Interview date: 10/10/2017

Interviewer: Lisette Shashoua

Location: Montreal, Canada

Total time: 1:56:57

Isaac Sedaka: Born in Baghdad, Iraq on August 15th, 1938. Arrived in Canada in 1971.

[00:00:01] Lisette: Can we start? Hello Mr. Sedaka. Thank you so much for participating in our interview today with Sephardi Voices. Could you please tell me your name, your place and date of birth? 

[00:00:15] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, my name is Isaac Sedaka and date of birth is the 15th of August 1938. 

[00:00:25] Lisette: And you were

[00:00:26] Isaac Sedaka: I was born in Baghdad.

[00:00:29] Lisette: Um, and your name when you were born was Isaac also? 

[00:00:34] Isaac Sedaka: Isaac Sedaka. 

[00:00:35] Lisette: Okay. Can I ask you how old you are today?

[00:00:38] Isaac Sedaka:  I am 79. 

[00:00:40] Lisette: Okay. Thank you very much for coming today. Okay now, can you please tell me about your family background? Your parents, your grandparents...

[00:00:54] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, as I said my great-grandfather was Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, he was well known during the Turkish rule of Baghdad. And my father was an employee in a construction company and he was also a cantor for free. He is not paid. He does it for free. And he, he's very religious and on Shabbat we don’t' cook, we don't light electricity and we don't shop. 

[00:01:32] Lisette: And you were saying…[overlap]

[00:01:33] Isaac Sedaka: And I used tog go every day with him to the synagogue the morning, in the afternoon as well. 

[00:01:40] Lisette: Wow. 

[00:01:41] Isaac Sedaka: And I have never seen him uh, reading any book. He memorized the prayers. He has a great memory. 

[00:01:51] Lisette: How lovely. 

[00:01:51] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. And, as I said before, that in Iraq the owner, the deceased [?] if the family is well to do they buy a house, small house turn it to a synagogue. It was no more than 100 people and in our neighbourhood my father volunteer to be a cantor. [00:02:20] You, know, free. It's not like here cantor is being paid. But in Baghdad most, most, most of the cantors are free, you know? It was, they work but they do the prayers in the spare time or during the day. 

[00:02:38] Lisette: Was there a rabbi all the time in the synagogue in Baghdad?

[00:02:43] Isaac Sedaka: In Baghdad the rabbi you don't see him. It's only the cantor. The rabbi is stationed in a place, all rabbis, and they deal with a lot of things like divorce, like, like traditions, like uh...explanation and that's it really. But very rare them, rarely you see a, a rabbi in a small synagogue. [00:03:13] Maybe the rabbi will go in the big synagogue. There are three big synagogues in Baghdad but in these small synagogues, the cantor conduct the prayer. 

[00:03:24] Lisette: What are the names of the synagogue in Baghdad, the big ones?

[00:03:30] Isaac Sedaka: I don't really remember. 

[00:03:31] Lisette: Isn't one called Slat Likbiri [sp?]

[00:03:33] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:03:34] Lisette: Slat Likbiri?

[00:03:36] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, I don't remember the name. 

[00:03:38] Lisette: Oh, you don't. 

[00:03:39] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. 

[00:03:39] Lisette: Have you been to it? The big one? The big synagogue. 

[00:03:42] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. 

[00:03:43] Lisette: Have you been to it?

[00:03:45] Isaac Sedaka: I'm...I, I, yeah, I was there. I was in that particular synagogue as well. It's a big one and um...uh, I was a kid there but I don't remember the name. But I know the location. 

[00:04:06] Lisette: Mm-hm. Where...

[00:04:07] Isaac Sedaka: It's near [Shonza?] bazaar. I don't know whether you know?

[00:04:11] Lisette: Yes. Very far. 

[00:04:13] Isaac Sedaka: It's nearby, the call it Slet Mi'ir [sp?]. i now remember. Slet Mi'ir. 

[00:04:21] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:04:21] Isaac Sedaka: Meaning synagogue of Mi'ir, so the guy who built it is the Mi'ir family. Yeah. 

[00:04:30] Lisette: Okay, can you tell me something about your grandparents?

[00:04:34] Isaac Sedaka: My...?

[00:04:35] Lisette: Your grandparents. 

[00:04:37] Isaac Sedaka: Grandparents?

[00:04:37] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:04:38] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, my grandparents uh, also they were religious people. And also they, he was a cantor but I don't remember what kind of work he was doing. He must be an employee somewhere. We were not a rich family anyway. 

[00:04:56] Lisette: Did you...

[00:04:58] Isaac Sedaka: My mother is from the Mashaal [sp?] family. She is cousin of the Mashaal. She is a Mashaal. As you know Wilmer Mashaal and Maurice Mashaal is my cousin. 

[00:05:11] Lisette: Oh, ok. Did you say there was a rabbi in your family?

[00:05:16] Isaac Sedaka: What?

[00:05:16] Lisette: You said there was a rabbi in your family. 

[00:05:19] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, Rabbi Setka [sp?]. 

[00:05:20] Lisette: How far...?

[00:05:21] Isaac Sedaka: He's a great, great my, great-grandfather. 

[00:05:24] Lisette: Okay.

[00:05:26] Isaac Sedaka: And he, he was a chief Rabbi in 1980, no, no, 1880. [overlap]

[00:05:33] Lisette: 1880. 

[00:05:34] Isaac Sedaka: 18th century and he came from Syria. They need a, a rabbi, a chief rabbi and he was so knowledgeable that he was commissioned to come to Baghdad and be the Grand Rabbi. 

[00:05:53] Lisette: Yeah. I heard some rabbis came, there was one called Bekor also, no? Rabbi that came from Syria?

[00:06:01] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:06:03] Lisette: Also, because there was a sickness in Baghdad at the time. Rabbi died. 

[00:06:07] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah, and this is, this is what why my father told me. 

[00:06:13] Lisette: Okay, tell me about your brothers and sisters and how you grew up.

[00:06:17] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] My brother Josef is my elder brother. he was an employee of Ottoman bank, an employee there. My sister Hanina was in the t'noah [sp?] and she had to flee Iraq to Iran because if you were caught, she would be tortured because she was an active member. 

[00:06:43] Lisette: How old was she when she escaped. How old was she when she left Iraq?

[00:06:48] Isaac Sedaka: She was, she was at that time maybe 19, 28 - 28 years old. 

[00:06:54] Lisette: Twenty-eight?

[00:06:54] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. Twenty-eight or eighteen?

[00:06:57] Isaac Sedaka: Twenty-eight, twenty-six, twenty six year...

[00:07:00] Lisette: Years old. 

[00:07:01] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. 

[00:07:02] Lisette: She was not married at 26?

[00:07:03] Isaac Sedaka: No, no she was not married. She was also an employee of Ottoman bank. 

[00:07:09] Lisette: Oh, ok. And when did she escape from Iraq?

[00:07:14] Isaac Sedaka: She escaped uh, in, you know when they discovered the [inaudible] in the synagogue...

[00:07:19] Lisette: Yes, yes.

[00:07:20] Isaac Sedaka: And they tortured these people and at that time I think it was in 19...maybe 1951 or '50. In that range, after the 1948. 

[00:07:33] Lisette: Okay [inaudible] when there was a mass migration. 

[00:07:36] Isaac Sedaka: In that, in that, or before that as well. 

[00:07:39] Lisette: Okay. Uh, so you have a sister and a brother.

[00:07:43] Isaac Sedaka: Two - I have three sisters. 

[00:07:45] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:07:46] Isaac Sedaka: One sister, then I have Louise, she, she passed away cancer in Israel.

[00:07:54] Lisette: Sorry. 

[00:07:56] Isaac Sedaka: And then I have Angèle, she's still in Israel. And uh, my brother Josef passed away last year. 

[00:08:05] Lisette: Sorry. 

[00:08:04] Isaac Sedaka: ...and Hanina [sp?] passed away three months ago. 

[00:08:08] Lisette: Oh, sorry. Sorry. Um, what do you remember growing up at home The festivals? The uh...

[00:08:15] Isaac Sedaka: Well I, well you know a student at Alliance school. You know, had so many friends and we had good time really before 1948. And I graduated from the Alliance school and then the Shemashe school. And, and then I joined a [inaudible] agents in Baghdad so I had, I don't know whether remember...?

[00:08:42] Lisette: Shohet?

[00:08:43] Isaac Sedaka: Shohet. Haron Shohet, he was [inaudible] in the British, in the British consulate uh, he is fluent in Germany and Turkish. He was a great man and even when he comes from the embassy, gave him a horse so that he can drive the horse from his embassy to his house. [00:09:10] And uh, his son Sadah [sp?] was in my class. 

[00:09:14] Lisette: Sadah Shoher?

[00:09:16] Isaac Sedaka: Sadah Shoher. 

[00:09:17] Lisette: The one who lives [overlap] in London?

[00:09:18] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, in London. 

[00:09:20] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:09:20] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. Sadah Shoher was my best mate and he told me, why don't you join us? We are in insurance [inaudible] insurance brokers. Come and join us. So I joined them until 1951. From 1948 to 1951 I was an employee there. And then finally Sadah Shoher left to Italy and then to London with his brother David. [00:09:57] And so they, the office was closed, they can't be [stammers] agent anymore after 1948.

[00:10:10] Lisette: It was closed by the government?

[00:10:11] Isaac Sedaka: By the government so to me to find a job I...I at that time I was teaching the son of Abdel [inaudible last name]. He was....

[00:10:25] Lisette: Emile. 

[00:10:26] Isaac Sedaka: He was uh, the assistant manager of Eastern Bank. And he asked me at one time to give lessons in chemistry to his son, which I did and then one, and then since the Jews are leaving Iraq, insurance company they have an agent by the name of Gebbai [sp?], Salah Gebbai or something like that. [00:10:54] And he left Iraq to Italy. So the manager of that company came to Iraq, to Baghdad, and asked [Batat?] if he can find replace - an agent replacing the old ones. So Abdullah Betali [?] say, "Well look, the only one who knows insurance is Isaac Sedaka but he can't function without Muslim partners. And the name has to be Muslim and he just be a silent partner." [00:11:32] So, so I did that and uh, the manager of the insurance company came to interview me. He asked me questions about insurance. He was satisfied. He said, but you are - at that time I was 20 years old. He said, "Look, you are young for me to give you...contract of insurance and you do everything on our behalf. It's - you are young," so he said to me, [00:12:03] "But I decided to give it to you. You impressed me. But I'm going to give you an advice. I am going to give you a cow, milk it gently because if you milk it too much, it's going to die and you will have no income." So that thing is in my mind all the time that you have to be honest and you have to be straightforward and you have to work hard. So...

[00:12:29] Lisette: Beautiful. 

[00:12:30] Isaac Sedaka: At the time, whatever commission we get, I get one third, the Muslim take two-thirds. 

[00:12:36] Lisette: Why?

[00:12:39] Isaac Sedaka: Because I'm using their name. This is the...

[00:12:42] Lisette: And you are doing all the work. 

[00:12:44] Isaac Sedaka: I am doing all the work and we were the biggest. I had 15 employees in my office. 

[00:12:50] Lisette: What was the name of the company?

[00:12:52] Isaac Sedaka: The name is...Hamza and Abbas El-Dursi [sp?], you know, at that time. 

[00:13:00] Lisette: Sigorta. 

[00:13:01] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, Haj, el-haj, haji. So but everybody knows that I was the really principal, and I have a lot of respect because I was fair with everybody and in Iraq is not like here. You have a broker. In Iraq you have to be an agent. In other words you represent the company, you pay claims, you tariff [?]. You uh, it's not like uh, if somebody has damages you appoint surveyors. It's you, as a company. It's not like a broker whereby the insurance company issues a policy but an agent is a company. [00:13:44] And I worked from 1951 till 1969 when the Jews were hanged. They told me, the Muslims, don't come to the office anymore because they were afraid they will be associated with a Jew and they might be hanged or imprisoned, whatever have you. 

[00:14:10] Lisette: And what happened to the business?

[00:14:11] Isaac Sedaka: So I stayed, the business, whatever thy owe I me I didn't get a penny because they were bad people, you know. What can you do? And uh, the owe me  lot of money. And uh, but, you know, and they said, don't come to the office anymore so I stayed home from '69 till '71, I got the passport. [00:14:39] And we were, I was the first family leaving Iraq with a passport. And the reason being that while I was in Iraq I published a book on Guide to Marine Insurance. And it was the first book in Arabic whereby it lay the laws and regulations of the pillars [?] of the sea uh, and maritime laws. [00:15:10] And it was acknowledged as one of the best book ever, eh, even in the Arabic newspaper. The newspaper was El Elhawad, it meaning "the news". And the minister of trade at that time, all the policies and tarification were in English. [00:15:34] And the minister of trade, he said, this is ridiculous. We are, we are Arabic, I mean, it has to be done in Arabic. So they have appointed me as head of committee to translate the policies in Engl- in Arabic, make tarification in Arabic and everything has to be done in Arabic. So I was appointed head of that committee. [00:16:03] And then this committee was dissolved..

[00:16:06] Lisette: Now what year was that?

[00:16:06] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:16:08] Lisette: What year was that?

[00:16:09] Isaac Sedaka: That year was in - before...before the Six Day War. It was in 1966. You know, the - 1966 and then afterwards in 19 - when the war, Six Day War, he sent me policeman to tell me, "You don't have to attend anymore. You are, you are out." So...

[00:16:38] Lisette: Were you paid for what you did?

[00:16:42] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[00:16:42] Lisette: Were you paid for what you did?

[00:16:45] Isaac Sedaka: Well, you know, this helped me when I got the passport because my lawyer, who is a Muslim, is a very close friend of mine, we are very much in uh, in relationship with his family and he was a great man. And still now he writes me all the time and even he sent me the pictures of uh, the finance minister Skell [sp?]. He always and uh...[00:17:13] He went to the minister of interior Saydoun Reydan [sp?] he was at that time and he says, Isaac did so much for Iraq, he translate everything, he took a copy of the book I wrote in Arabic and he says, "His wife is sick and he want to go to England for treatment, whatever have you. So because he did so much and I want you to give him a special passport." [00:17:41] So we were the first family to leave and he gave us, from the minister of interior, not from the passport department. 

[00:17:51] Lisette: Ah!

[00:17:51] Isaac Sedaka: So he gave an order to give me. And there was a story that, in 1953, which is a great story. 1953 I tried to get a passport.

[00:18:02] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:18:05] Isaac Sedaka: And so I applied for a passport and they said, we have so many names, Isaac Sat, Isaac Ezra, Isaac Ezra uh, so many names who have been denationalized he went to Israel. You have to prove you are not one of them. 

[00:18:24] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:18:25] Isaac Sedaka: So this is impossible to prove. How could I prove that I am not one of them, you know? So many names at that time, there were hundred and fifty thousand Jews is Iraq, so how many people have the same name? Isaac Ezra for example? So I asked a good, big singer of Baghdad, very well-known. His name is Mohammad El-nubaji [sp?]. [00:18:56] So I said to him - and he was, his partner was also Jewish, Salas Hayouk and uh, I always go there because they were importer of second-hand clothing and I use all the correspondence myself in English so that they could order the goods. [00:19:15] So the guy became, [inaudible] became my close friend and I ask him, I have a problem for the passport. He said, "I am going to come with you to the security people so that you can get a passport." So he went there and he says, he started like this, he said, "You know Isaac, he is not like other Jews, you know? He's different. He love, he love Prophet Mohammed, he knows the Quran, he can recite classic Arabic and he's unbelievable. It's too bad he's a Jew."

[00:19:53] Lisette: [laughs]

[00:19:54] Isaac Sedaka: "But, you know, but he's a good man." So he said. And the security per - officer was impressed. He says, is that so? Okay, he authorized that I issue a passport. On our way back from the security department to [???] office he says, "Did I do well?" I mean, he was jubilant that he did such a good thing for me. I said, "Yes, I want to thank you for it but you have cursed me." He said, "What?" I said, "Yes, how can you tell the security I am not one of them? This is an insult." and he said, "If I didn't say that you wouldn't get a passport. Anyway. [00:20:46] And other story is important is that we were not a rich family. We were more or less, you know, I would say maybe poor family. My father is employee, you know. And we never owned a house. We always rented a house. And so happened, when I was a child my father rented a house in a Muslim neighbourhood. [00:21:11] And the Muslim were Shiite, not Sunni, Shiite. And at that time you have to make, you have to open, door has to be open, the entrance has to be all day, only at night you close it. And you have to put a jar of water so that any thirsty man can enter your house, drink water and leave. [00:21:38] And so many years nothing happened, nobody steal anything from us, you know. And we had a very good relationship with the Muslim neighbour. And my mother used to have sewing machine, singer sewing machine. So the Neighbour they come to her and they say, "Look, can you, you know, we have this loose button, can you fix it? Can you do some alterations?" And mother, gladly would do it. [00:22:07] And they want to pay her and she refused to get paid. So we were loved and one day, our sour - uh, sewing machine was stolen. So my mother told the neighbours, the machine is, sewing machine is, is no longer there, it was stolen. They said, "Wait. We'll bring it to you. "They went house to house and they brought the machine to my mother, the sewing machine. And my mother asked who stole it, they said, "We can't tell you but we, we have really beat him good time."

[00:22:48] Lisette: Wow. 

[00:22:50] Isaac Sedaka: So this is a story. 

[00:22:51] Lisette: What year was that?

[00:22:53] Isaac Sedaka: This was, I was young maybe it was in 19 um...'58, '56 something...

[00:23:00] Lisette: That was before the Farhoud. 

[00:23:02] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. I'm sorry?

[00:23:03] Lisette: Before the Farhoud. [overlap]

[00:23:03] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] Before the Farhoud. Yeah. And the Farhoud, there is a, officially they said 160-180 were killed in the Farhoud but, actually, it was 400. Because there were a lot of bodies and so much mutilated that they don't know their identity. So they had buried them in a common grave. [00:23:35] So they actually, officially they said, 160 but actually 400 people. And even I lost my cousin. He was stopped while he is coming from uh...Mesbah [?] to Baghdad. 

[00:23:54] Lisette: You know, I want to bring you back a little bit to your childhood, when you were a child. At home, the, the holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat, uh, Sukkoth, can you talk about these holidays? Can you talk about Shabbat? What you remember, the food, the habits...

[00:24:15] Isaac Sedaka: Well, well, you know, the, what you do is my mother used to do the tbit, as you know that, from Friday. On coal, you know? They left on coal, coal, charcoal and then it become mostly hot in the morning. We ate, we ate it, we don't shop during Shabbat absolutely, it's - you wouldn’t believe and if a rabbi will see a man smoking on Shabbat he’s excommunicated. He - nobody will talk to him and he's not going to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. 

[00:24:52] Lisette: For smoking on Shabbat?

[00:24:55] Isaac Sedaka: If he smokes. If he, if a Jew seen by a Rabbi, that he was smoking on Shabbat he is excommunicated, you know. And he is not buried in a Jewish cemetery and he can get, he can't get married. Nobody will, you know, he is going to be despised. It was so strong at that time. 

[00:25:23] Lisette: This was in the 20's and 30's. 

[00:25:24] Isaac Sedaka: In the '20, '20 even '30 - '35. 

[00:25:30] Lisette: Isaac, where did you live in Baghdad?

[00:25:32] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:25:32] Lisette: Where did you live when you were in Baghdad? Where did you live? What area?

[00:25:37] Isaac Sedaka: What area? Shorja. I don't know whether you know the Shorja. 

[00:25:39] Lisette: Of course I know. 

[00:25:42] Isaac Sedaka: Shorja, and then there's a story, I don't know, I mean, I wrote also about the street El-Salmo [?] and I don't know whether you remember. El-Salmo is a bank street and El-Salmo is actually...

[00:25:52] Lisette: A point no?

[00:25:54] Isaac Sedaka: El-Salmo is a Jew. Samoel, I wrote about Samoel. Samoel was, you know, before, before Mohammed the Arab, the Arabia peninsula was governed by Romans. And at that time there was a poet by the name of [Arabic name]. He wrote some bad things about the governor. [00:26:27] And the police were chasing him and he sought refuge in a tribe, a small tribe, Jewish tribe. And the name of the, of the head of the tribe was Shmoel. And in Arabic is Samoel, but he is Shmoel. And they were a small tribe so they were chasing this poet and he sought refuge in the castle or whatever of Shmoel or Samoel. [00:27:08] So the Roman soldier told him, if you don't deliver, we are going to kill your son who is coming to the house. He says, "We don't deliver somebody who want refuge in our domain. This is not, is sacred, we don't." So he killed his son and he didn't deliver the, the poet, the refugee. [00:27:34] And so the Arabs were so much impressed that they named that street Samo-el in honour to what he did. And although I don't approve what he did but anyway, this is what happened and then he wrote a poetry whereby he says we are small in number but our neighbour is respected and protected and the neighbour of the many, meaning of other tribes that are many, are not respected and he is not protected. [00:28:16] And this was when, even in the school I used to read this poetry. 

[00:28:22] Lisette: I didn't understand. We are, we are small yeah, I mean, the Jews are small...

[00:28:26] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, the tribe...

[00:28:28] Lisette: The tribe is small [overlap].

[00:28:29] Isaac Sedaka: In Arabic peninsula there were three tribes, big ones. And there were small ones as well. Samo-el...

[00:28:35] Lisette: Was a small...

[00:28:36] Isaac Sedaka: Because, because before Mohammed there were three tribes. the name is - one is [name of tribe] the other one is Banokonah [?] and other one, the third one is [name of tribe]. These are the big tribes and they were in commerce and they were in uh, farmers and they were very wealthy, very knowledgeable. [00:29:01] And, but there was also a small tribe, which is headed by Shmoel at that time. And this is a Shmoel story, why they call, I asked why they call the street Samo-el and it is one of the major streets, which is, as you know, north of Shorja, bank street. And this is what I told. I was told that this is  - and they showed me the poetry of what he had written about that. [00:29:30] You are a small tribe but our neighbour is protected and they told me about the story of the poet who fled the roman police and sought refuge is Samoel house. And he protected him and he didn't deliver in spite of the fact that his son was killed. [00:29:49] Anyway, that is the story of Samoel. 

[00:29:56] Lisette: How many, when you lived in Baghdad, did you live with your grandparents? In the same house?

[00:30:03] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no. I didn't. My, when I was born grandparents passed away. 

[00:30:09] Lisette: Ah, ok. 

[00:30:11] Isaac Sedaka: I didn't, I didn't enjoy  my grandparents. 

[00:30:14] Lisette: You didn't?

[00:30:15] Isaac Sedaka: I didn't, no. 

[00:30:17] Lisette: Um, and the uh, life in the neighbourhood, were you all Jewish in the area?

[00:30:24] Isaac Sedaka: No, like, I was younger, as I said. We wee in a mixed neighbourhood, mostly Muslim and then after we, we left when we get older and so that we became close to the Jewish school like Alliance, Alliance...

[00:30:44] Lisette: Alliance. 

[00:30:44] Isaac Sedaka: So we...

[00:30:45] Lisette: Where was the Alliance?

[00:30:47] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. So we rented...

[00:30:49] Lisette: The Alliance was where?

[00:30:50] Isaac Sedaka: I'm sorry?

[00:30:50] Lisette: Also the Shorja?

[00:30:51] Isaac Sedaka: Near the Shorja. 

[00:30:53] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:30:53] Isaac Sedaka: They call it Agdetora [sp?] meaning the street of the torah or the synagogue, because it's not, in that area there are many small synagogues so the street was called Agdetorat, torat meaning Torah. And Shorja was nearby so since our school is near, we rented near the school for us to go to school, at the same time to go to synagogue in that area. 

[00:31:24] Lisette: Tell me about your school. 

[00:31:26] Isaac Sedaka: Alliance...

[00:31:27] Lisette: The Alliance and then Shamash. 

[00:31:29] Isaac Sedaka: The Alliance we had so many, it was a great school. We learned French, which helped us a lot when we came to, to Montreal. And we had good teachers and uh, English, we learned English there and Arabic. Arabic and uh...and at the same times, the professors they, the French professor was uh...[00:32:00] Came in from Paris and the English one came from England. Uh, Richmond or something like that. And they were bi - great teachers. In other words, we were taught not by local professors but people that came in France and for French and people, and the professor coming in from England. [00:32:28] And they were the best teachers ever. And we had Arabic who was a Christian, he was a great teacher as well and we learned poetry, we learned, you know, about history. It was amazing. And then after with same friends, same people we left the Shamash school to continue high school. 

[00:32:58] Lisette: So Alliance was only elementary. 

[00:33:00] Isaac Sedaka: Only elementary and intermediate as well. But Shamash is the highest school. 

[00:33:06] Lisette: I see. Okay. 

[00:33:10] Isaac Sedaka: And, as you know, in Iraq, there were a lot of poets, Jewish ones, and one of them was very well known. His name was Elma Shahoud [sp?]. And he left Iraq and he passed away in Israel. 

[00:33:25] Lisette: What year did he leave?

[00:33:30] Isaac Sedaka: He was my best friend. He left after me in 1971. I left in May 1971 but then afterwards he applied at the end of 1971 and he was granted a passport. 

[00:33:48] Lisette: Did he have a son?

[00:33:50] Isaac Sedaka: He has a son as well. 

[00:33:52] Lisette: What's his name?

[00:33:53] Isaac Sedaka: I don't remember his name but when he was, when he went to Israel he started, because Iraq, the Iraqis they need furniture, they need uh, materials or, you know, to decorate the houses, whatever it is. He was in that kind of business. 

[00:34:11] Lisette: In, with, in Israel with...

[00:34:12] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] In Israel.

[00:34:13] Lisette: [overlap] Iraqi Jews. With the Iraqi Jews?

[00:34:14] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, the Iraqi Jews. They used to use him as a commission agent to bring stuff they need, yeah. 

[00:34:22] Lisette: Ah ha, so he does have a son. 

[00:34:24] Isaac Sedaka: He had one son. 

[00:34:25] Lisette: I think his name is David?

[00:34:27] Isaac Sedaka: Not David, no. I don't remember. 

[00:34:31] Lisette: Okay, okay. 

[00:34:32] Isaac Sedaka: But, but we always, I used to go, eh come to my house, I go to his house and we were reciting poetry and he was being reckoned one of the five big poets in Iraq. 

[00:34:49] Lisette: Who else?

[00:34:50] Isaac Sedaka: Well, there is one, there is another one which is very well know in uh, uh, I tell you in a minute. Ajawah Hari [sp?]. I don't know whether you remember the name. Ajawah Hari is uh, one.

[00:35:05] Lisette: What year was Ajawah Hari?

[00:35:07] Isaac Sedaka: He...he must have uh, passed away in the '40's. There is Ajawah Hari there is Anwar Shahoud [sp?], is two things. And there is also...uh…what his name?

[00:35:24] Lisette: Mir Basri?

[00:35:29] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] Mir Basri is not a poet but he is a writer. And he was in the co - department of Chamber of Commerce, he was head of it I think and he was writing a lot of articles regarding trade, commerce in, in a newspaper by the name of Azzaman. He was a very respected man. [00:35:52] And there was a story to that because in, after the coup d'état of uh...Abdel Salam Aref there was a minister of interior...uh, he was also a poet. And, and he was very close friend of uh, Anwar Shahoud. So when...Mir Barsi was detained he tried to release him. [00:36:28] So he wrote a poetry, a poem whereby he says, I am translating in English, he says, "My knowledge was de - derived from the holy Quran and I live peacefully under the banner of Muslim and I am like the Shamoel whether I prospered in Baghdad or not." [00:37:01] So the minister of interior was such impressed by saying that I am living under the shadow and protection of Islam. So they send him flowers. At the same time they released Al-Basri and Basri left to England, as you know. 

[00:37:25] Lisette: I got this poem two days ago. 

[00:37:28] Isaac Sedaka: I'm sorry?

[00:37:28] Lisette: This poem you are saying, I received it two days ago. 

[00:37:33] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah.

[00:37:33] Lisette: I'll show it to you. 

[00:37:34] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, in, I know it in Arabic as well. 

[00:37:37] Lisette: Yes, I got it in Arabic. 

[00:37:39] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, he says, what he says is [Arabic]. 

[00:38:00] Lisette: Yeah, beautiful. 

[00:38:01] Isaac Sedaka: It was unbelievable. Unbelievable. 

[00:38:06] Lisette: I, I didn't know Anwar Shahoud was still in Baghdad. 

[00:38:09] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:38:09] Lisette: I did not know Anwar Shahoud was still in Baghdad while, when we were there. 

[00:38:15] Isaac Sedaka: I, yeah he was still in Baghdad, he left after me. 

[00:38:20] Lisette: Okay can you remember anything else about now, the Shamash school?

[00:38:26] Isaac Sedaka: Well, the Shamash school...

[00:38:29] Lisette: Shamash was mixed? Boys and Girls or only boys?

[00:38:31] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, no boys and girls. It was mixed but the, but the Alliance school, Alliance is only boys and then there is [name of school] for the girls. 

[00:38:43] Lisette: Ah yes. 

[00:38:44] Isaac Sedaka: [Name of school]. And uh...Shamash school, two years. 

[00:38:52] Lisette: The last school. [overlap]

[00:38:53] Isaac Sedaka: High school and uh...and in our class you wouldn't believe it. It was close to 57 students because in Baghdad the classes are not like here. They are always more than 50 students in a classroom. It's too much. 

[00:39:17] Lisette: Uh, now I wanted to know uh, about the Jewish youth clubs, you know, tnoah, etc. What can you tell us about this?

[00:39:30] Isaac Sedaka: There is Lorethlori [sp?], ou know the, the club Lorethlori?

[00:39:33] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:39:34] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. And then it was closed of course, you know that. 

[00:39:39] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:39:40] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. 

[00:39:40] Lisette: No, I wanted to know about the tnoah. 

[00:39:43] Isaac Sedaka: The tnoah? I was not involved, my sister was involved. 

[00:39:47] Lisette: Can you remember anything about it?

[00:39:50] Isaac Sedaka: Well, as you know, it's a ...because what they did, they discovered some arms hidden in a synagogue so that to defend the Jews. And then afterwards it was discovered and a lot of people were tortured and uh, imprisoned. And uh, and uh...a lot, some of them may escape and I think they hanged two, two Jews I think. [00:40:27] One was a, a British citizen which had not been hanged, was delivered to the British embassy. And I think was imprisoned in England. 

[00:40:38] Lisette: Who was that?

[00:40:41] Isaac Sedaka: Uh...Salhon? Salhon his name...

[00:40:46] Lisette: He was Iraqi...

[00:40:47] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, he was a British citizen. He came to Iraq and he was part of the t'noah. 

[00:40:55] Lisette: Oooo....

[00:40:57] Isaac Sedaka: So when, so they hanged the Iraqi, I think two or three they hanged and he was spared because of his citizenship. 

[00:41:08] Lisette: And they put him in prison in England. 

[00:41:09] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:41:10] Lisette: They put him in prison in England. The British...

[00:41:13] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah, they, he, there was an agreement between Iraq and England, yes. In other words the British embassy got involved and he said, don't hang him, we'll take care of him. And it was, he was repatriated to England. 

[00:41:28] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:41:29] Isaac Sedaka: I don't know what happened there, you know, it's a mystery. 

[00:41:33] Lisette: Oh, nobody heard from him again?

[00:41:36] Isaac Sedaka: I didn't, nobody heard from him again. 

[00:41:39] Lisette: Do you know anything about other Zionist organizations in the 40's? 

[00:41:44] Isaac Sedaka: Well, as you know is, after the end of the war...

[00:41:49] Lisette: Yeah.

[00:41:50] Isaac Sedaka: Before the end of the war there were British soldiers coming to Baghdad. 

[00:41:55] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:41:56] Isaac Sedaka: And some, and some of the soldiers were Israeli.

[00:42:02] Lisette: Ahhhh. 

[00:42:05] Isaac Sedaka: And they made and - we were members of the YMCA. 

[00:42:09] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:42:10] Isaac Sedaka: Which is Christian, you know, institution. We were there as members. 

[00:42:16] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:42:17] Isaac Sedaka: And they came and they made an arrangement with the manager there that they give us lecture about Hebrew, to teach us Hebrew. So we were, had songs and...and dancing and whatever it is, you know, and uh, and then afterwards the, the government got hint of it and they told the YMCA uh, to close that kind of activity. 

[00:42:55] Lisette: What year was that?

[00:42:58] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[00:42:58] Lisette: What year was it Isaac?

[00:42:59] Isaac Sedaka: It - while this we were at school. You know, this is before 1947. In other words, it was when I was in Alliance school uh...

[00:43:10] Lisette: Still. 

[00:43:11] Isaac Sedaka: Before I graduated. 

[00:43:13] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:43:14] Isaac Sedaka: At that time we were member of the YMCA, we were playing tennis, you know? 

[00:43:21] Lisette: Swimming. 

[00:43:22] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[00:43:22] Lisette: Swimming. Swimming. 

[00:43:25] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, swimming, we - in the river. We take boats, you know, going to the island there. 

[00:43:29] Lisette: Tell us about the swimming now. 

[00:43:32] Isaac Sedaka: Which one?

[00:43:32] Lisette: What did you do with the swimming. Your social life. Did you socialize with non-Jews?

[00:43:39] Isaac Sedaka: Well, you know, I, I was very much respected and I have a story - when I, when I have written this book on Marine insurance guide to Marine Insurance I tried to sell it and make some money, you follow?[00:43:55] So when I gave it to my client I said, "This is book, read it, it's very important, it's in Arabic." They said, "We don't need book. Whatever you decide, we accept. If we are covered for any casualties, that's fine. If you say we are not covered, it's not covered. We respect your judgement. You are our friend, you know?" So, I couldn’t make a penny. [laughs]

[00:44:20] Lisette: [laughs] That's a good one. 

[00:44:27] Isaac Sedaka: Who needs to read it? Who needs to read it, you know? They said nobody needs to read it. Whatever you say, you know, we accept. 

[00:44:35] Lisette: This is the Muslims and the Jews?

[00:44:36] Isaac Sedaka: The Muslim, no, no, Muslims. 

[00:44:38] Lisette: Oh the Muslims. Yeah, okay uh...

[00:44:41] Isaac Sedaka: And I told, I told you about a Muslim came in [inaudible]. I have a lot of friends Muslim [overlap]

[00:44:47] Lisette: Tell us. 

[00:44:47] Isaac Sedaka: I was respected. Nobody touch me, nobody touch me and nobody humiliated me as a Jew. 

[00:44:56] Lisette: That's wonderful. 

[00:44:56] Isaac Sedaka: And they called me a professor. And it was ifst-[overlap]

[00:45:00] Lisette: -stad. 

[00:45:00] Isaac Sedaka: Ustad. And one day Muslim came in. It was my client and he says, "I have a family issue. Can you solve it for me?" I said, "What is the issue?" He says, "We had a rooster in the house, rooster. And it was July, very hot and my...[overlap]

[00:45:27] Lisette: He died. 

[00:45:27] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] My wife, my wife pitied the rooster that it's too hot for him. She chased him. He went to the roof. She caught him and she put him in the refrigerator. 

[00:45:38] Lisette: Oh!

[00:45:40] Isaac Sedaka: "So when I came after work in the evening, open the fridge, the rooster is dead. So I want to divorce her. She is an idiot and what do you think?" So I said, "Look, don't, don't push it. She is the mother of your children right?" He said yes. I said, "Give her another chance. Next July, buy another rooster."

[00:46:09] Lisette: [laughs]

[00:46:12] Isaac Sedaka: And if he does the same thing, then you can divorce her and if you need my signature I am ready to do something. 

[00:46:19] Lisette: [laughs]

[00:46:24] Isaac Sedaka: He said, "You are a good man."

[00:46:26] Lisette: So you saved their marriage. 

[00:46:27] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. I save their marriage. [laughs]

[00:46:32] Lisette: That's great. Can you tell me about swimming in the sea, in the river? Swimming. When you used to go swimming. 

[00:46:44] Isaac Sedaka:  You know, I am members of the, of the YMCA, we used to play tennis and also we used to play billiards. You know? And uh, and then from there, what we do, we swim, there is island, you know. It's a small island, you know? So we swim to there and then we come back. And sometimes we rent a boat and to going to the island. Small island, you know, Jezirah, Jezorah. 

[00:47:15] Lisette: Mmmmm. 

[00:47:16] Isaac Sedaka: You not remember that. But, I tell you the truth, the water was polluted. And one day I have my temperature over 40, 45, 46 and I was in danger. And all my face, you know, was red. It's unbelievable because, first of all, the Iraqis they, they, they allow dead cows to be dumped there. 

[00:47:45] Lisette: I know. [inaudible, overlap]

[00:47:48] Isaac Sedaka: And also they lack uh, drain - dredging, they don't dredge so it accumulate sand and became Jezorah. Because when I was a kid it was very difficult for me to swim from one river, from...

[00:48:07] Lisette: One side. 

[00:48:09] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, the whole river to, to, to....

[00:48:12] Lisette: Cross. 

[00:48:13] Isaac Sedaka: To cross it. 

[00:48:13] Lisette: To cross. 

[00:48:14] Isaac Sedaka: To cross it was very difficult. The water was so strong. When I left Iraq, the water is coming lower and lower and lower and lower. And most of it, it became, I…Jezorah, you know? I...

[00:48:30] Lisette: Land. Land, yeah.

[00:48:30] Isaac Sedaka: Land, yeah. 

[00:48:34] Lisette: Hm. Okay, tell me when you got married, how met you wife.

[00:48:43] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] You know, as I said, we were lucky we had good neighbours. And most of our neighbours were Muslim so happened that one, our neighbour he was...their son was Ayad Allawi who became prime minister of Iraq after Bush invaded Iraq, Ayad Allawi. 

[00:49:09] Lisette: [overlap] Yeah, yeah. 

[00:49:10] Isaac Sedaka: He was our neighbour. 

[00:49:11] Lisette: Ha!

[00:49:13] Isaac Sedaka: Ayad Allawi. And I was invited because, you know, a lot of ministers, Iraqi ministers, retired Iraqi ministers came to their house and whenever they invited them, they called me to come in and I used to spoke with those people. [00:49:32] And they, and also when we became their neighbours for whole week they brought us food and they helped us when we moved our, our furniture uh, to the house. They helped us. So I have good memories of my neighbours and we were living at Al-Mesbah, I don't whether you know Al-Mesbah. [00:49:59] And there is a big story when Saddam Hussein came to power and it became very difficult, a lot of people had been...kidnapped and we don't know where they are, you know. They were liquidated. It was, it was a terrible period, very terrible period. At that time, my neighbour, the other neighbour, not Ayad Allawi, another neighbour who is also Muslim he came to me and says, [00:50:26] "Emile, your son, need to ride bicycle, we don't see him riding anymore. Let him come with my children, we drive to, he can drive together and the people will consider him as one of our children." So that impressed me. I don't know, I have good memories of our neighbours. And, as I said before, really, the Muslims, if you, if you live in a mixed neighbourhood, and the Muslim they know you are a good man and sometimes you are helpful, they never touch you. [00:51:07] They help you and they protect you. And we had a very good relationship with Muslims. I had a good relationship with my client, the Muslims, you know? But it's the government. It's the government whereby, to gain popularity or whatever it is that they are nationalistic, and therefore they poison the minds of the people and also the newspaper played a very dirty game. [00:51:38] Otherwise the neighbours, mostly I would say, they were, they were not bad people. 

[00:51:47] Lisette: What about your partners? They were not good people. 

[00:51:50] Isaac Sedaka: they were not good people because, what can you do? I mean, I am saying, I'm just saying, I'm not making...

[00:51:58] Lisette: Yeah, yeah. 

[00:51:58] Isaac Sedaka: In general. I'm saying that in mixed area we didn't see any abuse or any assault or any rape or whatever. We didn't see that. 

[00:52:12] Lisette: Okay, can you tell me about the Farhoud? Do you remember...

[00:52:16] Isaac Sedaka: The Farhoud, I tell you. In the Farhoud is...our house was near the, as I said, to the Alliance school, Alliance school and Laura Kaddouri school. 

[00:52:27] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:52:28] Isaac Sedaka: My uncle Abraham Mashah has a house, big house near Laura Kaddouri school. So he knew that it's going to be - there is no government, and it's going to be riot, it's going to be looting. So he said, to protect you, come with us, we are going to get…seek, seek refuge in Laura Kaddouri school. [00:52:55] And the guard was, at that time, an Afghani from Afghanistan. And he bribed him so that he wouldn't say that he's harbouring Jews. 

[00:53:05] Lisette: Yeah. 

[00:53:07] Isaac Sedaka: So we stayed there and, and...and our life was saved. 

[00:53:12] Lisette: [overlap] How many days? How many days?

[00:53:14] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[00:53:14] Lisette: How many days?

[00:53:16] Isaac Sedaka: We stayed there three days and then when we returned home the, our homes were not ransacked.

[00:53:24] Lisette: Oh wow. 

[00:53:24] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. But, as a protection, we went, sought refuge at Laura Kaddouri school. 

[00:53:33] Lisette: Any other families came with you?

[00:53:35] Isaac Sedaka: Uh, yeah. These, these, his aunt also came with us. Uh...with her uh, two sons. 

[00:53:49] Lisette: Okay tell me when you got married and had the children. How did...?

[00:53:53] Isaac Sedaka: Well, I got, I got married in 1957 at that time there is a king there. They Jews were not really, the problems started in 1947, the war. And before that there was a king and I got married and we - in the, at the wedding the great signer [Gobanshi] was there, [Selim Amrad?] were there. There was another signer and...

[00:54:26] Lisette: [overlap, inaudible]

[00:54:26] Isaac Sedaka: And, we, and  also the police protect the area because there was a lot of visitors coming in, half of them were Muslims and we had  a great wedding day. And the wedding, the official one was done at Frank Iny School whereby Obadiah was the, the headmaster. [00:54:54] And Obadiah was married to my cousin. 

[00:54:57] Lisette: Oh. And the wedding party was in your house?

[00:55:02] Isaac Sedaka: In my, my wife house. 

[00:55:05] Lisette: Oh. 

[00:55:06] Isaac Sedaka: Because I was single at that time. 

[00:55:07] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:55:08] Isaac Sedaka: Nineteen - my, my, my family left and I was single, yeah. 

[00:55:13] Lisette: Your family left to Israel. 

[00:55:14] Isaac Sedaka: To Israel in 1951. 

[00:55:17] Lisette: How come they left and you stayed?

[00:55:18] Isaac Sedaka: I, yeah, the reason is that at that time my family had some assets.

[00:55:23] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:55:24] Isaac Sedaka: And, and they say, because other, one you denationalize your assets are frozen. So they said, "We are going to transfer the asset to you and you don't de-nationalize and after you liquidate you come to Israel and, and live with us." [00:55:50] So I said, okay, I'll do that. So...what I did is I liquidated it, I transferred the money to them, the bought the house there in Ramat Gan and, at that time, I started in business and it was flourishing. We are making a lot of money, you know?

[00:56:11] Lisette: [overlap] What year, what year was that?

[00:56:13] Isaac Sedaka: In 1951, when they left, I became the partner of these Muslims, [overlap] you know, with those Muslims. 

[00:56:18] Lisette: [overlap] Yes, yes, yes. 

[00:56:19] Isaac Sedaka: And we will became the biggest broker in Baghdad - agent, agent in Baghdad. you wouldn't believe and, but I take one third, they take two third and they do nothing. Just to sign because I can't sign, you know? So that - and I was friend of the minister of insurance. Mustafa Rijeb [sp?]. [00:56:48] And one day Mustafa Rijeb, he says, "Can you tell me, you are my best man, I want to ask you a question. We, the Jews and the Muslims are drinking water from the same river. We eating more or less the same food. Why there is a difference in temper? Why we are hot? And if somebody say anything bad about us we go and kill them, or slap him, whatever it is? And why you take it lightly can you tell me what the reason?" [00:57:21] I said the reason is obvious. I said, "We are minority and we have to behave and protect ourselves. We are afraid to say something that would offend you and we get killed...

[00:57:33] Lisette: [laughs]

[00:57:34] Isaac Sedaka: So I said, that is the story. It becoming self-restrained.

[00:57:38] Lisette: [laughs]

[00:57:41] Isaac Sedaka: He says, "I buy that." [laughs]

[00:57:42] Lisette: [laughs] You were brave to say that. 

[00:57:47] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[00:57:48] Lisette: You were brave to say that. Okay now uh, tell me, so when you were getting the passport, how long did it take you to get the passport from the time you wanted to go till...

[00:58:03] Isaac Sedaka: In, in, in 1971?

[00:58:05] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:58:06] Isaac Sedaka: In '71, as I said, my lawyer, who is a very close friend of mine, he always write me and supply me with pictures of Baghdad. And, you wouldn't believe. He is, he is my most trusted friend. And he went to see the minister of interior, to explain him what I did, what I contributed and immediately he send an order to the security department to issue a pass - a passport. [00:58:37] It took 15 days to [overlap] get the passport. And we were the first family and the second family that left Iraq is, as you know, is uh...Sleeman.

[00:58:50] Lisette: Oh yeah. 

[00:58:51] Isaac Sedaka: And yeah, Albert Sleeman, is father. You know, they came the second, because, why? Because his uncle was in, was before he was in the security department, the police department. 

[00:59:07] Lisette: The uncle or...[overlap] Sorry?

[00:59:09] Isaac Sedaka: He was superintendent before the 1947.

[00:59:14] Lisette: Oh yeah. 

[00:59:14] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, and uh...

[00:59:17] Lisette: His grandfather was [name]. 

[00:59:20] Isaac Sedaka: [Name of grandfather] was grandfather from the mother's side. 

[00:59:24] Lisette: Yes. 

[00:59:24] Isaac Sedaka: And Haskell [last name] was a partner of the prime minister. He was  a partner before he became minister as you know [??]. He was a partner. They used to bring missionaries from Czechoslovakia. 

[00:59:43] Lisette: Ah. 

[00:59:43] Isaac Sedaka: And they were very close friends and then Tafiq al-Suweidi became prime minister. And then afterwards, after they used or de - denationalized Haskell [last name] became chief, the head of the Jewish community in Baghdad. Yeah, he was a great man. 

[01:00:06] Lisette: He helped do the [Hebrew]

[01:00:09] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, because, you know, at the time when I - when somebody made a speech about flyers, whatever it is you remember? [inaudible] The flyers? There was, a guy came in from Israel with a film. The film was the Flyers and they showed it in Spanish Portuguese.

[01:00:29] Lisette: Ah yes...the uh, the Dove Flyer, the Dove Flyer. 

[01:00:32] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. He said Nuri as-Said but it was not Nuri as-Said who, who issued an order for the Jews to be denationalized and go to Israel. 

[01:00:44] Lisette: It was Tawfik al-Suweidi. 

[01:00:45] Isaac Sedaka: It's actually Tawfik al-Suweidi. 

[01:00:48] Lisette: Ah. 

[01:00:51] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, as, as a partner of...

[01:00:53] Lisette: [overlap]

[01:00:55] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] And Tawfik al-Suweidi was a graduate of the Sorbonne. He speaks fluid French. 

[01:01:03] Lisette: Really?

[01:01:03] Isaac Sedaka: Oh yeah. Very high educated. 

[01:01:07] Lisette: His son also, no?

[01:01:09] Isaac Sedaka: His son also, you know. So uh, he was, he was the best prime minister for the Jews. 

[01:01:17] Lisette: What happened to him after, in '58?

[01:01:20] Isaac Sedaka: Which one?

[01:01:21] Lisette: When the government was toppled?

-[01:01:23] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] As you know, the, when there was coup d'état...

[01:01:28] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:01:29] Isaac Sedaka:  Abdul Karim Qasim,  Abdul Karim Qasim nobody knows, I know because I was living in that area. They call it Battawin.

[01:01:38] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:01:39] Isaac Sedaka: And Abdul Karim Qasim was a single, he was not married. 

[01:01:43] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:01:43] Isaac Sedaka: And he was brigadier general. 

[01:01:46] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:01:47] Isaac Sedaka: He was living in a Jewish neighbourhood, Battawin was mostly Jewish but he owned a house there and he knows the Jews and he has very good relationship with them. When he made the coup d'état he, there was no discrimination again the Jews whatsoever. [01:02:06] A Jew can get a passport the next day. Even before a Muslim can get a passport. And at that time it was the best time ever from 1959 to 1963, it was the best time. The Jews ever have.  And, and also, he want to issue and order that a citizenship, citizenship is a sacred matter. [01:02:38] And it should not be den - nobody should be denationalized. Secret, in other words if you are a citizen of that country you own that country, part of it. You are a citizen and denationalization was abhorrent to him. And he says, if any Jews in Israel want to come to Iraq, we'll give him his, his citizenship. 

[01:03:03] Lisette: How come nobody came?

[01:03:05] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no but his entourage told him, "What are you doing? It's suicide for you if you do that."

[01:03:11] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:03:11] Isaac Sedaka: Because the people would not help you. A lot of people will vote against you so don't do anything. But in his timetable, it was he great period the Jews ever had. 

[01:03:28] Lisette: Except for when you wanted to move the cemetery. 

[01:03:31] Isaac Sedaka: Sorry?

[01:03:31] Lisette: The cemetery. Remember when he wanted to move the cemetery?

[01:03:34] Isaac Sedaka: The cemetery we wanted to enlarge the street or whatever it is because he was, even he, he was a builder. In other words he want construction. He wants street to be larger and... so it so happened that the Jewish cemetery was in that kind of, close to that street and he want to enlarge it. [01:03:59] So he contacted the Chief Rabbi at that time and he says, "Well, look, please, before we do anything, you just...take the bodies out and bury them in other places and we pay for that." This is what happened. 

[01:04:16] Lisette: I heard, I heard that uh, uh the rabbi told him this is not a good thing to do. 

[01:04:23] Isaac Sedaka: He told him, yes. 

[01:04:25] Lisette: Yeah, and he told him, "You are threatening me."

[01:04:26] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah, he said, it's not a good thing to - it's abhorrent to ex, exhume bodies from...a buried place, he said, in our torah, he says to him, that it is a curse."

[01:04:45] Lisette: And uh, I think uh, the rabbi told him, no sorry, Abdul Karim told him, "You are threatening me."

[01:04:51] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] Yeah, he didn't, he didn't like it.  He didn't like it.[overlap]

[01:04:55] Lisette: Okay and, and people say that because he did that it was a, he got cursed. That's why he got killed. That's what some people think [overlap]

[01:05:03] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] But, but, you wouldn't believe how, how he was killed. He was, he was - because, you know, this, afterwards, the guy that came after him, [overlap] Abdel Salam Arraf [sp?]. 

[01:05:18] Lisette: He was...

[01:05:18] Isaac Sedaka: And Abdel Sarm Arraf, he was imprisoned because he wanted to make a coup d'état.  and then finally he pardoned him and he went to the jail where he was in prison and he took him in his car to his home.

[01:05:33] Lisette: [whistles]

[01:05:33] Isaac Sedaka: And then the guy made a coup d'état against him and he was killed with screwdriver. [makes stabbing motion] Him and Mehadawi [sp?], you know, the guy that [inaudible]. It's unbelievable. There was, it's an abhorrent. But and during Saddam, during [name] the minister of trade, Taled Jamin [sp?] uh, nominated head of that committee to try and stay. 

[01:06:04] Lisette: Nominated

[01:06:06] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] Me. 

[01:06:08] Lisette: Ah. 

[01:06:08] Isaac Sedaka: Nominated me to translate. 

[01:06:10] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:06:11] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, because at that time...he followed Nasser. they denationalized the banks and the insurance company, so I became and agent for the national insurance of Iraq government. 

[01:06:29] Lisette: Ah ha. 

[01:06:30] Isaac Sedaka: Because he followed Nasser what he did. 

[01:06:32] Lisette: Oh. 

[01:06:33] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. So an when he saw the minister of trade, when he saw that, it's in English, everything in English he said, what are they talking about? Let us find somebody who can translate. So they chose me, since I am fluent, more or less, in English so I translated. [01:06:55] And this is what gained me to get a passport. 

[01:07:02] Lisette: Now tell me when you were leaving, were you able sell any of you property, your carpets... [overlap]

[01:07:09] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah, I tell you is Saddam, Salam when he came in during Abdul Karim Qasim and during the kingdom, Jews can sell their houses. Their property is not frozen, you know? Some of them they were importers, they were licensed, no problem whatsoever. When Adbul Salam Arif came in and he follow Nasser because he was an admirer of Nasser so, and he denationalized the banks and the insurance company uh, agencies. [01:07:48] All, everything, even commerce is denationalized. Foreign companies, denationalized. that time and then he issued order that no Jew can sell. No Jew can, can, can sell properties and even, then there was immovable and then movable property. You can't do that. It's, it's and, and therefore I got hint of it before the law came in. [01:08:26] This [inaudible] my good friend they said, there is going to be a law. Sell your house. So I sold it before. 

[01:08:35] Lisette: And how about carpets uh...

[01:08:37] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no. I sold the house and I moved to a rented house so I took my furniture. But when I left in 1951 I didn't sell my furniture because I was afraid if I sell it, I might have a problem. 

[01:08:53] Lisette: In '70. 

[01:08:53] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] So I left it the way it is. 

[01:08:55] Lisette: You just closed the door and...

[01:08:57] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah, yeah and then I left a lot of things there. I couldn't and uh, we have jewellery, we have silverwares, we have, you know, I left it there. I couldn't take it. You know, only what you can wear. You know, in other words, a ring and that's it. You can't. We have a lot of jewellery so we lost that. And uh...that what, what happened. 

[01:09:25] Lisette: Did you leave a lot behind? Other than...[overlap]

[01:09:28] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, I left the furniture and I left the jewellery and silverwares. 

[01:09:32] Lisette: But you didn't leave property?

[01:09:34] Isaac Sedaka: And, and also carpets, Persian carpets. I have the best Persian carpets ever, I left it.

[01:09:41] Lisette: And uh, but you didn't have property. 

[01:09:44] Isaac Sedaka: When I left I didn't have any property whatsoever. 

[01:09:46] Lisette: You were...

[01:09:47] Isaac Sedaka: I, I had a big house near the Jordan embassy in Mesbah, big house which I built, which I built myself. I bought the land and I built the house. And it was when I got married in 1956 and I sold in 1965. 

[01:10:10] Lisette: '65. 

[01:10:11] Isaac Sedaka: '65 during Abdul Salam Arif because before he issued that order...

[01:10:18] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:10:19] Isaac Sedaka: I was warned so I sold it. Otherwise if I waited for another six months I couldn't. 

[01:10:28] Lisette: You were very smart. 

[01:10:30] Isaac Sedaka: I have friends, you know, as I said, a Muslim know. I don't have any grudge against Muslims. I have a grudge against government, vicious government, vicious newspapers, vicious media, not the people. I have nothing against the Iraqi people. You know? They didn't harm me. They respect me and they protected me. That's what I'm saying. [01:11:04], in after the hanging, the Muslim say don't come to the office anymore. So I stayed from '69 till '71...unemployed. 

[01:11:20] Lisette: And uh, in Iraq there is no unemployment. 

[01:11:23] Isaac Sedaka: No, you don't get nothing. And not only that but they owe me my share. They didn't pay it. 

[01:11:31] Lisette: And your money in the bank...the money that you had in the bank...

[01:11:36] Isaac Sedaka: Is frozen. It's frozen. I didn't have much because I took care of that. 

[01:11:40] Lisette: You were very smart. 

[01:11:43] Isaac Sedaka: I took care of that. [overlap] Thank god.

[01:11:44] Lisette: [overlap] You were very smart. 

[01:11:46] Isaac Sedaka: And when I came in here I bought house. When I came to Canada I, I just uh, I had money with [inaudible] you know that. So I got the money and I bought a house  at Glengarry street. And then I moved to Mont-Royal at Neidermeyer. My daughter Ann in Lucerne. 

[01:12:11] Lisette: Ah! I didn't know you were in Lucerne. 

[01:12:15] Isaac Sedaka: I was in Lucerne. Beautiful house. 

[01:12:17] Lisette: And now?

[01:12:19] Isaac Sedaka: I sold. So my wife passed away cancer.

[01:12:22] Lisette: Yeah, I'm sorry. 

[01:12:23] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah and uh, in...19 no, in 2013. 2011, I'm sorry, 1911. She passed away. I stayed in the house till last year and I couldn't. I uh, I couldn't go to see her room and all those things. I had bad memories so I sold it. And now I am renting at Jean-Talon. You know the, I don't whether you know the building, the big building they call it. Orange building. 

[01:13:07] Lisette: Yes. Yes. 

[01:13:09] Isaac Sedaka: Facing Victoria. 

[01:13:09] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:13:10] Isaac Sedaka: I am renting. I am renting there. A beautiful apartment. I am happy. Yeah, but I sold it just because of the bad memory. I couldn't, you know? I always feel she is around and she's not. Anyway. Life is not easy. 

[01:13:33] Lisette: Uh, she was, when he said, when you took your passport to leave Iraq, was she sick then or it was just uh...

[01:13:40] Isaac Sedaka: No, no she was, she was very...

[01:13:44] Lisette: She was fine. 

[01:13:45] Isaac Sedaka: Healthy, absolutely. 

[01:13:46] Lisette: [overlap] Because, because the guy, the lawyer friend told them that you are sick, she has to go for treatment. 

[01:13:52] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, just he just uh...

[01:13:55] Lisette: Oh good, okay. 

[01:13:56] Isaac Sedaka: No, no. No, she was healthy and very resourceful and uh, a good wife. 

[01:14:02] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:14:03] Isaac Sedaka:  I am blessed to have [overlap] her. 

[01:14:05] Lisette: You have lovely children.

[01:14:07] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, beautiful children, beautiful grandchildren. 

[01:14:12] Lisette: It's wonderful. 

[01:14:11] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. My grandson is now going to Israel in Yaffa, study medicine. He left yesterday. 

[01:14:19] Lisette: Oh, congratulations. 

[01:14:20] Isaac Sedaka: Thank you. 

[01:14:21] Lisette: How many grandchildren do you have?

[01:14:23] Isaac Sedaka: I have six. 

[01:14:25] Lisette: How many children do you have?

[01:14:27] Isaac Sedaka: I have three children, six grandchildren. 

[01:14:32] Lisette: Okay, what do you have? Anne?

[01:14:33] Isaac Sedaka: I have Anne, I have Emile. Emile, as you know, he is graduate of McGill as engineer and, and he build houses. He is entrepreneur [inaudible]. 

[01:14:48] Lisette: Emile. No I didn't know, I didn't know. 

[01:14:50] Isaac Sedaka: Emile is a...

[01:14:51] Lisette: He lives here?

[01:14:52] Isaac Sedaka: He lives here and he is now building a house in Westmount for $5 million, $6 million, I don't know how, how much it is. It's a big house. 

[01:15:01] Lisette: And uh, Anne...

[01:15:02] Isaac Sedaka: Anne, Anne she is married to [inaudible] you know that. 

[01:15:06] Lisette: And the other girl?

[01:15:07] Isaac Sedaka: And the other is Amaal, she was a teacher at the [inaudible]. Math teacher, head of the math teacher. 

[01:15:16] Lisette: Yeah, and now what she do?

[01:15:17] Isaac Sedaka: She retired. She is 60 now. 

[01:15:21] Lisette: Mashala. 

[01:15:24] Isaac Sedaka: She, she asked to retire early. 

[01:15:27] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:15:27] Isaac Sedaka: And I have her son Aaron, he is a lawyer. I have Adam, my grandson, he is graduated from McGill mechanical engineer and also animation. He now doing movies. 

[01:15:46] Lisette: Ah!

[01:15:45] Isaac Sedaka: In Vancouver. 

[01:15:47] Lisette: Fantastic. And Anne's children?

[01:15:50] Isaac Sedaka: Anne's children, Daniel is going to go to medicine and Natasha she is uh, an auditor with a big company. 

[01:15:58] Lisette: Wow. 

[01:15:59] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah and uh, she is graduated from McGill as well. So...Uh...and Emile has also Noah who has, he is a genius. He's, he's going to graduate this year. He was hired during summer by Bombardier and his mark is 97. He's 18 years. 

[01:16:25] Lisette: Congratulations. How wonderful. 

[01:16:27] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, and I think he's going to be hired in Paris on aviation, Boeing or whatever. 

[01:16:35] Lisette: Amazing. 

[01:16:35] Isaac Sedaka: Amazing. Ariel is not in Vancouver. She is, she is also studying medicine. 

[01:16:43] Lisette: Ariel is whose daughter?

[01:16:45] Isaac Sedaka: Emile. 

[01:16:45] Lisette: Ok. 

[01:16:46] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. I went to, to with her to enrol her but British Columbia University is so big. You wouldn't believe it. And I count 7 out of 10 are Chinese student. 

[01:17:03] Lisette: In Vancouver. 

[01:17:03] Isaac Sedaka: Vancouver, from rich families. The way the dress and they are so beautiful. Unbelievable. The beauty, I mean, they have such beautiful skin. And long hair. You wouldn’t believe how, how, how, how. And they take care of themselves, they dress well...

[01:17:21] Lisette: They dress very well. 

[01:17:24] Isaac Sedaka: I was amazed. I was amazed. And we rented a house uh, you know the...the BBN Air. You rent for a week?

[01:17:33] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:17:34] Isaac Sedaka: And this is near, facing the bridge, the beach.

[01:17:36] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:17:37] Isaac Sedaka: And we have good time. 

[01:17:40] Lisette: You and her. 

[01:17:41] Isaac Sedaka: There in Vancouver. [overlap] I went Emile, myself and Anne came with us. Yeah, and we had a good time. 

[01:17:48] Lisette: That's lovely. That's lovely. 

[01:17:51] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, I'm blessed. 

[01:17:53] Lisette: Yes. [01:17:59] Just to, do you have any favourite expressions, Arabic expressions, any favourite lessons you learned, poems?

[01:18:10] Isaac Sedaka: I tell you something. This is something, I studied the Quran, you know, the Quran. 

[01:18:16] Lisette: I didn't know. 

[01:18:17] Isaac Sedaka: No, I, I, I studied it. And I was amazed that so many verses in the Quran is exactly the Torah verses. In other words, for example, Can I speak in Arabic?

[01:18:31] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:18:32] Isaac Sedaka: For example we say, in Hebrew: [Hebrew]. [01:18:43] Meaning, respect your parents in order that your life be extended. That is what we say. Kebid, meaning respect. [Hebrew] in order [Hebrew] extend [Hebrew] your...

[01:19:04] Lisette: Your days. 

[01:19:05] Isaac Sedaka: Your days of living. In, in, in the Quran it's exactly the same thing but said in a different mode [?]. [Arabic] Meaning [inaudible] your parents. [Arabic] And don't ...

[01:19:30] Lisette: [overlap]

[01:19:30] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no. [Arabic] meaning, don't contradict them. And you don't say to them harsh words. [Arabic] and say God be have pity on them since they raised me as a child. So it matches. It matches. [01:20:01] It matches and there is a lot of sayings in, in, in the Quran. I am impressed with it because I don't know, it's, it's unbelievable. For example, what they are saying in the Quran, the verses are, are, are really great. [01:20:24] And I'm sure most of it were borrowed. Because, as you know, prophet Mohamed lived in a, in Mecca and in Mecca at that time there were three Jewish tribes. And they were wealthy, highly educated. Although Mohamed himself, he doesn't read and he doesn't write. 

[01:20:51] Lisette: Illiterate. 

[01:20:53] Isaac Sedaka: He was illiterate. 

[01:20:55] Lisette: Do you want...water?

[01:21:01] Isaac Sedaka: No, no. 

[01:21:02] Lisette: Thank you, sorry. Okay, yeah. 

[01:21:05] Isaac Sedaka: He was illiterate. 

[01:21:06] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:21:06] Isaac Sedaka: And at the time he was not an enemy of, of these tribes and he knows them so well but then afterwards he said, according to him, he said they didn't, when, when Quraysh went to war with him that the Jews sided with Quraysh, not him. [01:21:38] He blamed them for that. 

[01:21:38] Lisette: But Quraysh was a Jewish tribe. 

[01:21:41] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, Quraysh is not. 

[01:21:43] Lisette: Ah. 

[01:21:43] Isaac Sedaka: Quraysh is a Muslim tribe but they worship [inaudible] not god. 

[01:21:48] Lisette: Okay. 

[01:21:49] Isaac Sedaka: They have the eyeball [?]. So he came, since he was raised in that neighbourhood, Jewish, he learned a lot about Jewish customs, Jewish traditions, Jewish religion and, and, and he wrote the Quran. The Quran is what? If you knew that it, he was illiterate, what he was doing but he was a great motivator. [01:22:22] What he did is, he hired somebody who is very intelligent and well cultured. 

[01:22:32] Lisette: A Jewish guy. 

[01:22:32] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no. A Muslim guy by the name of [clears throat], you know the, the...[Arabic] meaning, you know the after the Kalifet there was...

[01:22:47] Lisette: [inaudible]

[01:22:51] Isaac Sedaka: Amawiyin [sp?]. He, he hire- he became a friend of that guy. He would go to a cave. He would just uh, tremble [?] a little bit and he is saying something coming from god and the guy was writing. And this is the Quran, how it was. But the guy was so well versed in Arabic that he write his own actually. And, and what he's, what's Mohamed is saying to him since he was raised in a Jewish neighbourhood and he learned a lot so he can’t' write so the guy is writing on his behalf. [01:23:33] In a classical language. And that's why you see the Quran is so classical. It's not, it's not, it's beautiful Arabic. Ah, so that, that's the story really. 

[01:23:49] Lisette: What about he jihad in the Quran. What about killing, what about, what about all that?

[01:23:56] Isaac Sedaka: Well, you know, it's, it's, it's you know, Prophet Mohamed married two Jewish women. One of them was Saffiya her, her name, Saffiya. And he called, he brought them, he killed her father. He killed her husband and she was so beautiful that he married her. [01:24:27] And she, she had no choice. And then, he killed also another tribe by the name of [name of tribe] and the, the daughter was beautiful. Hew name is Juwariyya, he also married her. And there was a saying that his mother, Amina, was, was Jewish. [01:24:54] And even they are saying, if you go into Google and you, they area saying that even the woman that he married...[??] first woman, Khadija al Khuwaylid, she was a trader, very rich family and also from Jewish ancestor. He married her. So by marrying these Jews, Jewish girls and his, and his wife, he acquired a lot of Jewish traditions and Jewish behaviours. [01:25:34] And also what is written in the torah as well. He, he acquired it by talking to these people. So we don't know whether really his mother was really Amina was Jewish. We don't know and we don't know whether Khadija al Khuwaylid was Jewish but she was much older than him when he married her. [01:25:59] And she was a trader. 

[01:26:01] Lisette: She was rich. 

[01:26:03] Isaac Sedaka: Hm?

[01:26:03] Lisette: She was rich. 

[01:26:05] Isaac Sedaka: We don't know. 

[01:26:08] Lisette: Um...but in the Quran when they talk about jihad and they talk, cursing the Jews afterwards, where does this come from?

[01:26:23] Isaac Sedaka: Where is...?

[01:26:25] Lisette: He curses the Jews at the end of the Quran. The come from apes and...

[01:26:30] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no. There is no such thing. 

[01:26:32] Lisette: No?

[01:26:32] Isaac Sedaka: You know something is in the, in the Quran he says [Arabic] hew as talking about the Jews in the Quran. [Arabic] You know? You Jewish people, you are preferred. People of god. He acknowledged that. And there was an article which I have here, written by a Muslim scholar saying Mohamed was a Zionist. Why? Because god say to Moses, "Go and vanquish the land of the Canaanite because I promise it to your people." [01:27:14] And when Moses told the, the people to go and, and vanquish the, the territory as god promised you. You know, they were raised as slaves in Egypt. These Jews are slaves. They take orders, they are not really people who have the might and, and, and the stigma for example tog go. [01:27:45] And he says, "If you want, in those people there are big people, very strong people, we don't enter until they get out. And then when they get out we'll enter and conquer." So this guy, this scholar that the...Muslim scholar says Mohamed is Zionist because in the Quran he promised the Jews the land of Israel. 

[01:28:15] Lisette: What about Chaibar?

[01:28:18] Isaac Sedaka: Chaibar is, the problem is he waged a war against Banu Nadir and Chaibar was...they were planters, they were date trees, they were farmers also. And they were very rich. [01:28:41] So he accused them of siding with Quraysh against him. He waged war against them. He killed so many people, only the people he left only children to the age of 16. The rest were all...murdered and decimated and he conquered their land and they were very rich people. [01:29:08] And he married their daughter Saffiya as I said. 

[01:29:12] Lisette: So Chaibar was a Jewish, Jewish city. 

[01:29:15] Isaac Sedaka: Jewish because what he did is, when he conquered against the Quraysh he, he asked the Jews to leave Mecca to Medina. He doesn't want the Jews to be in Mecca. He expulses them. 

[01:29:33] Lisette: Yeah, already [overlap]

[01:29:35] Isaac Sedaka: Already to Medina.

[01:29:36] Lisette: Ethnic cleansing. 

[01:29:37] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah absolute, and then, in Medina...he also accused them of, of siding with his enemies and he wages war against them. So they, he banished them to the north, which is Chaibar. And, and in Chaibar also he said to them that you are also siding with Quraysh when he wage war with them. [01:30:07] So because of their he took their wealth, the took the territory. And I remember my mother, when somebody is hurting her, he should say in Arabic...

[01:30:25] Lisette: [Arabic]

[01:30:25] Isaac Sedaka: Feni [sp?] Chaibar. And I didn't know what Chaibar means. 

[01:30:29] Lisette: Me too. 

[01:30:29] Isaac Sedaka: And this is really, is a memory of what he did in Chaibar. So he massacred everybody so the memory stayed, generation after generation after generation. And my mother she says [Arabic] Chaibar meaning, she remembers what - I mean, it's a memory what happened to the Jews at Chaibar. 

[01:30:53] Lisette: So he turned against the Jews in his lifetime. 

[01:30:56] Isaac Sedaka: All the time. 

[01:30:58] Lisette: And now when the, when there are demonstrations against Israel they say remember Chaibar. The...Muslims say...

[01:31:10] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah because [overlap]

[01:31:11] Lisette: He is want to do the same thing [overlap]

[01:31:14] Isaac Sedaka: Exactly, the same thing. Well, I mean, this is...but I can tell you that I have no, I have no bad feeling about the Muslim because they are being poisoned. They are being poisoned. If they knew the truth, if they had been in the school of the Jews and they learned about our culture, about tradition, they would coexist with no problem whatsoever. [01:31:47] But the leadership, they are murderers. All their leadership is, is, they don't, they don't know what peace is and if you look into the history of the Muslims, from the very beginning it's all war, it's all killing uh, you know, and that's why, that's why they have never built anything. [01:32:11] And also if you look into the Nobel prizes [?], who got the most of the Nobel prizes, are the Jews. Most of the time, even now they won chemistry, three of them they got the Nobel prize, one of them is Jewish. And even one uh, one Christian in Israel his name is Maroun. And he [inaudible] what did we achieve, we Muslims? [01:32:37] Did we get Nobel prizes as much as, as, as this small group of Jews? What they got? Did you contribute to, to science? Did we con- contribute to anything? He says, wake up. You know, what did you give to the world? You know? And if you look into Iraq...[01:33:02] Daniel, in other words, there is a wealthy guy in Baghdad by the name of Nachem Daniel [sp?]. Nachem Daniel was a landlord and he was a philanthropist. He built orphanage for the Muslim. Orphanage for the Muslims. Because he saw a lot of orphan Muslims have nothing and he built them a refuge. [01:33:33] And also in Iraq, I remember there is a hospital by the name of Elias.

[01:33:41] Lisette: Mir Elias. 

[01:33:41] Isaac Sedaka: Mir Elias. Whereby, is not open for the Jews although it was done, it was donated by a Jew. It's open to everybody like the Jewish General here. Jewish General is not for the Jews. the Jews are donating for the benefit of everybody who is sick whether he is Jewish, Muslim, he is - whatever. [01:34:04] And, and this has to be remembered. I haven't seen any philanthropist Muslim giving something to a Jewish institution. None. But...Menachaim Daniel, not only he give to, to, to the, to the centre which I am saying, he also he gave donation to Muslim school. And he was a big philanthropist. [01:34:36] And his son Ezra, he was a senator in Iraq and this, and the I said al-Hawad [sp?] which is the news, they said a Jew should not be in the senate. 

[01:34:51] Lisette: In the senate. 

[01:34:53] Isaac Sedaka: [overlap] expulsed. And they wrote so bad things about him. And the family did so many things for Iraq. You know so what can you do? And, as you know, uh, the finance minister Heskell there what he did to Iraq he, he was a very great man. He, and then the minister uh, the director general Ibrahim Kibbil and his brother, I don't know whether you know...uh...[01:35:33] al-Kabir...

[01:35:34] Lisette: Selman. Selman.

[01:35:35] Isaac Sedaka: No, no, no Selman, Kibir, no. 

[01:35:43] Lisette: It's okay. 

[01:35:44] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, anyway, he's, he was a big lawyer. 

[01:35:46] Lisette: Yes. 

[01:35:48] Isaac Sedaka: And something which I...I now remember, in the Farhoud, as you know, uh, Jewish stores and shops were ransacked, looted. The Jews at that time, were insured. They have insurance policy. And they, and they have issue, they ask the court for compensation because the insurance company, at that time, most of them were British, they deny liability, they didn't pay. [01:36:28] They said, the policy says, "Exclusion, riot and civil commotion." If there is a riot and civil commotion the coverage does not cover. Is excluded. So based on that, they said no coverage and they didn't pay a penny. So the Jews appointed uh, a, a guy by the name of...[01:37:00] Wait, what was he?...[01:37:09] Sheena, Selman Sheena [sp?]. You know Sheena the one that, you know Dangoor? Her, her name is Sheena, her, her before marriage. 

[01:37:21] Lisette: Yes, yes. Of course uh, yes, Lily. 

[01:37:24] Isaac Sedaka: Lily Dangoor, her father is a Sheena. He's the brother of Selamn Sheena who was a big lawyer in Baghdad. So the Jews appointed him as their lawyer to, to sue the insurance company. And the British embassy, because most of the insurance company were British, the British embassy appointed a lawyer, also a Jewish lawyer, by the name of el-Kabir. [01:37:55] Ibrahim el-Kabir or something like that, anyway. And the court decided that the policy holds, it excludes riots and civil commotion and nobody got a penny. 

[01:38:10] Lisette: Because of Abraham el-Kabir?

[01:38:11] Isaac Sedaka: Because of the clause in the policy. Because the policy say, when there is no government and there is a civil commotion and...and no control, no police, so it is excluded. You know? And nobody pays. So all these merchants, the poor merchants, they lost everything. They didn't get a penny. 

[01:38:35] Lisette: So is there such a policy here too?

[01:38:38] Isaac Sedaka: It is the same thing here. Good to know. 

[01:38:43] Lisette: Good to know. Terrible. 

-[01:38:48] Isaac Sedaka: And also you know that the...what was his name?...[01:39:10] The great judge the, it was wise, wise president of the court of Cassation. His name is, Samrah, David Samrah...

[01:39:22] Lisette: Yes, yes, yes. 

[01:39:23] Isaac Sedaka: He was a great person because this lawyer Shoket, was my friend. He was a student and he says, we used to fight to sit in the front bench to see what he is talking. He, all the laws, it's him who did it because he was, he speaks English, he speaks Turkish, French, Arabic and, and he went to be the vice-president of the court of cassation, which is like superior court. 

[01:40:04] Lisette: What's it called in Arabic?

[01:40:05] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[01:40:06] Lisette: the court is called what in Arabic?

[01:40:07] Isaac Sedaka: [Arabic]

[01:40:08] Lisette: [Arabic]

[01:40:09] Isaac Sedaka: [Arabic] which is equivalent to the...high, high court. 

[01:40:25] Lisette: How about the clubs? Can you tell us about the clubs in Baghdad? The clubs...

[01:40:30] Isaac Sedaka: Well there was, the club, I think Noura Keddouri, I think one of the club. 

[01:40:35] Lisette: That was closed in [overlap]

[01:40:37] Isaac Sedaka: ...closed as well. that time, I don't know whether you know Elias Dangoor? In England. You know Elias Dangoor? No? He lived in England. Elias Dangoor. 

[01:40:53] Lisette: Yes, yes, yes. 

[01:40:55] Isaac Sedaka: When we were a student, we tried before the 19...47 war we just graduated from the Shamashe school in 1946. And we want to make a club. Uh, we, we called Al Mansur club. 

[01:41:16] Lisette: You did the Mansur club? You did the Mansur club?

[01:41:20] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah. The Mansur club, no, they didn't give us a...

[01:41:29] [technical question]

[01:41:47] Lisette: Continue al-Mansur. 

[01:41:48] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, so we tried to make a club for our - young generation. And all the students subscribe to it, everybody give 20 dinar or something like that and we make, we want to buy a, a land or build a mansur before 19...[stammers] 67 war. 1947, it was in 1946. And they appoint me a chairman of this committee. [01:42:18] And Elias was my vice-president there. We applied for a license and we were about to be given a license then the war of 1947 started and it was cancelled. 

[01:42:33] Lisette: Okay uh, tell us now about coming to Canada. Did you come straight to Canada?

[01:42:40] Isaac Sedaka: No, you see we left Baghdad in, in May 1971. We went to Turkey, stayed there for a week. From Turkey we went to Greece, stayed a week there. Then we went to Italy, and in Italy we had to wait for our immigration papers. 

[01:43:12] Lisette: For Canada. 

[01:43:14] Isaac Sedaka: To Canada. We were sponsored by my wife uh, brother, Albert Johannen. 

[01:43:23] Lisette: Oh!! Albert is your brother?!

[01:43:26] Isaac Sedaka: Brother-in-law. 

[01:43:28] Lisette: Oh. 

[01:43:30] Isaac Sedaka: He is the brother of my wife. So he sponsored us so we, we, we left with a passport and we have to wait in Rome, in Italy to approve of our application. Because, as you know, they write to Baghdad that we have, if we have criminal record or what - so finally everything okay so we got our immigration papers in, in Rome. From Rome my sister came from Israel and she stayed with us a little bit. [01:44:10] And then I went to see my mother in Israel, in uh, Ramat Gan, you know. So I saw her, I saw my sisters, I saw my brother, it was beautiful stay there. 

[01:44:24] Lisette: You didn't see them for 20 years. 

[01:44:28] Isaac Sedaka: I hadn't seen them for 20 years, over 20 years. 

[01:44:31] Lisette: From '51 to '71. 

[01:44:32] Isaac Sedaka: I was so thrilled. you wouldn't believe. And we stayed in the, in the - my mother's house because when we are there my father passed away already in Israel and we had good time, great gathering. And then from Israel we went to Paris, to, to Holland. We went to Hamburg and then we, we stayed in London for two months and then we came to Canada. [01:45:08] And we could have stayed in London but we, we, we elected to come here since Albert is here already so we came in here and immediately I came in September here. September 1971 I passed my exam as a insurance broker, end of September. So I, I read the book, I passed the exam and I joined Italian insurance brokers and uh, and finally I was uh, became manager of a big firm, HW Hollinger here. [01:45:56] And uh, I stayed with him for eight years. And then I decided to be on my own so I formed my company in 1978. 

[01:46:05] Lisette: What's you company's name?

[01:46:07] Isaac Sedaka: Huh?

[01:46:08] Lisette: What is it called? Your company is called what?

[01:46:11] Isaac Sedaka: Agence d'assurances Sedaka. Sedaka insurance agency inc. Yeah and uh, I was very much successful here. And uh, I kept a lot of, we had good clients and then finally, after my wife passed away I, I decided to liquidate my company and  [??] another big company Seymour Alper, I know his so well so that I can go easy. [01:46:43] I go, for example, six hours a day, and uh, not getting involved too much. So that I keep my mind and…working. 

[01:46:57] Lisette: So the children all got married here. 

A[01:47:01] Isaac Sedaka: All, all of them they are married here. 

[01:47:02] Lisette: They married Jewish people?

[01:47:05] Isaac Sedaka: Jewish people....

[01:47:07] Technical note. 

[01:47:10] Lisette: I'll ask the question again because the paper was in the way. So the children your children married here, Jewish people?

[01:47:19] Isaac Sedaka: Jewish people. Amal married an Ashkenazi, Shatner, Saul Shatner. He is an engineer. Uh, Emile married...a Moroccan and Anne married Lebanese but they are all Jewish. 

[01:47:43] Lisette: Okay. So where do you feel that home is for you? Where is home?

[01:47:48] Isaac Sedaka: Where is home?

[01:47:50] Lisette: Yeah. 

[01:47:52] Isaac Sedaka: Well look, I am so fortunate that I have been accepted in Canada and I love Canada, good people and I have many clients, French-Canadians, you know? They trust me, I trust them, I love them. And it helps that I came in here speaking French and I owe it to Alliance school, Alliance without Alliance it would be difficult. [01:48:19] And I, I, I honour Canada, I love Canada. This is my country, my second country is Israel. 

[01:48:29] Lisette: And what's your identity? What do you feel you are? Your identity. 

[01:48:34] Isaac Sedaka: I, I am, Jewishness, it's important to me. I keep the tradition of my family, my family were very religious and, as I said, they, when they, when they, they are heading a prayer as cantor uh, they did it voluntarily without pay. I am honoured for that. [01:48:59] And also I am honoured that Chief Rabbi [inaudible] Turkish in the 80's was a...head of, chief rabbi. 

[01:49:12] Lisette: Your great grandparents. 

[01:49:14] Isaac Sedaka: That's...

[01:49:15] Lisette: Your great-grandparents was the chief rabbi. 

[01:49:17] Isaac Sedaka: Yeah, yeah. 

[01:49:21] Technical note. 

[01:49:59] Lisette: What do you consider home?

[01:50:02] Isaac Sedaka: Canada. You know, they gave me new life. they gave me a good living. I love them and as I said I have English-speaking clients, French-speaking clients, Italian-speaking clients and I have an Italian client who is my best friend. Has been with me as ac client since 1971 till now and his name is Marco Rondina. [01:50:37] He owns a boutique on St-Hubert, Italmoda. And, and many times brokers go to him because he is a big importer of shoes and, and he says no, I would never, I stay with Isaac whatever the premium is. I'm not interested in saving. He treated me well because two years ago his boutique got fire from the neighbour. [01:51:10] He was totally lost. And I advised him what to do, he was paid handsomely, he rebuilt it and he said, since you gave me the best policy I am going to stay with you for life.  And he did. So that is part of my story here. 

[01:51:29] Lisette: Beautiful. Uh, what language do you speak to the children?

[01:51:35] Isaac Sedaka: To my children? English. 

[01:51:45] Lisette: And is there a message you'd like to give to anyone who might listen to this? Children, grandchildren, anybody to...

[01:51:53] Isaac Sedaka: Well I, you know, I, I wanted that they, they speak Arabic as well. And this is, I mean, to keep the traditions that they speak Arabic, you know? But unfortunately they are not interested and they don't...they, they understand a few words but, and I, I blame the Jewish community here. That they didn't really invite these people, the young [?], and to tell them about our tradition, our way of life. [01:52:33] And also to understand maybe to give some lectures to these people in Arabic to illustrate with stories, with, you know, from where we came from. It's lost. And I'm not happy about it. 

[01:52:48] Lisette: Is there a message you would like to give to people who, to your children? To your grandchildren? To people who can listen to this? Is there a message you want to give?

[01:52:59] Isaac Sedaka: Well the message is that they should cherish the freedom we have here in this country. That they are good people, we are fortunate to come in here, you know. It's a beautiful community and I want them to cherish our traditions. I want them to be part, members of the synagogue. I want to contribute uh, they contribute and also because I'm not happy that members of, of our synagogue is dwindling. [01:53:34] And we don't have new members. And I would like them to be active members to keep our tradition. Because without our tradition if you don't keep your tradition, you are nobody, you know? Identification is important, you know? I still, they talk - many people the come to me and say, form where you came from? I said, from Iraq. [01:53:58] You know? And I don't say anything against Iraq. I always say, the government. The laws are great but the government makes a mockery of laws. Discrimination for no reason, just to serve their own purposes for the political uh, agenda. For and this is why. The people, as I said the neighbours, they didn't hurt us. And I have no anger against them. [01:54:33] Because they didn't hurt me, they respect me while I was there in bad times but I always say the government was bad. The media was worse and they gave a wrong picture of who we are. We are good people. We, we contribute, we did a lot of things for them. I mean, this country was built by the Jews, if I can tell you what the Jews did. It is unbelievable. [01:55:04] They, they, they were poet, they were teachers, they were judges, they - imagine, I can tell you a story, this is what I forgot. In the 1930 when there was Iraq had a radio, you know, all the musician were Jewish. All the musicians were Jewish. And on Yom Kippur there is no music. 

[01:55:32] Lisette: [laughs]

[01:55:34] Isaac Sedaka: Yom Kippur, no music on the radio because there is no musician in there, you know? a sad story. Is a sad story. It's not easy that you leave a country whereby you have been there for generations, you have a lot of memories and it's all vanished. It's, it's, it's sad. 

[01:56:03] Lisette: Thank you very much for this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful....

[01:56:07] Isaac Sedaka: I'm trying, you know. 

[01:56:10] Lisette: Yeah, thank you. 

[01:56:10] Isaac Sedaka: And I want to thank you again for your contribution. 

[01:56:16] Lisette: It's pleasure. 

[01:56:16] Isaac Sedaka: You are unique. I am just telling you. I have a lot of respect for you. 

[01:56:20] Lisette: Thank you very much.