Proofread by: Rebecca Lash

Transcribed by: Temi

Interview date: 6/17/2018

Location: Montreal, Canada

Total time: 43:00

Note: KG = Kamal Gabbay, HG = Henry Green

Kamal Gabbay: Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1941. Raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Arrived in Milan, Italy in 1964. Arrived in Canada in 1967. 

Henry Green (00:16):

What is your full name please?

Kamal Gabbay (00:18):

Uh, Kamal Gabbay.

Henry Green (00:20):

And was this your name at birth?

Kamal Gabbay (00:22):


Henry Green (00:24):

And where, and when were you born?

Kamal Gabbay (00:27):

Was born in Baghdad, Iraq, uh, in 1941.

Henry Green (00:35):

So I want to thank you for, um, agreeing to be interviewed for Sephardi Voices we are very grateful. Thank you. So let's begin with, uh, telling me something about your, your family's background, your parents, grandparents.

Kamal Gabbay (00:50):

Well, my parents, uh, they used to be like in Iraq, they lived in Iraq. Um, my father used to be a dentist and, uh, and, uh, well, they lived on the, he was also in the army. He was a major in the army and, uh, like the family, uh, were born who were, uh, uh, three brothers and one sister and, uh, that's it

Henry Green (01:27):

Okay, so let's go back to your father. Your father was a major in the army, you said in which, uh, in the Iraqi army. And what year was he born?

Kamal Gabbay (01:39):

He was born um, in 1903

Henry Green (01:44):

And his name

Kamal Gabbay (01:46):

Menashe Gabbay

Henry Green (01:48):

Gabbay. So he was born in 1903. So when he was in the army, it was in the 1920s,

Kamal Gabbay (01:56):

I guess so

Henry Green (01:57):

Do you know if he fought anywhere or

Kamal Gabbay (02:00):

No, just, you know, like, uh, he was, that's it. That's what I know about it.

Henry Green (02:07):

Did you ever see him in his army uniform?

Kamal Gabbay (02:10):

Yes. I have a picture of that.

Henry Green (02:14):

We must get a copy of it [laughs, overlap]

Henry Green (02:17):

Okay. Um, and your, your mother, what was her name?

Kamal Gabbay (02:22):

Uh, Musli [ph]

Henry Green (02:23):

And her surname or her maiden name. [KG: Nathaniel] And what year was she born?

Kamal Gabbay (02:30):

Uh, 1908,

Henry Green (02:31):

1908. And do you know how they came together? How they,

Kamal Gabbay (02:37):

No, I guess, you know, it was an arranged marriage, uh, at the time, uh, because the old days everything used to be arranged unless they knew, uh, the knew each other, you know, very well, you know, the families, uh, but, uh, through the families, I guess, you know, they met.

Henry Green (02:59):

your father's parents. Did you ever meet your father's parents? [KHG: No] Do you know their names at all?

Henry Green (03:06):

Well, my grandfather used his name was Yehezkiel. And my grandmother was Meshouda [ph]

Henry Green (03:16):

And do you know what he did for a living or?

Kamal Gabbay (03:19):

It was a rabbi.

Henry Green (03:20):

He was a rabbi and um, and he was from Baghdad also?

Kamal Gabbay (03:28):

Baghdad? Yes.

Henry Green (03:30):

And did he live in the mellah? Do you know? [KG: I have no idea] And, uh, your, your mother's parents, what about your mother's parents?

Kamal Gabbay (03:41):

Well, my, uh, like, uh, there were, uh, my one uncle, one of the uncle used to be the representative of, uh, uh, the British railway, uh, in Baghdad and Syria. And, uh, his brother used to work with him. And, uh, I guess that's it. That's what I know.

Henry Green (04:14):

So your mother's parents what were their names. What were their names? [KG: Nathaniel] Their their first names. Do you know their grandparents first names? your grandparents, mothers.

Kamal Gabbay (04:26):

maternal, yeah, there's Haim, uh, Yehuda [clears throat]. That's what I know.

Henry Green (04:38):

And did you ever meet them? [KG: yes]. Where did you meet them? [KG: In Lebanon. Okay. So we'll move on to Lebanon in a second. Um, so you were born in 1941. And when did you move to Lebanon?

Kamal Gabbay (04:53):

I was three months old, you know, during the, the farhud in Baghdad

Henry Green (04:58):

The farhud is in June,

Kamal Gabbay (05:01):

In January,

Henry Green (05:02):

June, June, the farhud is in June. And you moved in after the farhud or before the farhud?

Kamal Gabbay (05:09):

No. Before the farhud, during that era, that time, you know, like, you know, there was a, uh, the farhud started, you know, the king [Ghazi] left Baghdad and, uh, and my father used to have a very good friend of his and um in the army. So he went and got, uh, a big lorry, like, you know, and they put us all in the lorry and we went to Lebanon in the lorry.

Henry Green (05:49):

And, and, um, you have brothers and sisters?

Kamal Gabbay (05:54):

Yes. I have, uh, one sister and two brothers.

Henry Green (05:58):

And, um, you're the eldest or

Kamal Gabbay (06:02):

No, I am uh number three in line

Henry Green (06:05):

Number three. So the number one is who? Who's number one. What's their, what's their name? [KG: my sister]. And what year, was she born [KG: in 1934]? And then number two is, [KG: Yehezkiel] and his year of birth [KG: he was born 1936] then you're born in 41 41. And then number four 43 43. So in 41, your, your brother, your sister, yourself, were in the lorry with your parents and you go to Lebanon and your father says to you later, you ask your father and your father says we left because it was tough times, hard times, or,

Kamal Gabbay (06:52):

Yeah, it was tough time. And, uh, you know, like, and to live there, I mean, he was a practicing there, doctor, uh, but when he went to Lebanon, they won't give him a license to practice and, uh, because Jewish from his faith. So he ended up, uh, doing, uh, import, uh, to Lebanon and Middle East, namely coffee and rice, wheat, everything we can eat or drink.

Henry Green (07:27):

So you, what city did you live in? In Lebanon? What city did you live in? Lebanon. [KG: Beirut] And do you remember the actual neighborhood you lived in? What was it called? [KG: Saniya (ph)]. And what synagogue did you go to there?

Kamal Gabbay (07:46):

We didn't go that much to a

Henry Green (07:48):

Rosh Hashanah or something. Did you go? [KG: No. No.] Did you have a bar mitzvah? [KG: Yes] was it at home or at the synagogue?

Kamal Gabbay (07:56):

No, I did it in the synagogue. I don't, I don't remember the synagogue. Exactly. Um, it was, uh, it was a big, uh, the big synagogue of Beirut in Beirut. I don't know the name. I don't remember the name. And I had this very small ceremony, you know, uh, like, uh, I just, uh, read the Torah and, uh, and that's it.

Henry Green (08:26):

And how did you learn Hebrew to read the Torah?

Kamal Gabbay (08:30):

Uh, but I read it in French.

Henry Green (08:33):

So you, when you went to, uh, Lebanon, the language your parents would speak would be what, when you [KG: Arabic] where did French come from? [KG: From school] So what, what school did you go? [KG: Lycee Francais]. Oh, you went to Lycee Francais. And you, so you studied in French then

Kamal Gabbay (08:56):

Yes I studied in French, before the Lycee Francais. I was studying with the Freres, the Jesuit

Henry Green (09:00):

The Jesuit, Okay. And it was just for boys or boys and girls? [KG: just boys]. And, um, so you would learn in French and then you'd come home and speak to your parents in Arabic? [KG: Arabic yes]. And do you have help in the house? [KG: Yes] And they were Christian or they were

Kamal Gabbay (09:22):

They were Christian, you know, but I had a nanny, she was Jewish, you know, she came with us from Iraq.

Henry Green (09:29):

She came with you from Iraq

Kamal Gabbay (09:30):

Yes. And she stayed all her life,

Henry Green (09:34):

All her life. And, and, and with her, you spoke Arabic. So, um, um, so we, think about the school year. So your friends were those people who went to this school were Christian and Jewish?

Kamal Gabbay (09:52):

No, they were Christian and Muslim

Henry Green (09:54):

And Muslim? [KG: Yeah] So you had Christian and Muslim friends?

Kamal Gabbay (09:58):

Yes. Yes. All my life.

Henry Green (09:59):

All your life. And did they come into your house?

Kamal Gabbay (10:02):

Yes. Yes. They come to my house. I go to their house. So we're very friendly.

Henry Green (10:08):

And did you, uh, play sports with them?

Kamal Gabbay (10:11):

Yes. Yes. Everything.

Henry Green (10:13):

So, were there you, were you good at any sports? Did you like sports?

Kamal Gabbay (10:18):

Yes. More or less, you know, like we used to play volleyball, uh, basketball and, um, like tennis a little bit.

Henry Green (10:31):

And this would be in French. Yeah.

Kamal Gabbay (10:33):

In French, yes. mostly French and Arabic.

Henry Green (10:37):

But your friends at the school spoke mostly French [KG: French and Arabic] So would you go and visit them if it was a Christian friend, would you go and visit them at Christmas time or, or, um,

Kamal Gabbay (10:52):

When, in Lebanon or now?

Henry Green (10:53):

Beirut, in Beirut?

Kamal Gabbay (10:56):

Uh, yeah. In Beirut. Yes. You know, but I mean, we're friendly. We go to their home, they come to my home.

Henry Green (11:04):

I'm just wondering if you did it also around if they would come, like that's a holiday Christmas time. So would you visit them at that time or would they visit you at a Hanukkah? Let's say was there, [KG: no they don't, no]. So it wasn't like over, um, um, it was just friends. [KG: yeah, exactly, exactly]. Um, okay, so you're a 1941. So you're, uh, in Beirut in 1948, you're seven years old. Do you remember anything about the state of Israel being founded then or Zionism? [KG: no, nothing, nothing]. So there was sort of, no. Did you have any feelings as you grew up, uh, when you were 10, 15, uh, of any kind of,

Kamal Gabbay (11:50):

Well, all the time afraid, you know, like, you know, because of the faith in Lebanon they mostly, I mean, they, because they didn't know that much, you know, uh, to us, and everything they were, uh, some of them were mean, you know, but, uh, the, and the Muslim, they were very nice people, really.

Henry Green (12:12):

So do you remember any, any incidents, anything where, of, uh, where you were afraid? Did something happen at some point?

Kamal Gabbay (12:19):

Yeah, they keep on threatening you that you are Jewish, you know, we gonna report you, we gonna do this. I mean, uh, that kind of, uh, of, uh, mentality they used to have and everything.

Henry Green (12:35):

Did that create fear for you at all? Or,

Kamal Gabbay (12:38):

And little bit of a fear. Yes.

Henry Green (12:40):

When you went to school from your home, how far was it? A half kilometer?

Kamal Gabbay (12:46):

I would say, uh, I used to take the train all the way to school. It used to be a good, uh, like maybe half an hour,

Henry Green (12:56):

Half an hour. So did you have to pass through a Sunni areas or Shia areas?

Kamal Gabbay (13:02):

Yes. Yes. Christian, Sunni, and Shia, yeah. [HG: did that make you more worried at various points?] No, no, no. Not,

Henry Green (13:11):

Not at all. No. What about at night time? If you walk at night?

Kamal Gabbay (13:16):

Very little, we didn't use, I used to go walk, you know, for about, uh, every night, you know, for about maybe an hour or so and come back home, you know, but there was no fear, nothing, you know, within, I didn't feel nothing. [HG: It would be in the 1950s?] Yes. Yes.

Henry Green (13:36):

Did you live from the ocean?

Kamal Gabbay (13:38):

I would say half an hour

Henry Green (13:40):

Did you go to the ocean at all? And, uh, do you remember any beaches you went to?

Kamal Gabbay (13:46):

Yeah, I remember the beach, but I don't remember the name.

Henry Green (13:50):

And did you go with your friends? [KG: Yes] The, in the 1950s that people talk about in the sixties, Beirut was sort of like, they think like the Paris, right.

Kamal Gabbay (14:00):

The Paris of the Middle East, yeah, the Nice of the middle East

Henry Green (14:04):

Is, did you have a feeling that it was very, um, modern and-

Kamal Gabbay (14:07):

Yeah. Yes, yes. I used to love it, you know, actually, and I used to have my car, you know, small Fiat, and I used to go, uh, like mostly on the, uh, Avenue, uh, De la Mer and there, you know, and, uh, there was, uh, I didn't, uh, really felt I was afraid, but when I was young, I was afraid.

Henry Green (14:39):

And do you remember when you now had your car, whatever certain clubs you went to, did you go to clubs or anything like that?

Kamal Gabbay (14:45):

No, but we used to have, you know, like a club, you know, uh, with some friends, you know, which, uh, I mean, over the years, uh, uh, we called it, uh, the club, [the penguin] and we were about 10, 12 people. And we used to, uh, you know, get together mostly every night or something like that. And the plan together, you know, to go to the mountains, uh, eat and come back. And this, and this, you know,

Henry Green (15:25):

and was this club Jewish? Or was it-

Kamal Gabbay (15:29):

Christian, [HG: Christian] Mostly Christian. Yeah.

Henry Green (15:33):

So you mentioned the mountains, um, many people in the summer when it was hot,

Kamal Gabbay (15:38):

They go to the mountain. Yes. We used to rent a house there for the summer, you know, what, three, four months of summer time. And we used to go there. And, uh, that's it.

Henry Green (15:52):

Do you remember the name of where you would go?

Kamal Gabbay (15:54):


Henry Green (15:55):

Aley. And when you went to Aley, did your father come back every day to work in the city?

Kamal Gabbay (16:00):

Yes. Yes. Yes. [HG: so you would go back and forth] Back and forth. Yes.

Henry Green (16:03):

Do you remember any of the families that you were friends with? Um,

Kamal Gabbay (16:08):

Well, my cousin used to be there. I used to see them most, most of the time and a few friends like Christian, uh, there was an American comp-, uh, family. We used to live there, you know, I mean, not live, but I mean also for the summer. And, uh, we used to be like visiting each other all the time.

Henry Green (16:36):

The, the, um, if we go back to the city again for a second. So when you you're, you were growing up, your parents were Iraqis in Lebanon, right. So did you have like Shabbat meals or did you have a, was there?

Kamal Gabbay (16:52):

Yes. Yes. We used to have Friday meals and Shabbat meals, you know, luncheon and a whole thing. I used to keep all the holidays.

Henry Green (17:02):

You kept all the holidays? [KG: Yes] Were you Kosher?

Kamal Gabbay (17:05):

Yes. My mother used to be very Kosher. My father didn't care that much. Uh, but my nanny used to be Kosher so we kept the Kosher, uh, like food that everything. And, uh, you know,

Henry Green (17:23):

So do you remember shopping in the souk at all?

Kamal Gabbay (17:27):


Henry Green (17:28):

So who would do that? The help in the house?

Kamal Gabbay (17:30):

Yeah, the help in the house, my mother, my father, mostly my father used to, they used to bring him, uh, uh, like, uh, uh, I remember, you know, like every now and then, uh, the guy, you know, go fisherman. He go and bring him all the fish in the office. You look at it, it's everything is okay. He said, okay, you clean them and take them home.

Henry Green (18:01):

Do you remember your father ever going to a cafe for coffee?

Kamal Gabbay (18:05):

Yes. Yes. Definitely.

Henry Green (18:07):

Did you go with him ever.

Kamal Gabbay (18:08):


Henry Green (18:09):

and in the, when he'd have a cafe, would he do anything else? Would he play backgammon or something?

Henry Green (18:16):


Henry Green (18:16):

Shesh besh?

Kamal Gabbay (18:18):

No, I don't remember that.

Henry Green (18:19):

Do you remember, did your mom play gin or, uh,

Kamal Gabbay (18:23):

No. [name of game]

Henry Green (18:26):

Aha. And with her friends, her girlfriends, right?

Henry Green (18:30):

Yes. Yes.

Henry Green (18:31):

And would they do this in the evening?

Kamal Gabbay (18:34):

In the afternoon? Mostly. Yes.

Henry Green (18:37):

And would your father come home for lunch or not?

Kamal Gabbay (18:40):

Yes, definitely.

Henry Green (18:41):

And so the family would eat together,

Kamal Gabbay (18:43):

Oh definitely. Yes.

Henry Green (18:45):

And what kind of Iraqi food with your mother make?

Kamal Gabbay (18:48):

Well, uh rice, uh, [marag geej] like with chicken and a bamia. Yeah. Okra, and, uh, kusa uh, which is, uh, uh, uh, Kusa zucchini.

Henry Green (19:13):

[laughs] And what's your favorite of these?

Kamal Gabbay (19:18):

well the bamia used to be the I like, you know, and the chicken and the rice.

Henry Green (19:25):

Um, so, um, did, did, uh, okay, so you're growing, you don't remember 48, but 56. You're now a teenager. The, uh, there's a war with, uh, Egypt and whatever. Do you remember this at al

Kamal Gabbay (19:42):

Yeah. I remember, you know, the war, you know, uh, with Egypt in 56, because the radio all the time, it used to be open to find out what's happening. So you hear more their version than the Israeli version.

Henry Green (19:57):

And did this worry you at all? Did it worry you?

Kamal Gabbay (20:00):

No, not that much. Maybe on my father. Yes.

Henry Green (20:04):

But you didn't, you and your father didn't talk about, or you didn't hear your mother?

Kamal Gabbay (20:08):

No. No, I didn't hear it.

Henry Green (20:10):

So life just continued [KG: as usual. Yeah]

Henry Green (20:14):

You weren't. Were you ever a member of like a Jewish club or a

Kamal Gabbay (20:20):

No. No.

Henry Green (20:23):

Okay. The, the, so when you're, you're, uh, you're going to school or you're, you're hanging with Christian friends or hanging with Muslim friends. Um, do you ever, is there any, uh, is there ever, um, um, uh, conversations about politics or anything?

Kamal Gabbay (20:40):

No. No, never.

Henry Green (20:42):

And so there's maybe certain topics you talk about certain ones you don't talk about. How do you, how do you know that? How did you know you talk about this, but you don't talk about that?

Kamal Gabbay (20:55):

Well, we talk mostly, you know, like, you know, movies, uh, uh, like social uh, girls, I guess, you know, uh, but that's it? No, nothing. Yeah.

Henry Green (21:08):

So when you, when you, if you dated, would you date Jewish girls or would you date also non-Jewish girls?

Kamal Gabbay (21:15):

non-Jewish girls. girls Jewish and Jewish girls, [coughs] sorry, if you date them, you know, automatically on the second date you are engaged [HG laughs]. So we used to go with the like, Christian, Muslim girls uh,

Henry Green (21:35):

And, um, as, um, so there was sort of like a pack of friends your'e saying [KG: that's right, exactly]. They would hang together, do things. And, and there was a, um, I thought there was a Jewish club than, um,

Kamal Gabbay (21:52):

There used to be, but we didn't, uh, went there. We didn't go.

Henry Green (21:57):

And did you ever take, uh, besides trips to the mountains, did you take trips, other places, you and your parents, did you go to Southern Lebanon? Did you go to other places?

Kamal Gabbay (22:07):

Yes. You used to go to Sturah [ph] to, uh, those places in the mountain, mostly, you know, uh, and, uh, like besides, you know, uh, the place we used to live in the summertime, but we used to go like, to Sturah to, uh, uh, other places. I don't remember really the names. Uh, yeah, my,

Henry Green (22:32):

Your father was successful in his business as well. And your mother was stayed at home. And, um, so you, um, 1967 comes, right? Right. And there's this, the war with Israel, are in Beirut during this period? Tell me about it, what's going on?

Kamal Gabbay (22:54):

Uh, yes. Well, the war was there and everything. And the Israeli like Israel you know, won, and after that, Uh, uh, in, uh, 66 I had left before the war, I went to to in 60, sorry. In 64, I left, I went to Italy because we opened our office in Italy.

Henry Green (23:25):

And you went to help your father?

Henry Green (23:28):

No, my, uh, no, no. We had our office in Lebanon, but my brother and I, we opened an office in Italy, uh, yeah coff-, mostly coffee and rice. And, uh, the office is still now till now is my brother who is running it. And, uh, I came in a Milan, Italy. Yeah. And afterwards I was having problem with the, my papers. They won't give me a Italian passport. So I had immigration to Canada. So I immigrated in, in 65. I had the visa coming through Canada, but afterward I changed my mind. I didn't go. In a 67 I came to Canada, during expo from Milan. I was living in Milan all the time.

Kamal Gabbay (24:36):

I didn't come to Canada in 1965 because I got married in 66 was going out with my, uh,

Kamal Gabbay (24:49):

My fiance then I never think, and I got married in 66, uh, for about six months, seven months. And I got divorced. So in 67, I came to Canada.

Henry Green (25:08):

So between 64 and 67, did you go back to Lebanon at all?

Kamal Gabbay (25:13):

Once in 1965,

Henry Green (25:16):

But your family was still in Lebanon. One brother is with you in Italy. And,

Kamal Gabbay (25:23):

And my sister was married. She was in Vancouver.

Henry Green (25:26):

So she had already come to Canada. And why did she come to Canada?

Kamal Gabbay (25:31):

I don't know. There was an arranged marriage and she got married in London to a doctor was already living in Vancouver.

Henry Green (25:43):

So that makes sense. So your younger brother was still in Lebanon, [overlap] so you're in 67. Do your parents leave Lebanon or do they stay in-

Kamal Gabbay (25:55):

Yes. After the war with Israel, my father left, he took my brother and, uh, uh, I mean, uh, my mother, you know, and they went to, uh, Italy and from Italy, they went to South of France in Nice and used to live in the hotel there for six, eight months. And often in 1969, immigrated to Canada

Henry Green (26:23):

To Montreal. So you come to Montreal in 67, right. And you, do you know any French?

Kamal Gabbay (26:32):

Yes. I have fluent. French.

Henry Green (26:35):

Yeah. So are you, do you know any English?

Kamal Gabbay (26:37):

very little English, but I knew English, you know, very well. I mean, uh, because I was in business, yeah, in our office in Italy, mostly is, uh, it's mostly coffee business. Uh, so, uh, I used to travel all across Europe to do business, you know, with, uh, other firms. So I needed the English. I used to go to England, like Austria, uh, Holland, uh, traveling Germany. So the English, I used to know a little bit of English in school, but I improved my English, you know, uh, while working.

Henry Green (27:26):

And why did you choose Montreal of all the places you could be for traveling?

Kamal Gabbay (27:30):

Because I knew, uh, my wife's brothers, they used, they came to Lebanon in 1962 and 63, two brothers, which is, uh, uh, Freddie and Albert. Uh, they visit us and, uh, we became very friendly and, uh, because they were here, they were in, uh, in, uh, in Montreal. So I immigrated to Montreal as another country because I couldn't stay in Italy, because of the papers

Henry Green (28:06):

And Freddie and Albert who came in 62 to Lebanon, where did they come from? [KG: Canada] They came from Canada, from Canada to Beirut. And they, their heritage is what Iraqi also? Iraqi too. So you come to Montreal, you have Arabic, you have French, you have some English. What did you do? Did you set up your business?

Kamal Gabbay (28:32):

Well, I opened my business in 1967. Just opened an office. That's all, you know, uh, I, and I met my wife, present wife, well through the brothers. So, uh, I met and, uh, went out a few times and afterward I went back to, uh, to Italy cause I had to finish the business there. And I came back in 1968 and we started getting out steady. Also. It was an arranged marriage through my cousin and her sister, you know?

Henry Green (29:19):

So, so this was all done with a family, family blessing, right?

Henry Green (29:30):

Well it's 50 years later [laughs]. So, And when did you get married? [KG: In May 1969]. So when you got married, it like an Iraqi wedding?

Kamal Gabbay (29:43):

Yeah. Iraqi.

Henry Green (29:44):

And did you, when you came here, did you, um, you really didn't grow up in Iraq, you grew up in Lebanon. So coming here to the Iraqi community, was that different for you? Was that because it wasn't Lebanese?

Kamal Gabbay (30:02):

No, no. It was easy because I knew Arabic, you know, so I used to get invited, uh, mostly, mostly everywhere because of the family, Sues' parents. They came here in 1951, I think. And, uh, they were one or two families, whoever family came into, uh, Canada, Iraqi. They used to know them. They used to take care of them also.

Henry Green (30:32):

So did you spend time at Sue's parents house ever

Kamal Gabbay (30:36):

When I got married? Yeah, because, uh, I stayed uh, like with them, you know,

Henry Green (30:46):

What other families do you do? Other names of families that you remember from Iraqis in 67, 68 before. So do you remember any of the families you would be go visit or?

Kamal Gabbay (30:57):

Where, in Canada?

Henry Green (30:57):

No, in Montreal.

Kamal Gabbay (30:58):

I didn't know. No families, only, yeah, Yehuda [ph] family. Cause I knew him in Lebanon and he immigrated to Canada.

Henry Green (31:11):

So you're when you were coming here, what was your social crowd then? When 67, 68 69. Before Sue was Sue's family. That was the social crowd. And did you speak Arabic to Sue at all or?

Kamal Gabbay (31:28):

Yes. Iraqi. Yeah. We still, yeah. [HG: Judeo-Arabic] Yeah. The Iraqi Arabic and I speak also the Lebanese Arabic.

Henry Green (31:37):

And so when you began dating, so what language did you and Sue speak together?

Kamal Gabbay (31:41):

Mostly either English or Arabic

Henry Green (31:45):

And Sue didn't know French then I guess. Right.

Kamal Gabbay (31:47):

She knew a little bit, few words,

Henry Green (31:51):

But French was the language that you and the, did you have much to do with the Ashkenazic community when you came here? [KG: no]. So it was basically the, the Iraqi and, and, um, you get married and you continue in the same business, uh, coffee [KG: yes, coffee] and that's the business you've stayed with and your clients would be where from where? From,

Kamal Gabbay (32:23):

Yeah, Canada, mostly Canada. All over Canada.

Henry Green (32:27):

Um and, and when you began the business here, would it be French Canadians or would it be

Kamal Gabbay (32:33):

Some French Canadian Some English. Yep.

Henry Green (32:37):

And, and, um, you, um, you had children?

Kamal Gabbay (32:43):

Yeah. The one child [HG: and her name is] Lauren. [HG: and what year was she born?] Um, August 18, 1973

Henry Green (32:54):

73. So when, when are you here? Okay. So now you're in the seventies. There's a Lebanese community that begins to grow here because of the civil war in Lebanon.

Henry Green (33:05):

Yeah. Are these people, you know, at all? I met few families. Yes. But it wasn't, there wasn't a connection. [KG: No. No]

Henry Green (33:14):

So the, were there other Lebanese Jews that came here?

Kamal Gabbay (33:18):

Yes. Quite a bit.

Henry Green (33:20):

And did you know them, did you [overlap].

Kamal Gabbay (33:22):

I know them from Lebanon, but we didn't get together as much. There was only one family, which I knew the father from Lebanon. It was [Battat]. I used to visit them, him, you know, on a Sunday, you know, afternoon stay with, uh, like for an hour, an hour and a half.

Henry Green (33:45):

So the, the main community you became involved with was this Iraqi community then?

Kamal Gabbay (33:50):

Yes. Mostly Iraqi. Yes. Yes.

Henry Green (33:55):

And, um, and so how did that, uh, did, did, um, you like the Iraqi food and Sue liked Iraqi food? Did you do any cooking? Did you ever cook stuff or did Sue do it?

Kamal Gabbay (34:09):

Well, I cooked once in my life for, she had to go to, to take my daughter to the hospital and I had the guests, you know, so, uh, I think I took everything in the kitchen in order to make two steaks. So once she came, you know, she was flabbergasted.

Henry Green (34:30):

[laughs] Did, did you, um, what about backgammon or shesh besh or cards?

Kamal Gabbay (34:37):

Yeah, I used to play, yes.

Henry Green (34:39):

So where did you learn to play this?

Kamal Gabbay (34:41):

I played with my uncle in Lebanon.

Henry Green (34:44):

He's a good player.

Kamal Gabbay (34:45):

Yeah. He was a good player and I learned with him, you know, and I became very good player.

Henry Green (34:51):

And you play for money?

Kamal Gabbay (34:54):

With them? Yes. But because he doesn't take money from me, if I lose, if he lose, he pays.

Henry Green (35:01):

[laughs] [inaudible] Were the Iraqis good shesh besh players?

Kamal Gabbay (35:09):

I play, but I don't play for money.

Henry Green (35:11):

But are they good players?

Kamal Gabbay (35:12):


Henry Green (35:14):

And did you, um, and did you play any other games at all? Any other,

Kamal Gabbay (35:20):

Uh, play [rummy]? Uh, for money yes.

Henry Green (35:28):

And did you become, you became a member of what? The Spanish, Portuguese synagogue?

Kamal Gabbay (35:33):


Henry Green (35:34):

And were you active in the synagogue at all? No. And

Henry Green (35:38):

Did you, uh, did your, um, you celebrated holidays?

Kamal Gabbay (35:43):

Yeah. All the holidays, you know?

Henry Green (35:46):

And would people come around to your house and celebrate Iraqi kinds of,

Kamal Gabbay (35:51):

Yeah. Sometime. Yeah.

Henry Green (35:54):

And how do you keep Iraqi tradition any, or your, your culture from that part of the world? How do, how do you express it today?

Kamal Gabbay (36:05):

Uh, same as, uh, any Jewish family, I guess. I'm I don't practice, but when I go to my daughter, because she is very religious, uh, well, I, um, I adapt, you know, what they're doing and the whole thing. Other than that, uh,

Henry Green (36:29):

What about Israel and Zionism? Is there any connection to Israel?

Kamal Gabbay (36:33):


Henry Green (36:34):

Did you, did you take your kid? [inaudible]

Kamal Gabbay (36:37):

Yes. Yes. We used to go there for bar mitzvah for weddings. Uh, I used to take my daughter and everything. Uh, uh, I don't go often, but, uh, my daughter goes mostly like, uh, two, three times, four times a year.

Henry Green (36:59):

Did you belong to any, uh, there was an Iraqi club in Montreal. Did you belong to this? No. So, um, your parents, you said they came over here in 69 or?

Kamal Gabbay (37:14):


Henry Green (37:15):

And where did they stay? They stayed in Montreal with you or on their-

Kamal Gabbay (37:19):

No, they stay in the hotel. At the Ritz Carlton For six months and they fly to a, to a Nice France. And they stay at the hotel Negresco for six months.

Henry Green (37:34):

Then what did they do after that?

Kamal Gabbay (37:37):

They come back and forth, back and forth. Yeah. And afterward my father decided, um, I mean, staying at the hotel, uh, too much after a while. So, uh, he rented in the, uh, Cartier building and, uh, he stayed there, uh, uh, I don't know, maybe 15, 20 years till they died, both of them.

Henry Green (38:06):

And they would go back and forth to Nice?.

Kamal Gabbay (38:08):

Very little.

Henry Green (38:11):

So this was, you know, I'm thinking this is the early, um, uh, the beginning of a snowbird, but instead of going to Florida, you went to France?

Kamal Gabbay (38:22):

Yes, that's before in the beginning and afterwards we started going to Florida. Sue and I.

Henry Green (38:28):

So do you have a place in Florida?

Kamal Gabbay (38:30):

Yes. In Fort Lauderdale.

Henry Green (38:33):

And how long have had that place

Kamal Gabbay (38:36):

Since 1983? No. No. We started in 1976, I think 78. We had a two bedroom apartment and whenever we used to have parties, I had to move my daughter to, uh, to the other room. So my daughter said I won't come anymore here. So we had to buy a bigger apartment. So we bought the three bedroom apartment and after she got married, but we're on 25th floor. She said, we cannot come here every [inaudible] have to go all the at 25 floor. So we bought them another apartment with two bedrooms in the same building on the, uh, on the fourth floor.

Henry Green (39:35):

You're lucky you have only one daughter [laughs] did, um, where you bought your apartment in Fort Lauderdale are there other Iraqis that are in the same building or close by?

Kamal Gabbay (39:48):

Yes. [All our brothers] and some friends also in the same building.

Henry Green (39:54):

And this is from Montreal

Kamal Gabbay (39:57):

Montreal yes.

Henry Green (39:58):

It's sort of like a Montreal, um, um, um, snowbird community, uh, and both are in the diaspora one's Canadian one's American. Right. And is it any different in your, when you're in the two places? Is it

Kamal Gabbay (40:19):

No, no. Same thing. It's family.

Henry Green (40:22):

It's family, but in Florida, you're still you're Canadian, right?

Kamal Gabbay (40:27):

Yeah. Canadian sure Definitely.

Henry Green (40:31):

So, um, when you think back in terms of, uh, okay, here, you, you been, uh, you know, living for 70 plus years. W what is important to you in terms of your, um, Sephardi or Babylonian or Lebanese identity? What is, what would you think of?

Kamal Gabbay (40:50):

I think it's the same for me, [HG: which is] like a Iraqi, mostly, you know, but I'm just Jewish, you know? And that's all

Henry Green (41:01):

Does, um, what have you gone back to Lebanon or never gone back? Um, and you haven't gone Iraq, you've never gone back to?

Kamal Gabbay (41:13):

No. No.

Henry Green (41:15):

Would you ever want to go back to Lebanon to visit it? [KG: N]. What do you consider your home? What's home for you

Kamal Gabbay (41:25):

Canada. Montreal.

Henry Green (41:26):

And today what's what language do you speak? Mostly?

Henry Green (41:32):

Uh, mostly English.

Henry Green (41:35):

And in business,

Kamal Gabbay (41:37):

French and English.

Henry Green (41:41):

Do you think that your, uh, when you think in terms of, uh, you grew up in Lebanon, does, does the Lebanese experience in any way influence you today?

Kamal Gabbay (41:55):

No, not that much. Really.

Henry Green (41:59):

So again, um, let me, um, ask you the same question I asked too, which is, if someone listens to this interview, what message would you want them to?

Kamal Gabbay (42:15):

Uh, I don't know really

Henry Green (42:19):

Well people, listen, what, what you want to tell them?

Kamal Gabbay (42:23):

Well, I just told you the story of my life. So, uh, uh, other than that, uh, I cannot add to that, you know?

Henry Green (42:35):

Okay, thanks.

Kamal Gabbay (42:37):

Thank you. Thanks.