Irene Buenavida BITC SD-H264
[0:00:02] Lisette: Hello, this is an interview with Irene Saudai [sp?] - Buenavida in Montreal. My name is Lisette Shashoua [Sp?]. The is a project for Sephardi Voices and the camera, the camera person is Hugo Dufort. The cameraman ...
[0:00:29] Irene: The person who is filming.
[0:00:31] Lisette: The person who is filming Hugo Dufour.
[0:00:34] Henry: Ok, we'll do it one more time let's begin again.
[0:00:36] Lisette: OK, delete, delete.
[0:00:40] Irene: And Then he says Montreal, you shoulds say Montreal, Canada.
[0:00:42] Lisette: Ok.
[0:00:42] Henry: Yeah, you say shoulds Montreal, Canada.
[0:00:45] Lisette: You got the best here.
[0:00:46] Irene: No, no best.
[0:00:49] David: Okay ladies, let's go.
[0:00:53] Lisette Uh hello, this is an interview that takes place in Montreal, Canada. It is a project of Sephardi Voices uh, the person I interview is Irene Saudai [sp?] - Buenavida and I'm Lisette Shashua [sp?]. The person filming is Hugo Dufort. The date is May 1, 2016.
[0:01:26] Irene: The May 1, 2016.
[0:01:28] Lisette: This is the ...
[0:01:28] Irene: You say it in English.
[00:01:29] David: It's okay, it's okay we'll go with the French improper. In the end it's not the end of the world.
[0:01:38] Irene: I'm sorry.
[0:01:38] David: One will say, "Who is this French speaker Like, c'mon?". kay so I have two questions. Sit, sit, sit. Okay so two easy questions, are you comfortable and everything?
[0:01:52] Lisette: I'm comfortable.
[0:01:53] David: So if she Asked you the issues you Answered year in French Because We do not really hear her, we hear you.
[0:02:02] Lisette: Ah, They Do not hear my question.
[0:02:04] David: So for you, is it better Because her French is not 100%.
[0:02:10] Lisette: No. I'm gonna try ...
[0:02:12] David: ... and I will pass or notes along the way in terms of Extending issues so you do not hear me.
[0:02:19] Irene: They're not gonna see my belly.
[0:02:20] David: No.
[0:02:22] Lisette: I can not see your belly Either.
[0:02:24] David: One second, just let me work out some ...
[0:02:27] Irene: I am prète.
[0:02:27] David: Here are my notes.
[0:02:28] Lisette: They are not.
[0:02:29] Irene: Oh.
[0:02:30] Lisette: Tell me when.
[0:02:32] David: Okay we're rolling. Anytime.
[0:02:35] Lisette: What is your full name, the whole?
[0:02:38] Irene: My name is Irene Saudai [sp?] - Buenavida.
[0:02:44] Lisette: And your name at birth?
[0:02:48] Irene: It's Saudai and my Hebrew name is Rina.
[0:02:54] Lisette: And you are what year?
[0:02:57] Irene: I am August 1, 1947 in Cairo, Egypt.
[0:03:04] Lisette: So now you are what age?
[0:03:07] Irene: I am 69 years old.
[0:03:11] Lisette: then you are born in Cairo, Egypt. Thank you very much from Sephardi Voices for giving us this interview. So is what you can tell me something about the origin of your family?
[0:03:33] Irene: The origins of my family? They are very mixed. So here we'll start with my grandparents who were born in Tiberias to Jerusalem, they came to Egypt because there were problems in the water that was polluted. [0:03:50] Then my father he came from Iraq, Baghdad at the age of 12 years, 12 years and then my mother was born in Egypt, my father was born, as I have said he was born in Baghdad. My parents-they come from Spain, they immigrants in Turkey. They went down into Egypt and as I wrote in my book there is an Salata Baladi. It is a mix of everything so in the end we do not know who we are.
[0:04:23] Lisette: And your story? Can you tell us something of your story?
[0:04:27] Irene: So here I was born on August 1, 1947 in Cairo Egypt. So it was just a few months before the state of Israel was proclaimed a Jewish state. I was still very young and then with time when I was the age of eight, I started to understand more of the first things I heard in my life was the bombing. We were bombed. I saw that my parents were collapsed, they were afraid. We had to put ... log on, on the windows so that there is no light because otherwise we could be heard in the street. [Arabic] [0:05:18] This means, "Cash Jews turn off the lights and go or we'll come kill you." So my parents they were very afraid. The first thing they did, my brother, my sister and I went to a place under ground to be able to hide until the siren ends then we could go back. [0:05:40] So it's very hard at the age of eight years not knowing what was the war, I found the war. And over the years of course it was not easy. Increasingly Gamal Abdel Nasser had many difficulties. most had the right to go to schools, to the misuzu [?] in our homes, participate in Judaism anyone who was in Cairo. [0:06:05] It was becoming increasingly difficult and most dûr is that when they came to ask after my brother was 18, and they had to throw him in jail that he did not a Zionist movement. We had, as opposed Salam in fact, in peace, a gentleman named Victor Iraqi Fahrhi [sp?] Which is occupied by the small Egyptian community and he came to say, I regret not Egyptian, Jewish. [0:06:34] And he said to my mother, "You better ferz scaring your son because otherwise it will be thrown in jail." My brother was 18. My father and mother had to separate from him not knowing if one day they were going to see. We left it to Alexandria to take the boat. My mother and father were crying, I do not know why, why they were crying. [0:07:05] Perce they knew it was a day he would never see their son at the age of 18. At that time it was difficult to communicate. We could not send him money. what is it we could not know now, what he did so it was very hard. Uh, here.
[0:07:30] Lisette: Thank you. Do you have any memories of your, your grandparents?
[0:07:36] Irene: The memory of my grandparents. Yes of course. Since I was young I loved many go to my grandparents. While the grandparents were called Nono, for grandfather, Nona, for grandmother. And we had lots and lots of fun to meet ...
[0:07:58] Lisette: I'm sorry, is that it is the parents of your mother or your father?
[0:08:04] Irene: We called them both. Whether grandmother, their nicknames were Nono and Nona. Shabbat and we met in the home of my paternal grandmother named Rifka and did many tappage [?]. It was lovely and it was like she made the Iraqi DeFina [?] And what it now calls the tbit [sp?]. And I loved it because it tbit remained all night on fire. That's the good memories I had.
[0:08:38] Lisette: So you, you were with them until what age?
[0:08:44] Irene: They are ...
[0:08:44] Lisette: You have other stories from your grandparents?
[0:08:47] Irene: From my grandparents. My grandparents, uh, mother's side, they died in Egypt. Paternal I can not tell you exactly what year I was very small. I have not known my maternal grandfather. My paternal grandfather I knew, he was buried in Egypt and my grandmother is a party she was buried in Israel. [0:09:10] So we, the Jews of Egypt, the Jews scattered even to their death each was buried another place. Here.
[0:09:21] Lisette: And your tbit, tell us, the tbit of memories ... with your grandparents.
[0:09:31] Irene: tbit is why the recipe, which is very interesting in that it is very simple but the fact that it cooked overnight on a small stove, I call it warming because it was the instrument they employed. So it's, it's rice with chicken, eggs and let cook slowly overnight. The next morning the house smelled of DeFina [sp?] Oh, that put you mouth water. [00:10:04] The little eggs that were inside they became dark and we little kids we were crazy those little eggs. And all the time there were disputes that it was going to take the eggs so we had to cut them in half so that everyone has a little piece of the egg DeFina. The tbit.
[0:10:21] Lisette: Oh good memories. And your parents, uh, when are they married? What can you tell us about your parents?
[0:10:35] Irene: My father was a good man. Already at the age of 12 when he came to Egypt he knew he could not go to school, he had to help his father. So they opened a small factory or a factory, which made socks and since that age he fought very hard in life to be successful. [0:10:59] And thank you god good god rewarded there. He opened his small factory and made the socks. My father was a very, very hard worker. For him, it was slave labor. Because he had to feed five mouths in the house. My mother did not work, it was not customary for the Egyptian Jewish women working so they had to take care of raising us, we three, my brother, my sister and I and then life was very hard. [0:11:28] So he had to work very hard to make money at home. I unfortunately could not enjoy my father the way I would have liked for what he was working day and night. The only day he had with us was Saturday. It was all of a joy to be around and he laughed with us and when it was the holiday period we left for two weeks in a place called Ras El-Bar and there he was very happy. [0:11:55] He was so relaxed he came out in his pajamas. He went to the beach pajamas. It was always in my pajamas because he was relaxed this was common. You could see everyone walk in pajamas. That is a beautiful memory I have of my father.
[00:12:11] Lisette: And they were married at what age your parents?
[0:12:17] Irene: My parents married well, uh, we can say in 1945. That's it.
[0:12:25] Lisette: And what age they had all of them?
[0:12:29] Irene: My father and mother how old they were? You know, at this time we not give ages. So all I remember after the photo I saw of their marriage it was 1945. But uh, let's say my mother she was born in 1914 and she is married in 1945 so I leave you the choice analyze the situation in the calculations. Because it will be too complicated for me to go back.
[0:13:00] Lisette: And her maiden name to your mom?
[0:13:04] Irene: Abourbi [sp?]. Abourbi it is spring, Rabia. [?] So that was her maiden name.
[0:13:16] Lisette: What a beautiful name. So what Cairo area did they live? If you can describe the area where they lived your parents or you.
[0:13:43] Irene: Uh before marriage?
[0:13:44] Lisette: Before and after yes.
[0:13:47] Irene: Before marrying my parents uh, listen I'll tell you something very simple. Our parents, our parents at the time they were so concerned with raising their children, to bring money into the house, education of children, they did not talk much about these things. [0:14:12] Me, I can tell you that I was born in the sector Daher and after that we moved because there was an earthquake.
[0:14:20] Lisette: Would you describe the area?
[0:14:23] Irene: The region? Ben is sure that all Egypt is not so rich, right? So we were in a common area, very ordinary so that the building had there's an earthquake, the building looked downright aside and stayed several years without an apartment. We had to live with the grandparents uh, it was not easy to get ... the overcrowding of Egypt it was not easy to find an apartment. [0:14:55] We always had to pay some called a good, a good output. Ie pay a person to leave the apartment so we can have it. So dwelling in Egypt was very, very difficult. The children lived with their parents until their wedding day and it has become a custom. [0:15:16] When did that now I have my son here who lived with me until [inaudible] I see married someday. And after the earthquake we were living in another neighborhood. I'm sorry, I do not remember. And what I remember before leaving to come to Montreal it was Midane Babelou [sp?]. It was a roundabout where prenanit the train to Zamalek, Daher and it was very, very busy. [0:15:51] Y'avait lot of people, I remember it like it was yesterday.
[0:15:57] Lisette: And what was your grandfather's job?
[0:16:02] Irene: usurer. My grandfather Jakov Abourabia [sp?] Or Abourabien was usurer. He had 10 children he had to feed. He was also very religious. So I have a little bit of ...
[0:16:20] Lisette: Usurer means what exactly?
[0:16:22] Irene: Oh, usurer which means that people came with their jewelry, they left their jewelry and advancing them money.
[0:16:30] Lisette: Oh.
[0:16:30] Irene: He did that, yes.
[0:16:33] Lisette: And your grandfather Iraq it came at the age of 12 years and it did ...
[0:16:39] Irene: This is my father, who came to the age of 12 but his father, because the situation in Iraq was very difficult. There was no work for him while he had a brother who lived in Egypt ....
[0:16:50] Lisette: What year? Do you know?
[0:16:52] Irene: No. Sadly.
[0:16:53] Lisette: And he was born in what year your father?
[0:16:56] Irene: My father or my grandfather?
[0:16:57] Lisette: Your father was born in what year?
[0:17:00] Irene: Uh, in 1914 I think.
[0:17:05] Lisette: OK. As your mom.
[0:17:09] Irene: Yes, yes, yes. ls had a difference ... very small age difference. And my grandfather did not want my father married my mother.
[0:17:18] Lisette: Why?
[0:17:19] Irene: Because it was not, my grandfather did not think my father, he did not have a really solid job compared to all his children who all summer so my mother was educated madly in love with him. He stayed off the balcony to the expectation of when she would walk to follow. He was very in love with her. And my mother too. [0:17:46] So my grandfather he said, "I have no choice, they then like they are getting married."
[0:17:50] Lisette: They were happy all their lives?
[0:17:51] Irene: They summers happy. They were happy but unfortunately life rumpled with them, with the situation of Arabs who were mistreated us and that joy was not complete. The joy was not complete.
[0:18:09] Lisette: But they always loved?
[0:18:09] Irene: Of course. They loved each other, they had three beautiful children, I am an example ...
[0:18:17] Lisette: It's beautiful. And tell me about others, your, religion of the family. Were you religious?
[0:18:26] Irene: Yes. Yes Yes. My grandfather...
[0:18:29] Lisette: The Sépharates, festivals, how you how you celebrate it? Your Shabbat, tell us about Sabbath.
[0:18:37] Irene: Ok, do you want, I speak of the Sabbath from us at home now, now? From the ancient times.
[0:18:46] Lisette: Your parents.
[0:18:48] Irene: Oh, my parents. So like I said my father was a slave labor uh, he had to survive the needs of his family so the only day he had off was Saturday and he needed this day to rest, a lot. But yesterday my mother, of course, she had to prepare all the food in advance. There was no way to cook on Shabbat, there was no question of turning on the lights, phone we forget because we had no phone, there was no television then, though, this situation helped us be shomer Shabbat. [0:19:25] And my grandparents also were also very religious, uh, my grandfather I remember he had, he had eight boys and eight boys every morning were put on tefillin [sp ?] and all sit next to each other to pray but there's, eh, there's always a black sheep in the family. It was my uncle when my grandfather went he took the paper behind him, he was out and he was reading the newspaper.
[0:19:55] Lisette: With the tefillin. But the newspaper before him. So one day my grandfather caught him he said, "David, what are you doing? Why you do not pray like your brothers?" He replies, "But why me, I want to disturb the good god because my brothers already do?" It's a story that I still remember. So this is to say that I come from a very religious culture in the family.
[0:20:22] Lisette: And your grandfather how he reacted? He hit her? He laughs? What?
[0:20:26] Irene: No, he laughed. It was that it was "hopeless" as they say. Despair in the boy who does not pray or nor, but he always put his tefillin to please his father. Here.
[0:20:42] Lisette: It's good that. Ok, so you did not have to, special preparations for Shabbat at home at home.
[0:20:52] Irene: Yes, of course. Of course, absolutely.
[0:20:54] Lisette: Dining but no synagogue anyway.
[0:20:56] Irene: The synagogue was important to us. On Friday evening the whole community was in the oldest Synagogue, the largest synagogue which had more than 100 years. It's called Kinista Smaleyah [sp?] Is the Sha'ar Shamayim [sp?] If we want to translate it. It was mandatory before proceeding to table to go to the synagogue. And my mother made us very good meal. It was the kiddush, he had not so y'avait challah bread always. It was the kiddush on bread, on the wine, we could not have bread, wine either. [0:21:35] From the grape juice and the custom continues here. And then eat and then after that everyone was doing his little life, and it ended there.
[0:21:47] Lisette: Ok, do the ladies went to the synagogues too? Or is it just men?
[0:21:52] Irene: It was just men but women were Saturday.
[0:21:54] Lisette: Ah.
[0:21:55] Irene: Yes Saturday morning we went to the synagogue.
[0:21:58] Lisette: You too?
[0:21:58] Irene: I also went to the synagogue.
[0:22:00] Lisette: Ok and for lunch, for ...
[0:22:03] Irene: For lunch we returned to the house when we eat, we were always invited to my grandmother who made us the tbit. So on one hand it gave him a little rest for not cooking for Saturday. It was all the time with my grandmother. I looked forward to this Shabbat, every Shabbat.
[0:22:22] Lisette: So your grandmother is your grandmother mater ... Father.
[0:22:25] Irene: Paternal.
[0:22:26] Lisette: So she came to Iraq as well.
[0:22:28] Irene: Yes of course.
[0:22:29] Lisette: With your ...
[0:22:30] Irene: With my grandfather. Because my grandfather did not work in Iraq.
[0:22:35] Lisette: Ah, I thought it was just your dad was ...
[0:22:39] Irene: No, my grandfather came with his family of five.
[0:22:43] Lisette: Will, who was, who was the ... shopping at home for meals? It's your mom or your dad?
[0:22:55] Irene: So here was my mother who was shopping for the holidays. Now it's very special to Egypt because the fruit will go down the street and he will shout aloud, "I have good potatoes!" Then my mother she called the man and had a wicker basket with a rope, she was down, she said to him, "Set me a potato kilo but chosen me good potatoes eh? No apples land spoiled. " And she was talking aloud the same price. [0:23:30] They haggled all the time it was haggling, she pulled the rope and then after that the other went with another vegetable so very rarely went out. For meat there was no kosher meat, y'avait just one day a week that had meat kosher so we had right one day a week to eat meat. We do not eat meat, there was no chocolate, it was even censured for pieces of soap. [0:24:00] So, but you know what? With all that I am, I found that life was pleasant. I not realize the difficulty but it was my mother who was the market, not my father. My father was work, work, work. Here.
[0:24:16] Lisette: For all the time. For parties and for the Sabbaths and for the week.
[0:24:21] Irene: All the time she was my mother.
[0:24:24] Lisette: And so how do you fish? Do you buy fish too?
[00:24:33] Irene: If you bought the fish?
[0:24:34] Lisette: Yes, do you eat fish? Because...
[0:24:36] Irene: Yes, yes.
[0:24:37] Lisette: If you do not eat meat ...
[0:24:40] Irene: Yes. you know everything is very expensive in Egypt at that time. So it was a lot of bread and cheese and it was much the falafel to be called, it is not called falafel in Egypt. tameya and it is called the foul is m'dammes beans. So even already since very little is what I ate all the time. It's beans and falafel, beans and falafel and cheese.
[0:25:08] Lisette: That was your protein.
[0:25:10] Irene: What is protein is protein that was because you could afford to buy much.
[0:25:15] Lisette: And you did, did you have someone helping you at home or as domestic?
[0:25:23] Irene: Yes. We had no choice. There is not now, as now it is so modernized, that's great. Everything was handmade. So we had a little maid who came and then it's funny I'll tell you, my mother was very generous with the good. She gave her everything she wanted. [0:25:42] But she was flying still good. She descended from the house and she was flying. One day my mother asked her, she said, "Fatma, whatever you ask me I will give you, why do you rob me?" She said, "But it is written in our Quran to rob the Jews and I have to follow what is written in my Koran." So it's amazing already Semitism existed since I was eight years old and I remember this story.
[0:26:12] Lisette: And she was the only good that you had? Do you uh, chastened after that?
[0:26:18] Irene: Well we change everything good time. We always sought that which was the cheapest there was. That was it.
[0:26:25] Lisette: They were always ...
[0:26:26] Irene: There were those who were kind, there were those thieves, those thieves, those who were not, but it was, that was what he there was. We had to take what was on the market.
[0:26:36] Lisette: Ever Muslim?
[0:26:37] Irene: All Muslim. There is no, the Jews, no. Neither Christians nor Jews.
[0:26:44] Lisette: Ok, so you remember the synagogue?
[0:26:48] Irene: Yes. As I explain there's been two synagogues. Uh I mention two synagogues because there's been a synagogue in Kinista Smaleyah [sp?] The great synagogue or rabbi Nahum Chaiim [sp?], The king brought from France, is a Turkish rabbi was a good friend of my grandfather. An authority. He was the adviser to the king. [0:27:12] And uh, it was a very prestigious synagogue. We were altar boys, a very large synagogue women remained on top and then y'avait all wood so we could see through the wood holes. The men prayed down. On Friday night and Saturday singing was wonderful. As if we were in an opera because all those boys they had a beautiful voice. [0:27:38] And that's very touching, very beautiful stuff. So this is a synagogue that many people got married there. Many [inaudible] happened there. My brother he studied his Bar Mitzvah there and you need to Pesach is over there we bought everything. There were no stores or you could buy all the, all the ingredients for Easter and the matza was made there too. [0:28:07] Now since we could not do much matza on Passover complemented the meal with rice and potatoes. And that's why all Egyptians Jews can eat rice on Passover. another synagogue which is very important, I really need to mention is Ben Ezra. [0:28:27] This is one of the synagogues vigils Ben Ezra and history says this synagogue from the concierge, because it is called the concierge in Egypt on Baouab. It is these who know the old stories that were happening. So we asked him this story, what's his story? He told us, come and I'll make you descend down into the well. You will see water. And this water Moise was fishing. [0:28:58] A few years later my uncle said to me that every Friday he went into the synagogue, he was not in the other synagogue to continue the routine there is still the world in this synagogue which is more than 2000 years old. You get into this synagogue is written in Hebrew in large letters, "This is where Moses was pray to God before going to meet Pharaoh." This synagogue began to fall into disrepair. [0:29:29] When he was there on the act of peace between Begin and Sadat Sadat when he really wanted to please the people of Israel, he said, "We will restore the synagogue collapses and that no one goes there. " So Sadat contacted Charles Bronfman the great architect who is known here in Montreal, Canada, and asked him to restore the synagogue so there is share with her sister Phyllis Lambert Bronfman, two architects who all defrayed the cost to restore the synagogue 've become a wonder. [0:30:14] To talk synagogue unfortunately our two synagogues are now closed and it's sad heart because there Magda Haroun who is president of a flourishing Egyptian Jewish community of 80,000, they are only all nine women married to Muslims and unfortunately when Magda told me she said, "when the phone rings I do not know yet who will die because there are more marriages, there are no more nothing is being done. "[0:30:49] While the synagogues are no longer functional. That's what makes me sad.
[0:30:54] Lisette: But at least they still exist. They are not all bombed or anything.
[0:30:58] Irene: The two synagogues summers well, well, well held by the government, I have to thank the Government of Egypt. This is especially Kinista Smaleyah where I lived there, where I spent my youth, my whole jadaica was there and it is used as a museum. So they put soldiers outside, you can go visit but with permission and leave your passport at the door when you come home.
[0:31:28] Lisette: And tell me, the Guenizah ...
[0:31:30] Irene: The Guenizah, was in the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
[0:31:35] Lisette: She's still there?
[0:31:37] Irene: But this is the synagogue that Phyllis Bronfman Lambert restored and that's where we can see the existence of the Jewish people who lived in Egypt. Through Guenizah can read all their stories.
[0:31:51] Lisette: And Guenizah is still there or it is part ...
[0:31:53] Irene: The Guenisah she went to England and other parts of the world too. But I know especially that of England yes.
[0:32:04] Lisette: Yes. While it is still there.
[0:32:06] Irene: The Guenizah is in the university of England. Yes.
[0:32:11] Lisette: So there's nothing left in Ben Ezra?
[00:32:16] Irene: No, just the, the sépharimes and prayer books.
[0:32:19] Lisette: Oh there is still [inaudible]. So tell me about your school and if there were any, tell us about your school.
[0:32:29] Irene: From my school. Well, my mother was a French teacher, before marrying course. Because when you are mayor can no longer work. So for her study was very important. My mother told us that having a diploma in hand is the best investment that I can give to my children. But as Iraqi boys they love my brother was entitled to a great education in the religious school which was called the brothers. [0:33:02] We, my sister and I, she made us change very often at school every time she said, "No, that's not good enough." So it was high in several schools run by nuns, Catholics. And until she could find it, I went through so many schools that I most remember the name of all these schools. But towards the end there was a school that was called Milk Goute which was founded by [inaudible name], and they wanted my parents wanted to give me a bit of Judaism