Transcribed by: Marika Lapointe
Interview date: 8/6/2017
Interviewer: Lisette Shashoua
Location: Montreal, Canada
Total time: 01:17:00
Joe Shuker: Born December 21st 1949 in Baghdad, Iraq. Arrived in London 1965. Arrived in Canada 1967. Lived in Israel for seven years, then returned to Canada.
[00:00:17] Interviewer: Hello Joe.
[00:00:18] Joe Shuker: Hello.
[00:00:18] Interviewer: Thank you so much for participating in Sephardi Voices with us today. I would like to know your full name, your name at birth, where you were born and when.
[00:00:33] Joe Shuker: My name is Joe Shuker and I was born in Baghdad, Iraq on the 21st of December, ’49. I had a sister who died in 1983 and my father was an accountant and my mother was a housewife. They are all deceased. [00:01:00] So basically my family is very small and I am the only one from that family right now.
[00:01:08] Interviewer: Can you tell us something about your family background, when you were growing up, do you remember anything about your grandparents?
[00:01:17] Joe Shuker: No. Yes, I do remember my father’s mother and my grandmother, from both sides actually. I do remember them. I visited them. One was in Israel and one was in London, England and I visited both. And we got to be close from both sides. [00:01:49] My father worked all the time. He managed to give us a great life. I had at age 13 a bar mitzvah in Baghdad alongside a dear friend that died a year ago, Elas Delal [ph]. And from what I remember I was happy-go-lucky boy growing up in a very safe environment. [00:02:24] Until things changed. I’m talking back in 1963, well it started in 1958 but then it was pretty safe. In 1963 things did change.
[00:02:43] Interviewer: Can you tell me something about your parents before that, before we get into the times. How did they meet? When did they get married? Your father’s name, your mother’s name.
[00:02:56] Joe Shuker: My father’s name is Selim, my mother’s name is Haninah and they met when they were young. I cannot comment more than that except they had a wedding in one of the big mansions, obviously in Baghdad, of the family. And then they moved to a house in the district where the Jews were. [00:03:31] That’s all I remember. The homes that we had were huge with huge gardens and trees, beautiful fruit trees, gardeners, we had maids, we had cooks that lived in. As a family [inaudible]. You know, people that used to come once a week to wash the laundry and iron things. We had a good life.
[00:04:05] Interviewer: And your mom’s maiden name? How old was she when she got married?
[00:04:12] Joe Shuker: She could have been only 18 at the time. Her maiden name is Shami [ph] and she is one out of seven brothers and sisters. She died at a very early age, at age 41. She was born in 1924 so I lost her in 1965 after we left together from Baghdad. [00:04:44] I left with a passport along with her, she was sick then and she was being attended by doctors in London, England and I stayed with her until she passed away.
[00:04:59] Interviewer: Okay so she was one of seven. Where are your aunts and uncles?
[00:05:05] Joe Shuker: They only surviving person is her sister Saïda Schmidt [ph]. She is in Montreal, she is in her late eighties and she is doing fine and I’m in contact, in touch with her on a regular basis. She is the only survivor of the family.
[00:05:36] Interviewer: And your dad’s side?
[00:05:37] Joe Shuker: My dad’s side, he is one of four but his - he had a brother who died in Israel and two sisters who also passed away in Israel.
[00:05:55] Interviewer: Are you in touch with them?
[00:05:56] Joe Shuker: With the cousins? Until the 90’s I was very much in touch but beyond that no. We parted ways because I came back to Montreal and, you know, the distance kept us away.
[00:06:20] Interviewer: Describe to us where you grew up, your home, social circles your parents belonged to, Jewish, non-Jewish friends.
[00:06:31] Joe Shuker: Oh my father had a lot of contacts from both sides, the Jewish side and the Muslim side. He was very well respected then but he kept in touch with everybody, even before he left, he actually said goodbye to a lot of Muslim friends. He told them he’s leaving and he actually smuggled himself out.
[00:07:03] Interviewer: He told them?
[00:07:03] Joe Shuker: Yes. He knew the end was there. The day after, they were looking for him.
[00:07:12] Interviewer: What year was that?
[00:07:13] Joe Shuker: That was, I believe, 1967.
[00:07:17] Interviewer: [overlap]
[00:07:19] Joe Shuker: After. It was in July. They came to pick him up and he wasn’t there. That’s what the story is. He was wanted for no reason obviously but just being Jewish. And having the circles of Muslim people who belonged to the wrong party, to the ancient parties. Whatever. [00:07:52] So if you belonged to them, if you’re a friend with them, if you have a coffee with them, you’re a bad person. So then once he went out we met him, I met him in Montreal actually. I was in London then so it took me a few years to see him but we finally got reunited. By then I lost my mother so it was different.
[00:08:22] Interviewer: Tell me about you growing up, Jewish friends? Non-Jewish? Memories of growing up? What language did you speak at home?
[00:08:33] Joe Shuker: You’re asking me memories…I believe we spoke Arabic. I don’t remember that but I did speak Arabic well and until now I do. And I studied in Frank Eny school until age 14 and that’s when I left, in the middle of the year. Out of nowhere I was shipped to accompany my sick mother because my father saw that there was no future there. [00:09:08] And he just wanted the family out. My sister was already out in London, studying. And I just went along with my mother.
[00:09:18] Interviewer: What do you remember about the school? And what messages did the school bring across to you?
[00:09:28] Joe Shuker: The school was very strict and very enchanting at the same time. It was a great place. We felt safe, we felt - there was education. We felt they gave us a good solid root of education.
[00:09:49] Interviewer: What was the school? Jewish?
[00:09:51] Joe Shuker: Yes, it was privately Jewish with special imports of teachers from whether Lebanon or England for the English and French from Lebanon and some Arabic, Jewish Arabic teachers also. Arabic speaking that is.
[00:10:16] Interviewer: Is there a message the school tried to bring across?
[00:10:20] Joe Shuker: I don’t remember, I was a kid.
[00:10:23] Interviewer: Did you belong to any social or sports clubs?
[00:10:26] Joe Shuker: Yes. We had a sport centre called El-mallab [ph] and I used to visit it almost five days a week most probably, I used to be there. It had tennis courts, ping-pong tables, basketball, volleyball, soccer fields, running fields. It was a huge place for Jewish community. Membership, I don’t remember, whether paid or not. We don’t talk about these things. Our parents used to take care of these things. [00:11:03] The school was very, very nominal fees. It was a private school but very nominal fees. I remember it was hardly any money to talk about to send your kids there.
[00:11:19] Interviewer: Tell me about the neighbourhood you lived in.
[00:11:23] Joe Shuker: It was beautiful. Mostly Jewish neighbours with some Arab huts. It wasn’t built in front of us so there was an open area and we had Arabs building their huts and baking their breads on a daily basis and having milk to sell. They didn’t have water or electricity so they used to come to us to borrow some water to, you know… [00:12:04] And we used to lock the gates so that not everybody would walk in freely and we used to let a few people only to come in. The ones that we felt comfortable with.
[00:12:20] Interviewer: To drink water, or to wash?
[00:12:22] Joe Shuker: To drink, to wash their feet, to use the tap. So you know, and we used to encourage them by buying their breads and they used to give us also - they were very generous. They used to give us their fresh baked breads in the tandoori. [00:12:53] Whatever they called it then. And it was great. And they used to bring [Arabic], which was fresh cream milk.
[00:13:11] Interviewer: Was it jamoosa [ph]?
[00:13:12] Joe Shuker: Yes, yes.
[00:13:14] Interviewer: Buffalo.
[00:13:14] Joe Shuker: Buffalo, yes.
[00:13:16] Interviewer: Cream made of buffalo milk that you ate with what?
[00:13:20] Joe Shuker: With the bread.
[00:13:22] Interviewer: What else?
[00:13:23] Joe Shuker: With silan [ph].
[00:13:24] Interviewer: What is silan?
[00:13:25] Joe Shuker: What is silan? I don’ know the English word.
[00:13:30] Interviewer: Dates syrup!
[00:13:31] Joe Shuker: Oh date syrup, alright.
[00:13:34] Interviewer: It’s dates, squeezed.
[00:13:36] Joe Shuker: Yes.
[00:13:37] Interviewer: Oh god, it was delicious. Do you remember who else was in your area?
[00:13:45] Joe Shuker: Albert Sliman [ph]. Charlie Balas [ph], Danny Sliman [ph], Elas Delal [ph].
[00:13:53] Interviewer: Was this in your street or next to you?
[00:13:56] Joe Shuker: Well I had two homes in Baghdad. The first home was next to the school, very close so we were all together type of thing. There was a girl, she left, she left maybe in the late 50’s. Her name was Lily, I can’t remember her - they went to Turkey by the way so I have no idea.
[00:14:24] Interviewer: Lily Dabi [ph].
[00:14:26] Joe Shuker: I don’t know the last name.
[00:14:28] Interviewer: She had a brother?
[00:14:29] Joe Shuker: I can’t remember. Because she was a girl that we played together as kids.
[00:14:38] Interviewer: Dabi, she was a Dabi.
[00:14:40] Joe Shuker: She was about three doors from you.
[00:14:45] Interviewer: From me or from my grandmother’s house?
[00:14:46] Joe Shuker: Your grandmother’s house.
[00:14:47] Interviewer: So my grandmother was also across from you.
[00:14:50] Joe Shuker: Yes, and she had about three doors away.
[00:14:55] Interviewer: Lily Dabi lives in Toronto. I’m gonna get you in touch with her.
[00:15:00] Joe Shuker: I don’t think so. She went to Turkey.
[00:15:02] Interviewer: She went to Turkey. And then she went to Israel.
[00:15:05] Joe Shuker: Oh that I don’t know.
[00:15:06] Interviewer: Then she went to Iran. And then she came to Canada. And now she’s in Canada.
[00:15:11] Joe Shuker: Oh my goodness. We were about eight years old then. So that girl I remember because we played a lot.
[00:15:23] Interviewer: I will -
[00:15:24] Joe Shuker: And other friends between, in that neighbourhood there was Nourallah [ph], William Nourallah.
[00:15:34] Interviewer: Lorette.
[00:15:35] Joe Shuker: Lorette yes. Oh my goodness. You are bringing some memories back.
[00:15:42] Interviewer: Good, that’s the idea.
[00:15:43] Joe Shuker: And Albert and Charlie and there was David Shontaub [ph] as an older person his kids were much younger than…I can’t remember the - that’s the old district.
[00:16:02] Interviewer: And my grandmother.
[00:16:04] Joe Shuker: And your grandmother’s house in front of us.
[00:16:06] Interviewer: And I learned bicycling on your bicycle.
[00:16:10] Joe Shuker: Oh my goodness.
[00:16:11] Interviewer: Until you started to hide it from me.
[00:16:15] Joe Shuker: I kept it away because maybe you were falling a lot and scratching it.
[00:16:21] Interviewer: No, [overlap] and pick it up and…
[00:16:24] Joe Shuker: And cross the street.
[00:16:26] Interviewer: No, you weren’t worried about me, you had enough of me taking it, feeling I had a right.
[00:16:36] Joe Shuker: You should get your own bicycle.
[00:16:38] Interviewer: I didn’t have my own bicycle. I learned how to ride a bicycle on your bicycle.
[00:16:43] Joe Shuker: Alright. So that was the first house. The second house I was closer to Elas Delah [ph] but then we were a little bit away from the main core of the Jewish families that we just mentioned. It was the newer part of Baghdad.
[00:17:07] Interviewer: When did you have your bar mitzvah? When you moved to the second house?
[00:17:13] Joe Shuker: Yes.
[00:17:14] Interviewer: Tell me about that.
[00:17:15] Joe Shuker: That’s…at age 13 we arranged the two families to get together to make the bar mitzvah. It was at Elas Delal’s [ph] house with the rabbi, with Haham Sesson [ph] and everything, the party and the whole works. The kids were all around, parents were all around. [00:17:40] What I remember is only the video that you showed me. Apart from that I’m - I lost all the memory of what happened then. I remember Elsie. I remember Dorita Schmea [ph]. Norma Sayer [ph].
[00:18:07] Interviewer: At your bar mitzvah you mean.
[00:18:11] Joe Shuker: At my bar mitzvah and around. I can’t remember specifically at my bar mitzvah. Now I didn’t mention you, but you were there. I’m sure there were a lot of boys from my class in there. David Gabbai I can’t remember if he was there. I wouldn’t know.
[00:18:34] Interviewer: Eby Dali [ph]
[00:18:34] Joe Shuker: Eby Dali [ph], yes. But you know, it’s…
[00:18:41] Interviewer: Can you remember the food that you enjoyed eating other than the fresh cream and silah?
[00:18:52] Joe Shuker: The restaurant food was great.
[00:18:55] Interviewer: Did you eat at the restaurant?
[00:18:57] Joe Shuker: Sure.
[00:18:57] Interviewer: Where?
[00:18:58] Joe Shuker: Wow. [Arabic]
[00:19:02] Interviewer: Where was that?
[00:19:04] Joe Shuker: It was in the middle of the circle going to..
[00:19:09] Interviewer: Al-Weya [ph]?
[00:19:11] Joe Shuker: Yeah, the end of Al-Weya. It was a circle and it was a classy restaurant.
[00:19:19] Interviewer: Did you eat with your friends of your parents?
[00:19:21] Joe Shuker: No, with my parents. I was always accompanied with my parents. I never, I was too young to roam around freely. Except for Saturdays when we used to go to the movies. That was allowed, to go by bus or to go by, I don’t remember, by taxi maybe?
[00:19:44] Interviewer: When did you go to the movies? What time? Was it around noon?
[00:19:50] Joe Shuker: Yeah, maybe, ten o’clock, eleven o’clock. I can’t - no, these are small details that I never…Well I used to have a little pocket money and it was…
[00:20:02] Interviewer: What movies do you remember seeing then?
[00:20:04] Joe Shuker: Cowboys. Audie Murphy. Lone Ranger. Some famous English movies but I don’t remember details. But they were all English, American.
[00:20:24] Interviewer: Around the World in 80 Days? Do you remember that?
[00:20:27] Joe Shuker: Most probably. Yes, I remember the movie but I don’t remember if I’ve seen it in Baghdad.
[00:20:33] Interviewer: Do you remember if your parents or grandparents had any traditional clothes? Did they wear European clothes?
[00:20:43] Joe Shuker: My father used to wear suits all the time, non-stop. Daily basis.
[00:20:49] Interviewer: With a tie.
[00:20:50] Joe Shuker: With a tie and everything.
[00:20:53] Interviewer: Three-piece suit.
[00:20:54] Joe Shuker: …I can’t remember. Most probably. My mother used to have dresses, all the time.
[00:21:02] Interviewer: European dresses.
[00:21:04] Joe Shuker: Yes, yes, no, no. I mean I had shorts in the summer and sandals.
[00:21:13] Interviewer: Do you remember sports you did? Do you remember swimming in the river?
[00:21:21] Joe Shuker: Yes, I do.
[00:21:22] Interviewer: Tell us about that.
[00:21:24] Joe Shuker: Always with supervision but we used to go to the Tigris river and we used to swim.
[00:21:33] Interviewer: How many of you? You were a group?
[00:21:36] Joe Shuker: Group of parents and kids. I don’t remember more details than that except the fish at the end.
[00:21:44] Interviewer: Tell us about the fish.
[00:21:45] Joe Shuker: They used to buy the fish that used to come out from the river and they used to BBQ them in the, on the sand or on the beach and then we used to buy them and eat them. No details.
[00:22:04] Interviewer: It’s okay.
[00:22:03] Joe Shuker: Just the memory of eating at the…
[00:22:08] Interviewer: Mezgouf?
[00:22:09] Joe Shuker: Yes. Yes.
[00:22:12] Interviewer: Okay. Now tell me about a shabbat, a typical shabbat. Did you go to the synagogue? What did you eat? How observant was your family?
[00:22:23] Joe Shuker: They were not very observant but Saturdays we used to go to the synagogue, yes.
[00:22:29] Interviewer: Which one?
[00:22:32] Joe Shuker: Haham Sesson I believe. There was, I believe there was a police station next to it or something.
[00:22:44] Interviewer: And you went the whole family?
[00:22:46] Joe Shuker: No details.
[00:22:47] Interviewer: Okay.
[00:22:48] Joe Shuker: I can’t - I don’t even, most probably with my mother because I started the bothering the family to drive the car and I was only 12 then. And I did succeed in driving the car.
[00:23:05] Interviewer: At 12?
[00:23:06] Joe Shuker: At 12 yes.
[00:23:07] Interviewer: And you didn’t let me ride your bicycle even though you’re riding…
[00:23:11] Joe Shuker: Well I graduated fast.
[00:23:15] Interviewer: You were riding a car and you wouldn’t let me get your bike.
[00:23:18] Joe Shuker: Yeah, but I didn’t have a license. And I got stopped by the way.
[00:23:21] Interviewer: I know. You did? Tell me about that.
[00:23:24] Joe Shuker: Oh yes. We got stopped because I was too short. So he did fine me and my mother flashed a beautiful 250 [inaudible] of dinar.
[00:23:40] Interviewer: Which is about a dollar and a half. Worth a dollar and a half.
[00:23:44] Joe Shuker: Yes, in those days. You know, when you consider a quarter of a dinar you can survive to go to a movie and ice cream and everything and still have change and take two taxis back and forth, that was a lot of money. And he took it and we passed.
[00:24:05] Interviewer: So your mom was in the car with you.
[00:24:06] Joe Shuker: Sure. No, no, I don’t drive alone. I used to actually practice driving by people coming visiting us and I used to align the cars in the driveway and park them and I used to - I was valet of the day. For the ladies that used to visit. They used to have card games actually.
[00:24:34] Interviewer: Tell us about that.
[00:24:35] Joe Shuker: On a regular basis, let’s say four times a week.
[00:24:41] Interviewer: Evening?
[00:24:43] Joe Shuker: No, they start at lunchtime [laughs] and then the men joined them around maybe five or six in the evening and then the supper gets served by maids and what have you in the garden.
[00:25:00] Interviewer: How many people would be there? 20? 30?
[00:25:04] Joe Shuker: 30 plus, I would say. And then the men will make a game also.
[00:25:13] Interviewer: What did they play?
[00:25:14] Joe Shuker: The men played poker. They women played hand rummy and some other combinations of that.
[00:25:25] Interviewer: Bridge?
[00:25:26] Joe Shuker: No, no, there was no bridge at the time in my circle. In my parent’s circle. Maybe there was, I’m not sure.
[00:25:38] Interviewer: Do you remember any community customs like a brit Milan or other bar mitzvahs? Weddings? Pilgrimage to holy sites?
[00:25:48] Joe Shuker: Oh yeah, we had our trips to the Babylonian walls and there was also at one time we went to a beautiful lake, I don’t remember it.
[00:26:04] Interviewer: Habbaniyah.
[00:26:04] Joe Shuker: Habbaniyah. That’s right. Yes, and we used to spend quite a few hours there. I assume. I don’t remember. Did we stay there? I - no.
[00:26:17] Interviewer: Did you take food with you? Tell me about the picnics.
[00:26:22] Joe Shuker: It’s picnics.
[00:26:23] Interviewer: How many people would go on a picnic?
[00:26:26] Joe Shuker: Arrangements? I don’t remember but there were a lot of people, friends get together, maybe ten together, maybe there were more.
[00:26:34] Interviewer: Eat on a blanket?
[00:26:35] Joe Shuker: Yes. Yes. With the chairs.
[00:26:40] Interviewer: And pots and pans?
[00:26:42] Joe Shuker: That is more details for me.
[00:26:44] Interviewer: Do you remember it?
[00:26:46] Joe Shuker: No. Then we used to go to -
[00:26:49] Interviewer: But there were no restaurants. Did you go to any restaurants?
[00:26:51] Joe Shuker: No. We, then we go to the psatin [ph], the bestan [ph] is, you know, whether we go to pick some fruits or -
[00:27:03] Interviewer: Like an orchard.
[00:27:04] Joe Shuker: An orchard or sometimes we used to go to the - to buy lettuce from fields and they used to cut them for us and clean them and we used to eat lettuce.
[00:27:19] Interviewer: And the orchards you’re talking about. Did they belong to friends? To Jews?
[00:27:25] Joe Shuker: I believe so.
[00:27:26] Interviewer: So they were privately owned.
[00:27:28] Joe Shuker: Privately owned.
[00:27:29] Interviewer: And the lettuce also?
[00:27:31] Joe Shuker: No, the lettuce I remember it was on the way, they used to stop and we used to take a few heads.
[00:27:38] Interviewer: Of lettuce.
[00:27:40] Joe Shuker: Yeah. You know, with all the dirt and everything and what happened to them, we don’t know. I don’t know. Those were the days. And then there were the dates, we used to also buy them. My goodness.
[00:28:02] Interviewer: Did you go to any of the holy sites like Ezekiel’s tomb? Or you know, [inaudible].
[00:28:10] Joe Shuker: If I did, I do not remember except the…
[00:28:13] Interviewer: Babylon.
[00:28:14] Joe Shuker: The Babylonian one.
[00:28:17] Interviewer: Were you aware that there were Jews in Babylon?
[00:28:21] Joe Shuker: No. No. Till today I don’t. What, but I went to see monuments.
[00:28:32] Interviewer: Yes, I know. But we were not taught or made aware that the Jews were in Iraq since Babylon.
[00:28:39] Joe Shuker: Oh, no, no. Yeah, we were never told we are Babylonian. No. [overlap] It was never made…
[00:28:47] Interviewer: Or that they helped Babylon get built.
[00:28:50] Joe Shuker: No.
[00:28:51] Interviewer: We were not taught that.
[00:28:53] Joe Shuker: No, religiously speaking, no.
[00:28:56] Interviewer: Neither religious nor history. It was abolished.
[00:29:00] Joe Shuker: It was never mentioned. Not in my books.
[00:29:05] Interviewer: Yeah, not in the book, not by the parents either.
[00:29:08] Joe Shuker: No, not by the parents. It’s true. We’re coming from the same families right? And it never happened to you?
[00:29:17] Interviewer: They didn’t know.
[00:29:19] Joe Shuker: Oh they didn’t know.
[00:29:20] Interviewer: Well, I mean, they didn’t tell me and when I asked why there were so many prophets in Iraq my mother would say she didn’t know. I said, how come they came here? She didn’t know.
[00:29:30] Joe Shuker: She didn’t know.
[00:29:31] Interviewer: That was it.
[00:29:32] Joe Shuker: Well, my knowledge, my knowledge of these things happened when I grew up. In the western world.
[00:29:41] Interviewer: I found out the last four years.
[00:29:43] Joe Shuker: Oh my goodness.
[00:29:46] Interviewer: Okay, tell me if you had any unique superstitions in the family or community wise.
[00:29:55] Joe Shuker: Are you referring to something specific?
[00:29:57] Interviewer: No. If you remember any.
[00:30:00] Joe Shuker: Anything special. Not really, no.
[00:30:03] Interviewer: Okay, any religious figures in the family?
[00:30:06] Joe Shuker: No. We…we were law-abiding family. Citizens and we didn’t get involved.
[00:30:17] Interviewer: Do you remember any of the most prominent Jewish organizations? Non-religious, like Alliance israélite? No.
[00:30:28] Joe Shuker: No. No.
[00:30:30] Interviewer: Any Zionist organizations?
[00:30:31] Joe Shuker: No, no. I wasn’t involved in these things.
[00:30:36] Interviewer: [inaudible]
[00:30:37] Joe Shuker: I was a child.
[00:30:40] Interviewer: Do you know what the family view on Zionism and the State of Israel was?
[00:30:47] Joe Shuker: My family? We knew about it, definitely because my father -
[00:30:51] Interviewer: But the view, what they think of Zionism and Israel.
[00:30:55] Joe Shuker: There was no politics in our family. It was never mentioned, it was never discussed. We never felt we were Jewish. We felt we were Iraqis. It was never brought up to my attention that, hey, be careful, you are Jewish. No. I was one of many people living there.
[00:31:20] Interviewer: And did you have non-Jewish friends?
[00:31:26] Joe Shuker: No. My father only had the contacts. No, I didn’t have. I was well-protected.
[00:31:34] Interviewer: With the school.
[00:31:35] Joe Shuker: Yes.
[00:31:35] Interviewer: The friends from the school.
[00:31:36] Joe Shuker: That’s right.
[00:31:38] Interviewer: So were your parents invited to weddings of non-Jews or other celebrations?
[00:31:43] Joe Shuker: Yes, they did have a family or two that they used to, you know, frequent between the homes. And they used to have dinners with them, no problems whatsoever.
[00:31:58] Interviewer: The Arab neighbours you had in…
[00:32:01] Joe Shuker: No, I was not, we were never close. They were only neighbours to be, to be helped as poor people, not as friends.
[00:32:13] Interviewer: Was your family a member in a non-Jewish organization like a club? Any of the clubs?
[00:32:21] Joe Shuker: They had a club or two.
[00:32:21] Interviewer: Which one? Do you remember?
[00:32:23] Joe Shuker: No. Maybe, Monsour maybe [ph]. But I wasn’t involved, no.
[00:32:32] Interviewer: any other memories you’d like to share about growing up?
[00:32:38] Joe Shuker: [Laughs] Not really. You know it was a - I left early so I, that part of memories is only the last few years [overlap]
[00:32:52] Interviewer: Tell us about it.
[00:32:53] Joe Shuker: Just from the bar mitzvah to onwards. It was school times that I remember the friends that I had and that I developed in those years. And suddenly I got cut off for many years to come. I grew up away from them, maybe they will, they would have had better memories of me leaving but then my memory died because there was no feedback. They had the feedback between them. “Do you remember Joe? Do you remember Joe?” [00:33:30] But not me because I didn’t have anybody to share it with, to say hey, do you know…
[00:33:38] Interviewer: So you went to London with your mom. Were you alone with her? No, your sister was there.
[00:33:44] Joe Shuker: My sister and her brother, my uncle. He was married with three kids and I went to finish my high school there.
[00:33:57] Interviewer: That was 19…
[00:34:00] Joe Shuker: ’65.
[00:34:00] Interviewer: You had to leave in the middle of the school year because your mom was sick.
[00:34:04] Joe Shuker: So I was -
[00:34:05] Interviewer: Was your mom sick for a long time in Baghdad before you left?
[00:34:08] Joe Shuker: Yes, yes she was sick for about three, four years and they gave her six months but she survived three years later.
[00:34:20] Interviewer: What was it? Cancer?
[00:34:21] Joe Shuker: Yes. Yes. Breast cancer it was. And in those days professors from London didn’t have an answer. They still don’t have answers. If you don’t catch it fast enough, till today, it’s a killer. And I studied in London. I finished my studies and then I got accepted in McGill because my father had some papers of immigration already worked. [00:34:54] And accepted to live here and by then he came and a few months later I joined him to go to McGill to finish my higher studies.
[00:35:08] Interviewer: What year did you come here?
[00:35:10] Joe Shuker: ’67.
[00:35:10] Interviewer: And I just wanted to know like, there was a revolution you said in ’58.
[00:35:18] Joe Shuker: Correct.
[00:35:19] Interviewer: And then the…
[00:35:23] Joe Shuker: In ’63 there was another revolution that I suviv- well, I was there.
[00:35:30] Interviewer: What was that?
[00:35:31] Joe Shuker: Abdul Salam I believe, Aruf. And then there were many revolutions going one after the other. And…
[00:35:42] Interviewer: Now did you experience anything against the Jews by then? Any new laws?
[00:35:47] Joe Shuker: Oh yes. There were a few. Curfews I remember. The big announcement on tv of the new government and the policies or the law that they will put down and announce on tv for the people to follow.
[00:36:07] Interviewer: And anything against the Jews?
[00:36:09] Joe Shuker: That I don’t remember. No. But I do remember the Jeeps of army patrolling the streets and trying to catch anyone that is breathing on the streets, beyond maybe 8 o’clock in the evening, I’m not sure. We were all in homes. And you really never wanted to see that Jeep parking outside your house. [00:36:38] Because it meant they’re going to take all the men of that house and make them disappear basically. Yeah, these are memories that you don’t want to remember really. It was bad times.
[00:36:58] Interviewer: Do you remember when immigration was first talked about in your family? Leaving Iraq, when it was talked about. Discussed.
[00:37:08] Joe Shuker: No, no, I was too young to participate in that.
[00:37:15] Interviewer: Okay so the preparations your family made to immigrate was you left with your mom.
[00:37:22] Joe Shuker: Yes, I left with my mom on the premise that I was accompanying a sick person or else I wouldn’t have been allowed. My sister was already over - studying overseas and my father stayed behind as, as the man, you know, as a waiting for the family to come back. But he knew we are not coming back.
[00:37:50] Interviewer: He didn’t want you to come back.
[00:37:52] Joe Shuker: Oh he - oh definitely yes.
[00:37:56] Interviewer: He planned it.
[00:37:56] Joe Shuker: He planned it this way and he worked the papers of Canada then to make sure that he’s gonna get proper acceptance from Canada.
[00:38:08] Interviewer: What year was that?
[00:38:10] Joe Shuker: The papers and all that? In the 60’s.
[00:38:15] Interviewer: Ok.
[00:38:15] Joe Shuker: Early 60’s. He managed to go out to make sure to land on time in Montreal or else all the work would have been lost.
[00:38:30] Interviewer: There was a time limit.
[00:38:31] Joe Shuker: There was a time limit, he made it.
[00:38:34] Interviewer: Do you know how - did he escape or did he…how did he escape? Do you know?
[00:38:39] Joe Shuker: Yes, he took a boat from Basra to Iran. He paid his way through, smuggled through and with, with another family or two in a rowing boat I believe.
[00:38:58] Interviewer: This was in ’67? After the war? After the ’67 war?
[00:39:03] Joe Shuker: Well when was the actual war?
[00:39:06] Interviewer: I think it was in June.
[00:39:07] Joe Shuker: So that was in, I believe, July.
[00:39:10] Interviewer: So he was one of the last. Do you know who he left with?
[00:39:15] Joe Shuker: I do but I can’t remember the - Albert Dungoor [ph], is it possible? I’m not sure. I’m not sure, I cannot remember. You know, I never got involved but there was a family with him and small kids. And it was hectic from what I understood. They got stopped and were told not to breathe or not to talk or whatever until things settled down between the police and the boat. And then once they landed in Iran the Jewish organisation was there to receive them.
[00:40:00] Interviewer: And in Iran…
[00:40:03] Joe Shuker: They gave them papers right away -
[00:40:03] Interviewer: Who was in Iran? Whoa was the governor in Iran?
[00:40:07] Joe Shuker: No idea. Oh the Shah. At the time, it was Shah time. Pro-Jewish. Yeah. They took him to Israel actually, they took the whole families, all the families together to Israel.
[00:40:24] Interviewer: For how long?
[00:40:25] Joe Shuker: Well, he said I just want to see my family, I don’t have time. He saw them for 48 hours, he came, he took a plane out to make the landing of Montreal. He knew. So he came to visit me in London and I stayed with him for a day, that’s it. He couldn’t. [00:40:47] And there was a plane for him to go to Montreal to land [overlap] to become immigrant.
[00:40:53] Interviewer: …send some money beforehand.
[00:40:54] Joe Shuker: Oh that was arranged, that was well taken care of, on a regular basis.
[00:41:01] Interviewer: So what did you dad leave behind?
[00:41:05] Joe Shuker: He left a home and he left a car…he gave it. I mean…no, he gave it to a Muslim guy, he told him, you know, take it. I’m leaving tomorrow. He told people he was leaving tomorrow to people he could trust.
[00:41:28] Interviewer: But if they had caught him and returned him to the house.
[00:41:32] Joe Shuker: Oh he would have been hanged.
[00:41:33] Interviewer: Belong to the Muslim.
[00:41:35] Joe Shuker: Yeah no but he would have been hanged, he wouldn’t have survived. No.
[00:41:40] Interviewer: So where there bank accounts left, furniture, antiquities?
[00:41:43] Joe Shuker: I’m sure he left it behind. He didn’t sell anything, no. I don’t know but there was nothing.
[00:41:56] Interviewer: What was it like to come to London, to a new place for you, as a child?
[00:42:04] Joe Shuker: Well I had a little bit of knowledge of the English language and I overcame the hurdles of studying in English. I acquired the language very fast and I took the exams and I passed them well, all in the English language because our roots were well…planted in any language, whether it was French, English or Arabic. We were trilingual, with a small knowledge of Hebrew. [00:42:47] So even the Hebrew, we knew, we knew words, we knew how to read and write, although we studied it until the age of 10 only. So it’s four languages we knew.
[00:43:00] Interviewer: Why only until the age of 10?
[00:43:02] Joe Shuker: That’s the school. The school system stopped at age 10 and took over with the French and - well the French from age 3 but the English starts instead of the Hebrew at age 10, if you remember. You know, the fourth year, the fourth grade.
[00:43:21] Interviewer: I went to a different school.
ç[00:43:23] Joe Shuker: Oh fourth or fifth grade, I’m not sure. And that’s when the English language started to age 16 or 18.
[00:43:33] Interviewer: What were your first impressions of England? Was it your first trip outside Iraq?
[00:43:40] Joe Shuker: No, it was my second trip. I did visit London before in ’63 and I visited my aunt in Montreal then, Niagara Falls then in ’63. And went back to England and back to Baghdad. But my impression of London was great. I was a young boy growing up in the English system. I studies well and I lived with my uncles although my mother was sick we were in hospitals, in and out, convalescent homes. [00:44:22] But they were taking care of her and I was on a visit, visiting hours only because I, they, the family ended up putting me in a boarding school, which -
[00:44:36] Interviewer: What was that?
[00:44:37] Joe Shuker: For boys.
[00:44:39] Interviewer: How was that?
[00:44:41] Joe Shuker: You live there. It was great.
[00:44:45] Interviewer: Were you discriminated against in that boarding school?
[00:44:49] Joe Shuker: I was one out of maybe five Jewish people.
[00:44:55] Interviewer: One of the five in the class?
[00:44:57] Joe Shuker: No, in the school. The school was about 200 people.
[00:45:01] Interviewer: What school was that?
[00:45:03] Joe Shuker: Pierrepont School in Surry, England. It’s a boarding school. Uniforms, ties. On Sunday, white shirts, you know, and we were growing up there and studying every day, eating their food. On Yom Kippur I had problems. They had to make special meals for me but there were no special meals so the fasting started on regular food. [00:45:43] So I ate what whatever there was, a little bit extra to survive longer and at the end of the fasting it was horrible. The kitchens were closed so they left me what I remember, just a plate of some cold potatoes and…I don’t want to say but it was ham.
[00:46:21] Interviewer: For Yom Kippur.
[00:46:23] Joe Shuker: Ham and spuds they used to call it. It was delicious, supposed to be.
[00:46:28] Interviewer: What’s the spuds?
[00:46:30] Joe Shuker: Spuds are potatoes. Three pieces and three potatoes and that’s the…
[00:46:37] Interviewer: That’s your dinner after…
[00:46:39] Joe Shuker: 25 hours. Correct.
[00:46:44] Interviewer: So did you eat it?
[00:46:45] Joe Shuker: I had to. I was 15.
[00:46:49] Interviewer: You were starving.
[00:46:50] Joe Shuker: Yeah. There was nothing else. There was - the shop was closed, there was nothing to buy, nothing, nothing.
[00:46:59] Interviewer: How did you know it was Yom Kippur?
[00:47:02] Joe Shuker: I believe family told me. That detail has never occurred to me. The other Jewish people, I don’t know what happened to them.
[00:47:16] Interviewer: They probably didn’t fast.
[00:47:19] Joe Shuker: Possibly? I don’t know. Because we were divided into homes, into different sections. Every 50 people were living together in dorms.
[00:47:32] Interviewer: I see.
[00:47:34] Joe Shuker: So in the 50 that I had, I was the only Jewish person. So I don’t know. It was bad.
[00:47:46] Interviewer: But that was the only year you were in boarding school?
[00:47:48] Joe Shuker: Two years.
[00:47:48] Interviewer: And the second year what did you do on Yom Kippur? Same thing?
[00:47:51] Joe Shuker: I can’t remember, but I remember one year. No. Maybe I spent it with the family, I can’t remember.
[00:47:58] Interviewer: What did your dad to for a living once he came to Canada?
[00:48:02] Joe Shuker: Oh he worked as an accountant. He continued his profession.
[00:48:06] Interviewer: How old was he when he came here?
[00:48:09] Joe Shuker: Never questioned that but…counting…52.
[00:48:21] Interviewer: He was young.
[00:48:21] Joe Shuker: Yes.
[00:48:23] Interviewer: And he continued working until what age?
[00:48:26] Joe Shuker: Oh late, till the 90’s I would say.
[00:48:33] Interviewer: When did he pass away?
[00:48:34] Joe Shuker: ’94.
[00:48:36] Interviewer: Yeah, my dad too.
[00:48:38] Joe Shuker: He passed away in 1994. Yeah but he was only 79 years old.
[00:48:45] Interviewer: Your dad.
[00:48:45] Joe Shuker: My dad. Yeah.
[00:48:50] Interviewer: Okay now you studied in England up to the age of…
[00:48:55] Joe Shuker: 16.
[00:48:56] Interviewer: 16 then you came to Canada.
[00:48:59] Joe Shuker: Yeah, I came to Canada to attend McGill, went into science and graduated into chemistry. And then opened, instead of going into chemistry, I made myself fail an interview for a job with a chemical firm.
[00:49:23] Interviewer: Why? Did you not want to go into chemistry?
[00:49:26] Joe Shuker: No, I was offered to go into retail business of jewelry.
[00:49:32] Interviewer: And you made yourself fail.
[00:49:35] Joe Shuker: Fail, because of the French. I made myself no knowledgeable of the French language.
[00:49:41] Interviewer: Why?
[00:49:41] Joe Shuker: To fail the - because I was, I found a job. I was on unemployment at the time because I was teaching. Oh by the way, I graduated also with a diploma of teaching so I was actually teaching high school.
[00:49:59] Interviewer: Teaching what? Chemistry?
[00:50:00] Joe Shuker: Math and chemistry.
[00:50:03] Interviewer: Okay.
[00:50:04] Joe Shuker: And then I stopped, then I knew that I’m going to invest in a jewelry store and in the meantime, while waiting for the store to be done, I had about five, six months to play with. And so I went on unemployment. I didn’t start my teaching school. So I was asked to attend a certain interview for a job, which I was qualified. [00:50:42] The personnel manager was all flowery and beautiful. He found the right person. So I didn’t know what to do. I was too, it was too much. I can’t accept the job. So when he took me to the technical engineer int he chemical firm he was a French Canadian so right away I was “could you please speak English?” “Je ne comprends pas.” [00:51:18] So with a little special effort…I failed my - he went to the personnel manager, he told him, “He doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t speak French. He’s not gonna manage. We can’t - the whole plant in French so…” And that way I failed. And I got relieved. I went on unemployment for a few months and I opened the shop and that was it.
[00:51:49] Interviewer: You opened the shop alone?
[00:51:50] Joe Shuker: No, with a partner.
[00:51:51] Interviewer: The partner was a friend of yours?
[00:51:54] Joe Shuker: Yes, friend of the family.
[00:51:54] Interviewer: [overlap]
[00:51:55] Joe Shuker: No, Iraqi-oriented let’s call it.
[00:52:01] Interviewer: Are you still with him?
[00:52:02] Joe Shuker: No. No. We’re talking 40 years ago.
[00:52:10] Interviewer: So how did you adjust to being in Canada as opposed to England or Iraq? Were there problems?
[00:52:17] Joe Shuker: No, in Canada there were no problems, I just fit in. I went to work and I went into, you know, making a good life for myself. And then later on I lost my sister, she was only 40 years old. She was in Israel then. And I went to - we did what we had to do.
[00:52:47] Interviewer: What year was this?
[00:52:50] Joe Shuker: 1983...and in 1994 my father died but by then I got married in 1985. I met my beautiful wife in Tel Aviv on one of my -
[00:53:17] Interviewer: When you went to…
[00:53:18] Joe Shuker: On a business trip I went.
[00:53:20] Interviewer: On a business trip before Ayda, you sister…
[00:53:24] Joe Shuker: No, after my sister died. I was in the diamond business then and on one of my business trips I met her and we took it from there.
[00:53:40] Interviewer: Where did you meet?
[00:53:42] Joe Shuker: At the Hilton. In the hotel. Then I went to her place and…we got together.
[00:53:48] Interviewer: You just ran into each other?
[00:53:50] Joe Shuker: No, no, no. It was arranged by the family to give a call to go out with her for a coffee.
[00:53:58] Interviewer: So you took her to the Hilton.
[00:54:01] Joe Shuker: So I called her, she was, she said, maximum…we had a coffee. Well maximum, we’re gonna have three kids and whole lifetime together.
[00:54:13] Interviewer: That’s beautiful.
[00:54:14] Joe Shuker: That’s it so that’s what happened. That coffee was very, very, very costly. [Laughs] For her.
[00:54:23] Interviewer: And for you.
[00:54:24] Joe Shuker: No, I love it. Oh yeah, I love that coffee too.
[00:54:30] Interviewer: Beautiful.
[00:54:31] Joe Shuker: And she came to Montreal and we lived a few years here and we went back to Israel. She couldn’t manage. She could not manage.
[00:54:41] Interviewer: Cold?
[00:54:41] Joe Shuker: The cold yes, the weather was ghastly for her. The winter weather. The summer was beautiful, gorgeous, but the winter she couldn’t handle. And away from her family. They’re having BBQ’s in Israel and she’s in minus…you know.
[00:55:01] Interviewer: Thirty.
[00:55:03] Joe Shuker: [Laughs] So it wasn’t fair so I packed up and left to Israel, stayed there for seven years, managed a certain factory in the English language.
[00:55:19] Interviewer: Also jewelry?
[00:55:20] Joe Shuker: No. No. In the carton board business. And it was all int he English language and that was a hard one because the fluency of the Hebrew was not there for me. I did not go to -
[00:55:38] Interviewer: Did you say it was all in the English or the Hebrew language?
[00:55:41] Joe Shuker: In the English language.
[00:55:42] Interviewer: English.
[00:55:43] Joe Shuker: I managed English, I didn’t know any other language.
[00:55:45] Interviewer: Of course, of course.
[00:55:47] Joe Shuker: So the Hebrew was not there and I could not communicate. I acquired it in time and it was became easier and easier but still I did not go to an ulpan to study. So my language was limited from the house and the street and the people. And the roots, we go back to the roots. [00:56:12] That’s where it helped and go back to the Arabic language. That’s where it helped. It was all association of words that I could feel the language. And I managed. I ended up teaching Americans.
[00:56:31] Interviewer: Hebrew?
[00:56:32] Joe Shuker: No. They were on special birthright style trips to acquaint them with the Jewish history in Israel and they a plan of study to continue their studies, their school studies, their high schools, grade 10, 11. [00:57:00] So we used to have, instead of them missing four weeks of their school studies, we used to just feed them the material that they were going to miss in that time while they were doing discovery trips in Israel.
[00:57:22] Interviewer: Wow, so they don’t miss out on school.
[00:57:23] Joe Shuker: They don’t miss out, they go back and they just blend -
[00:57:27] Interviewer: Is this an Israeli initiative?
[00:57:30] Joe Shuker: It’s most probably, with special clubs or special organizations and sending kids age 15, 16 to Israel. Yeah.
[00:57:44] Interviewer: Ok, now…
[00:57:48] Joe Shuker: Coming back?
[00:57:49] Interviewer: Yes, tell me about coming back.
[00:57:52] Joe Shuker: Coming back.
[00:57:52] Interviewer: Why and why did you come back?
[00:57:55] Joe Shuker: Well I could not, I could not manage. I couldn’t not survive the bureaucracy of the Israelis or the Israeli system. It was ridiculous being punched left and right on just…different, different, different forms and, no system whatsoever, no tranquility in your life. You get assessment of $200 000 dollars and suddenly, out of nowhere - oh yes, oh yes and…
[00:58:32] Interviewer: Really? $200 000?
[00:58:33] Joe Shuker: Yeah, because you did not file on time, or you did not file for a year or two years or whatever. So first we assess. Then you’re going to clear yourself.
[00:58:49] Interviewer: And how did you clear yourself?
[00:58:50] Joe Shuker: Well, I said no. It’s simpler to have an accountant and he knows the tricks. And he goes and fights for you, you know, two eliminate all these forms. No, I could not blend. You know, you walk into a bank, it’s no longer like this.
[00:59:08] Interviewer: No, it’s much better.
[00:59:10] Joe Shuker: Yes but you walk into a bank, people pushing, people coming over you, you know, watching - you’re at the teller and he’s coming over, as if he’s your brother. You know, you can’t. You wait for buses, it’s the same thing. There is no line. First come first served. You push, you get in. You don’t push, you don’t get in. [00:59:34] You shout you get well treated, you know? You get your way. So…
[00:59:43] Interviewer: Did any specific organization or people help you settle whether in London, whether in Canada whether in Israel?
[00:59:51] Joe Shuker: No, we didn’t need any help.
[00:59:53] Interviewer: So you did it all on your own.
[00:59:55] Joe Shuker: Yes.
[00:59:55] Interviewer: No refugee status. No refugee money.
[00:59:58] Joe Shuker: No. The English people did not accept me, that’s the only problem. I was stateless because Iraq denationalized me while I was away and my father sent me a telex or whatever it was in those days, saying, “Do not even dare to walk into the Iraqi consulate because that building would be as if you were in Iraq.”
[01:00:25] Interviewer: And they can arrest you.
[01:00:25] Joe Shuker: They can arrest me. Don’t renew your passport, just claim stateless status in England. So England gave me a student visa to finish my studies. That’s why I had to apply elsewhere for higher studies.
[01:00:43] Interviewer: To come here.
[01:00:45] Joe Shuker: Well I applied in England and I applied in McGill. So McGill accepted me and knew that’s the final destination so I refused the English and I travelled to -
[01:01:01] Interviewer: What about Aïda [ph]?
[01:01:03] Joe Shuker: Aïda was also studying but her status was still a student in London but she -
[01:01:12] Interviewer: Even though she left before you.
[01:01:14] Joe Shuker: Oh yes. Oh yes. I don’t think she ever became English. I don’t think so. She became Canadian because she moved also and worked here and then she moved back to Israel and she settled there. That’s when she lost her life there.
[01:01:39] Interviewer: Did she lose her life because she was alone?
[01:01:41] Joe Shuker: No, she had chronic asthma.
[01:01:43] Interviewer: And?
[01:01:45] Joe Shuker: And she could not help herself. She could not…breathe and there was nobody to take care of her when she was going through the attack and she just lost her breath. She could not get enough air.
[01:02:06] Interviewer: I guess today there would be those…
[01:02:08] Joe Shuker: I’m not sure.
[01:02:10] Interviewer: Things that you could ring to get hospital help.
[01:02:11] Joe Shuker: Possible. Yes.
[01:02:16] Interviewer: Sorry about that.
[01:02:19] Joe Shuker: It’s one of those tragedies.
[01:02:21] Interviewer: Now here, tell me, do you preserve your Sephardi heritage with your family? [01:02:29] Joe Shuker: Yes, we keep a kosher home. I taught my kids all the elements of Jewish traditions, as much as I know, I’m not very strong religiously. But I did send them to Jewish schools.
[01:02:51] Interviewer: Which one?
[01:02:53] Joe Shuker: Well Talmud Torah and then Herzliya. I have two older kids, they’re both graduated from McGill. One of them is practicing medicine and the daughter, my daughter is finishing medicine next year.
[01:03:14] Interviewer: Congratulations.
[01:03:15] Joe Shuker: Thank you.
[01:03:16] Interviewer: And the little one?
[01:03:17] Joe Shuker: and the little one is little. He’s - well he’s a miracle boy and he’s 12 years old and he’s going to - he just finished elementary school, grade six, graduated from Akiva and he’s going Herzliya.
[01:03:38] Interviewer: Oh lovely. Mazel tov.
[01:03:39] Joe Shuker: Thank you.
[01:03:40] Interviewer: What, to you, is the most important part of your Sephardic background?
[01:03:48] Joe Shuker: Wow. Very interesting question.
[01:03:57] Interviewer: The food? The language? The tradition?
[01:04:01] Joe Shuker: Yeah, the good times of being together with Jewish families and just eating regular food basically, having good times. This is going back to Iraq.
[01:04:15] Interviewer: Do you still meet your friends here?
[01:04:18] Joe Shuker: Yes. Some of the Iraqi people…
[01:04:22] Interviewer: People you grew up with.
[01:04:24] Joe Shuker: Grew up with in. Certain way, yes, they were younger then - now we’re in the same age group. Because you know, back in school when you are in grade 10 you look down on grade 8.
[01:04:40] Interviewer: Of course [inaudible]
[01:04:43] Joe Shuker: It’s two years younger than you but…
[01:04:47] Interviewer: Yeah, a baby.
[01:04:48] Joe Shuker: Yeah. We’re the bosses.
[01:04:51] Interviewer: How would you describe yourself in terms of your identity? What is your identity? American? Canadian? Jewish? Babylonian?
[01:05:01] Joe Shuker: Jewish, Jewish-Canadian…with Israel love. So first Israel…because it’s gonna be there for you. Second Jewish, well Jewish and Israel, whatever. And then Canadian. Canadian because they respect what I’m doing. That’s all. And it’s good for me. [01:05:33] I’m happy. But I know it’s a transitional home.
[01:05:39] Interviewer: Why do you think so?
[01:05:41] Joe Shuker: Well, in case. I mean, the world is not that clean and safe so in case there is, you know, frustrating times, especially for the monitory of the Jewish community we have to be ready to go back, to be there.
[01:06:04] Interviewer: How did Ettie, how does she -
[01:06:10] Joe Shuker: She…
[01:06:11] Interviewer: …adjust to coming back to Canada?
[01:06:15] Interviewer: Still today she is…she wants the warmth and the beach and the good times that she had in Israel.
[01:06:25] Interviewer: Do you go back often?
[01:06:27] Joe Shuker: Yes. She travelled basically once a year while my daughter was studying in Israel.
[01:06:36] Interviewer: For how long does she go?
[01:06:37] Joe Shuker: Three weeks, four weeks. You know.
[01:06:42] Interviewer: Once a year.
[01:06:42] Joe Shuker: Yes, but all her family, she managed to bring in. Her parents, her brothers, two brothers and her sister was with her from the beginning. So now the…
[01:06:58] Interviewer: The ache.
[01:06:59] Joe Shuker: The ache or you know, the ache to go back is not very, very strong.
[01:07:06] Interviewer: Because her family is here.
[01:07:06] Joe Shuker: Yeah, because her family is here.
[01:07:09] Interviewer: Do you see yourself, do you consider yourself a refugee, an immigrant? What do you see yourself?
[01:07:17] Joe Shuker: I see myself as an immigrant. That’s for sure.
[01:07:20] Interviewer: And where do you consider home?
[01:07:27] Joe Shuker: Montreal.
[01:07:29] Interviewer: Beautiful. What identity do you want to pass on to your children?
[01:07:36] Joe Shuker: Being Jewish. Stay Jewish. Make a Jewish home and…you know, it’s up to them to be religious or not religious. This is not my doing.
[01:07:54] Interviewer: And what language do you speak to them?
[01:07:57] Joe Shuker: Mostly English with a - let’s say 60% English, when Ettie, my wife is around it’s 80% Hebrew. I’ll manage answering in Hebrew or I’ll manage answering in English. And when we want to make fun we speak French. To tease. To tease each other.
[01:08:28] Interviewer: Oh. Does Ettie speak French?
[01:08:32] Joe Shuker: She understands very little. She can manage.
[01:08:38] Interviewer: And the kids?
[01:08:38] Joe Shuker: Oh they’re all trilingual, trilingual, not bilingual.
[01:08:43] Interviewer: What’s the third language? Hebrew.
[01:08:44] Joe Shuker: Hebrew, Hebrew.
[01:08:46] Interviewer: Did you teach them any Arabic?
[01:08:48] Joe Shuker: No, I tried, I mean, right now my older son knows 20 words, whether from the Jewish hospital or from his work.
[01:09:02] Interviewer: Is he working at the Jewish?
[01:09:03] Joe Shuker: No, he’s in the private sector.
[01:09:06] Interviewer: Which is?
[01:09:06] Joe Shuker: He’s a private doctor. He’s actually working in Terrebonne, which is completely French. And…
[01:09:15] Interviewer: What’s his name?
[01:09:17] Joe Shuker: Elroy Shuker. And he’s working at Elna in Décarie square.
[01:09:22] Interviewer: Oh yeah, of course.
[01:09:24] Joe Shuker: The urologist.
[01:09:27] Interviewer: Is he a urologist?
[01:09:28] Joe Shuker: No, he’s performing vasectomies.
[01:09:31] Interviewer: He is? In Elna and in Terrebonne. He goes back and forth?
[01:09:36] Joe Shuker: Yeah, he’s a private doctor, he’s a, you know, it’s vasectomies is his thing.
[01:09:44] Interviewer: Uh oh.
[01:09:45] Joe Shuker: Uh oh. We walk like this by the way, at home. Covering.
[01:09:55] Interviewer: What impact did the immigration-refugee experience have on your life?
[01:10:06] Joe Shuker: Changing lives, changing countries is one thing. At a young age it made not impact, it was delicious. It was great changing countries because I had no worries, no…you know, no commitments, no plans. I had studies and that’s it. The money was there and I lived. Or they took care of me. [01:10:31] But later on it’s not easy. Moving countries and changing and…
[01:10:39] Interviewer: Like going to Israel and coming back.
[01:10:41] Joe Shuker: Yeah. It wasn’t easy. You know, it’s a lot of work to accept to stay in a new place. And I could not manage staying in that, in Israel. Because I lacked the mentality and the discipline of that country.
[01:11:05] Interviewer: The non-discipline.
[01:11:07] Joe Shuker: Well I didn’t want to say that. It was a different discipline, put it this way.
[01:11:14] Interviewer: There’s a question here that I think is - do you think your life would have been different if you hadn’t left?
[01:11:23] Joe Shuker: Oh yes. I would say so.
[01:11:26] Interviewer: [inaudible]
[01:11:28] Joe Shuker: As long as the regime will not interfere.
[01:11:32] Interviewer: No but say -
[01:11:33] Joe Shuker: No if you see the regimes of today, no I will not survive. My name was in the newspaper by the way.
[01:11:41] Interviewer: When? After you left?
[01:11:43] Joe Shuker: Yes. I was wanted, spy for treason and for, for Zionist spy and an American spy. And I’m wanted for treason…at age 14.
[01:12:02] Interviewer: This is because you left Iraq.
[01:12:04] Joe Shuker: That’s because I left and they wanted me because they realized, they realized that I’m not coming back.
[01:12:11] Interviewer: It’s good they didn’t hurt your dad, they could have.
[01:12:14] Joe Shuker: They could have. Well, he had some…Muslim protection let’s call it.
[01:12:22] Interviewer: So maybe they did that to, not disinherit you, to cut you off, cut your nationality out.
[01:12:28] Joe Shuker: Maybe it was -
[01:12:30] Interviewer: Which is what they did to all of us.
[01:12:32] Joe Shuker: Maybe. But I was underage. You know, like I wasn’t 18. You know?
[01:12:43] Interviewer: Well there is a questions here if you’ve ever been back.
[01:12:47] Joe Shuker: I would love to be back.
[01:12:48] Interviewer: You would love to…
[01:12:50] Joe Shuker: I would love to - yes. But can you guarantee me….
[01:12:53] Interviewer: No. But you didn’t go when people went, when it was safe in 2003?
[01:12:58] Joe Shuker: Why did - I wouldn’t go no. No, I would not go. I will not make it. I will not buy a ticket and say I’m going back, no way.
[01:13:09] Interviewer: Not even to visit?
[01:13:10] Joe Shuker: No.
[01:13:10] Interviewer: Not even if it’s safe?
[01:13:12] Joe Shuker: You really have to guarantee me a lot of things to be safe. Because I don’t have trust anymore. Not with today’s policies and what I see around.
[01:13:24] Interviewer: So the last question is: What message would you like to give to anyone who might listen to this interview?
[01:13:34] Joe Shuker: Regarding?
[01:13:37] Interviewer: What message? If you want to give a moral or, you know, a message to somebody. What do you want to give? What do you want to say?
[01:13:50] Joe Shuker: Make the best of your life, wherever you are for your family. Protect your family and that’s all it is. Be aware that there is Israel. Be aware that you belong there. It’s very important, whether to be there or not, it’s for you to know when. I know I am a transient here. [01:14:23] Whether I’m going to stay around here or end up going there, only the future will let me know. But please be aware that there is Israel.
[01:14:36] Interviewer: Beautiful. Now if you have any pictures I’ll send the pictures. Do you have any letters, memoirs, diaries, documents, paper?
[01:14:45] Joe Shuker: Lost.
[01:14:46] Interviewer: Lost. Why lost?
[01:14:50] Joe Shuker: I had a fire. I had a lot of albums and pictures and we had a fire here in Montreal and it was all in a locker and the locker just got on fire and I lost everything. I have nothing.
[01:15:06] Interviewer: What year was that?
[01:15:09] Joe Shuker: ’70, around 1970, ’69 maybe. In Montreal.
[01:15:18] Interviewer: Sorry. Thank you so much Joe for participating in Sephardi Voices. I just want to ask something, I know we said we were gonna, because we had your bar mitzvah video, your bar mitzvah video is on YouTube.
[01:15:36] Joe Shuker: Oh, that’s nice.
[01:15:38] Interviewer: Yes, with Elas Dilal [ph]. And I guess you gave us the story of your departure for the bar mitzvah time, how your life changed. A year later you were out of Iraq.
[01:15:52] Joe Shuker: Correct.
[01:15:55] Interviewer: And you went to England and…
[01:15:58] Joe Shuker: And I left all my friends behind.
[01:16:01] Interviewer: And you left all the friends who danced at your bar mitzvah behind and you’re gonna meet them again at the reunions in August.
[01:16:07] Joe Shuker: That would be a pleasure. That would be great. That will be great.
[01:16:11] Interviewer: That will be wonderful.
[01:16:12] Joe Shuker: I can’t wait.
[01:16:13] Interviewer: Yes. Thank you and thanks for letting me use your bike when we were 13, 12.
[01:16:21] Joe Shuker: But please put it back in the shed.
[01:16:24] Interviewer: The bike? You mean I wasn’t putting it back?
[01:16:26] Joe Shuker: I don’t know. I can’t tell you.
[01:16:28] Interviewer: You deflated the tires so I don’t take it anymore. Because you were by now driving. You don’t want me to use your bike
[01:16:39] Joe Shuker: Ok.
[01:16:40] Interviewer: I never forget that Joe.
[01:16:44] Joe Shuker: Thank you.
[01:16:45] Interviewer: Ok, thank you.