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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interview with Pat Johnson 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. Pat (he/him) is a non-Jewish gay man who is a prominent figure in Jewish journalism in Vancouver. Pat talks about how he was introduced to Jewish culture and community throughout his education, including taking Jewish Studies at McGill, and political organizing on campus. Pat talks about returning to Vancouver, pursuing journalism school and writing for Xtra which eventually introduced him to the Jewish Western Bulletin. He talks about his 25 year history of working for the JWB, now Jewish Independent, including the story of how he came to co-own the paper. Pat talks about the changing attitudes to LGBTQ and interfaith issues within Vancouver’s Jewish institutions, and Jewish institutions participating in Vancouver Pride. Pat and Carmel discuss a vigil Pat organized for Carmel’s cousin who was murdered in Israel for being gay. Pat talks about experiencing anti-Zionism within the Queer Film Festival community. He also talks about Jewish Family Services and their attempts to offer queer programming. Pat closes by reflecting on the most significant works of his career and academics he admires.
Interview with Nancy Rosenblum 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. Nancy (she/her) is Jewish lesbian born in Los Angeles, California and currently residing in Nelson, BC. Nancy reflects on her parents’ lives in LA and her family’s origins in the Eastern Europe. She talks about her family’s entrepreneurship in the American fashion industry. Nancy talks about finding family in the Jewish lesbian community and how she realized she was a lesbian in her early 20s. Nancy talks about discovering filmmaking in high school and eventually going to California Institute of Arts for photography and filmmaking. She talks about two prominent art shows she did: one in protest of mainstream media’s normalized portrayal of violence against women; and one photographing the lesbian community of 1980s LA. Nancy talks about her partner of 36 years who is also a professional photographer and how they ended up in Nelson, BC. Nancy compares her experience being a Jewish lesbian in LA to Nelson. Nancy talks about the changing acceptance and assimilation of the lesbian identity, where the trans community experiences the most backlash today.
Summary: Interview with Ira Rogers 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. Ira (he/him) is a gay Jewish man, born in Manhattan and currently residing in Vancouver. Ira describes his parents’ history and some of his early memories in New York City, and in Los Angeles with family friends. Ira describes coming out at 21, two years after Stonewall, and how it was largely met without resistance in the Jewish community in NYC; a contrast to his time living in Nashville as a songwriter and musician. He talks about his transition out of pre-med in college to major in music at Brooklyn College and how his 19 years in Tennessee allowed him personal and career growth. Ira explains how he was prompted to move away from Nashville to find a place that aligned more with his queer, liberal Jew identity and eventually settled on Vancouver. Ira talks about being married to a woman, while still wanting to explore his queer sexuality and how this complicated their relationship. He then talks about his current partner of over 17 years that he met soon after moving to Vancouver. Ira closes with reflections on being gay and Jewish, and the advice that one’s care, compassion and kindness can be the keys to fulfilling relationships alongside being oneself.