and is the father of six children. Ruth, the second eldest, studied draftsmanship, has two children and is a business owner. Francis, her third child, Naomi describes as a leading expert in schizophrenia in the United States and lectures throughout the world. Lucy, her fourth child completed her education in computer studies, has three children and teaches physical education. Charles, Naomi’s youngest child, served in the Israeli Defense Forces, studied photography, and moved on to a career as a tour guide in Israel.

Susan Dempsey

Interview with Susan Dempsey for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Susan (she/her) is a Jewish woman, born in St. Catharines, ON and living in Victoria. She identifies with the lesbian community, but confides the idea of a sexuality without boundaries is something she’s getting more used to. Susan shares about her parents’ and their respective upbringings and livelihoods as mostly assimilated Jews in Chicago and Toronto or Southern Ontario. She talks about chosen family like her klezmer bandmates in the Klezbians, coming out to her family, and when she realized herself that she was a lesbian. She reflects on her childhood and growing up aware of political events like the JFK assassination. She talks about eventually finding the field of psychology, studying in St. Catharines, working in peer counseling initiatives and non-profits. Susan talks about relationships and reconnecting to the Jewish community through feminist and/or lesbian Seders after negative experiences and ambivalence. She talks about the Klezbians and feeling valued to queer and Jewish communities, wondering about the place for young people in current Jewish community, and wishing she was more proud to be Jewish and out throughout her life.

Syd Lapan

Interview with Syd Lapan for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Syd is a Jewish lesbian born in Denver, CO and currently residing on Gabriola Island. She talks about her family’s transition from a well-to-do background in Eastern Europe to starting over again in American midwest. She talks about her and her sister meeting a half-sister that her mother had put up for adoption at the time of WWII. Syd talks about going to university and being taken under the wing of a lesbian couple that she remained friends with for 50 years. She also talks about a gay friend who introduced her to gay activism. Syd talks about her varied education, and moving to Canada with a Canadian partner after attending Queen’s University. She talks about misogyny she experienced as a woman in the tech industry. Syd talks about the Jewish lesbian community in Denver, and also encountering antisemitism in the lesbian community. She talks about how music runs in her family, and how she reconnected with music through choir and the Klezbians. Syd talks about her profession as a private investigator and a significant relationship in her life with a woman named Carolyn. Syd closes by reflecting on her activism and the importance of following one’s heart.

Lauren Nackman

Interview with Lauren Nackman for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Lauren (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian, born in Middletown, NY, and residing in Victoria, BC. Lauren retraces her family history from Eastern Europe to the Bronx in New York, and touches on the intergenerational legacies of immigrant life seen in her parents and grandparents. She talks about her siblings and memories of coming out. Lauren recalls going to university in Virginia where she realized she was gay in a place not safe to be openly out, prompting her to co-found a group for lesbians on campus. Lauren talks about moving to Oakland with her then-girlfriend, and working with a women’s need clinic, attempting teachers college, but ending up in LA working in the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center which introduced her to gay activism. She talks about attempting to reclaim Judaism multiple times but not being inspired by the services and experiencing financial barriers to participating. She talks about moving to BC, and becoming active in lesbian Seders where the Klezbians were formed. She talks about marrying her partner Michelle when they moved to Canada. She talks about her parents growth in acceptance of her being gay. She talks about being thankful to be part of a history that aided present-day queer acceptance and closes with reflections on queer and Jewish community.

Shaira (SD) Holman

Interview with Shaira SD Holman for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. SD identifies themself overall as queer, but also as a butch dyke and genderqueer. SD talks about being raised as a secular and cultural Jew. SD talks about growing up in LA to a single parent and eventually moving to Rock Creek, BC becoming a cowboy on the countryside. SD shares about being ‘out’ as queer in high school and eventually going to Emily Carr for arts upon moving to Vancouver. SD talks about not feeling at home in Vancouver’s Jewish community as compared with the working class Jews in LA or their Jewish leatherdyke community in San Francisco. SD talks about their late wife Catherine, and how they were each others’ sanctuary where Catherine was encouraging to their arts endeavors. SD talks about the Pride in Arts Society, and creating the Queer Arts Festival. SD also talks about opening the SUM Gallery as a place for queer artists to be themselves and kickstarting queer recognition in Vancouver's arts scene. SD closes by giving the advice that life is not a sprint, but a marathon; to keep learning, and remember the history that comes before you.

Jonathan Lerner

Interview with Jonathan Lerner for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Jonathan (he/him) is a gay Jewish man, who was born in Toronto and currently resides in Lantzville, BC. Jonathan shares about his family history briefly, how he knew he was gay and how he came out to acceptance from his mom and sister. He talks about pursuing theater in post-secondary education, and how he volunteered within Hillel and other Jewish campus groups. He talks about being the first openly gay president of the Jewish branch of fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and what campus life was like for a gay Jew. Jonathan talks about how Hillel came to be involved in Vancouver Pride in 2010 and how more Jewish organizations came to participate with time. He recalls Yad b’Yad, a group for queer Jews and allies, and their difficulties with Vancouver’s Queer Film Festival, anti-zionism, antisemitism and the concept of pinkwashing; a conflict that directly declined Yad b’Yad’s perceived safety in the community and their success as an organization. Jonathan recalls organizing a community vigil for lives lost through homophobic violence and being part of CIJA’s LGBTQ Advisory committee. Jonathan closes by reflecting on how the queer Jewish experience has changed over time and life lessons that have come from this time.

Selina Robinson

Interview with Selina Robinson for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Selina (she/her) is a Jewish politician who is the mother of a gay son. She is an NDP representative and Member of Legislative Assembly of BC residing in Coquitlam. Selina talks about growing up Jewish in Montreal, and Richmond, BC where the Jewish community was much smaller. She talks about organizing community-led Jewish education in Burquest that focused on inclusion of all sects of Judaism during the ‘90s. Selina talks about working for Jewish Family Services, and their attempts to make safe spaces for gay Jewish kids and their parents. She talks about guidance from her son Aaron, who is similarly pursuing queer Jewish community initiatives. She also tells an anecdote about Aaron’s coming out and how his leaving for university worried her about his preparedness for the world at large. Selina talks about Aaron being openly Jewish growing up and creating positive spaces for him to share his Jewishness with non-Jewish peers, but the difficulties of not knowing the perfect way to parent a queer kid as a straight parent. She also talks about Aaron inviting her to Shabbat dinner with Pride Colours and how proud she was. Selina talks about how Jewish organizations can become more welcoming to queer Jews by including queer Jews in their leadership and becoming more self-reflective.

Val Fishman

Interview with Val Fishman for On The Record: The BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project in collaboration with JQT Vancouver. Interviewed by Carmel Tanaka via remote Zoom video call. Val (she/her) is a Jewish lesbian born and living in Vancouver. Val talks about her family history originating in Eastern Europe, through Scotland to Canada and how her family became quite assimilated from Jewish culture in North America. Val talks about her parents’ anti-fascist activism and her own work within the Women’s Movement in BC. She reflects on finding spirituality through Wiccan or Pagan practice and how this intertwines with her Jewishness despite not being the common Jewish experience. Val talks about when she realized she was a lesbian, the difficulties of coming out, and only finding out she was of Jewish heritage at 30. She talks about her growing involvement with the Jewish community in Vancouver, including the Jewish Caucus of a BC women’s organizations. She talks about how her sexuality, class and culture intersects in Jewish, queer and/or women’s spaces and what could make these spaces more comfortable to occupy. Val closes with how gay culture has changed, the importance of looking to older individuals for wisdom, and how she came to her magic name, Ashtare.

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