[04:21:45] Interviewer: And you are?
[04:21:47] Ruth: Ruth Meir.
[04:21:49] Interviewer: And what was your name when you were born?
[04:21:51] Ruth: My name was Albertine but they called me also Berta.
[04:21:57] Interviewer: And your family name when you were born?
[04:21:59] Ruth: My family name was Albertine Yarcoup Shaoul Haguli [ph].
[04:22:07] Interviewer: And where were you born?
[04:22:08] Ruth: I was born in Baghdad and this is, yeah, the capital of Iraq.
[04:22:14] Interviewer: And the date?
[04:22:16] Ruth: November 12th, 1938.
[04:22:20] Interviewer: And you told me something about, there was a false date on your birth certificate.
[04:22:24] Ruth: Yes. When, when we left Baghdad we had no control over anything. And they issued the permit to get out because we had no ID whatsoever. They erased our citizenship because we have no right to our citizenship in Baghdad anymore. So whatever they put on the document, this is what is left. [04:22:52] So they put fake document on my birthdate and for my brother, which is older than me of four years, he is younger than me in his document. So whatever it is, I, I never really care about it, I think until I was here in Canada and I reached the age, based on the passport of 70, that I have to collect my...
[04:23:20] Interviewer: Your pension.
[04:23:22] Ruth: My, yes! And then I was working at that time and earning money. I had to pay a lot of income tax because, added to my wages, to my income the...uh, you know, the pension, RRSP, that's what I meant. Yeah, you have to...cash certain percentage, yeah.
[04:23:47] Interviewer: Tell me about why your citizenship, not just yours, but Jewish citizenship was taken away.
[04:23:56] Ruth: Because, basically, the Arab, the Muslim people in Baghdad, they were really very good before uh, the establishment of Israel, before 1948. In 1948 they wanted to get rid of all the Jews. They didn't want to see them in their country, they, they were torching us, they were killing our people. [04:24:24] They were hanging them on, in the biggest square in the city like, a woman waiting for her husband, kids waiting for their dad and he wouldn't arrive and then I find out that, you know, the police held then and they accuse them, they, they are Zionist and uh...al kinds of things and you are a spy. [04:24:44] And basically they were targeting all the well-doing people, healthy people they, they had so much contact with the government and everything but they hang them.
[04:24:59] Interviewer: Do you remember -
[04:24:59] Ruth: Every second day they go to the big square - no we were terrified to get out of the house. No.
[04:25:08] Interviewer: You didn't go to see.
[04:25:08] Ruth: No, god forbid, not even my parents. I was very young, I wouldn't go there to see what's going on. I would be terrified. We didn't go to school. We didn't to anything because we are afraid to leave the house. They knew you are Jewish. We didn't wear any yellow ribbon or something but they knew we are Jewish.
[04:25:30] Interviewer: Until what age could you go to school?
[04:25:33] Ruth: I went to a kindergarten when I was young. I went to a private kindergarten in Baghdad and the kindergarten called Theghan [the gun? ph]. That's the word in, I think it's a Hebrew name but this is the name of the school that I went there just for kindergarten. The gun (ph].
[04:25:58] Interviewer: Were all the children Jewish?
[04:25:59] Ruth: All the children they were Jewish in this gan[ph]. And I remember they used to give me gold stars every day because you go there. I was all dressed up and all my outfits ironed and things like that and that's - they used to encourage other people who maybe can't afford or whatever to be presentable to go to school, to be clean. So that's how it was. [04:26:27] I was at the kindergarten and then at the age of six I went to a private school and the namand that's where we lived. It's an upscale area um...
[04:26:48] Interviewer: And the children at that school were...
[04:26:51] Ruth: The children were mixed. Where I actually - my best friend was the daughter of a member of the parliament in Baghdad. Yes. She was my best friend. Her chauffeur, he used to come to our house in the morning and pick me up to go to school with her and come back and they will give me a ride. Yes. That much relationship was with the, with the goyem because we, we had good relationship.
[04:27:23] Interviewer: Did your parents have Iraqi friends?
[04:27:27] Ruth: Oh yeah, yes, oh yeah. They have Iraqi friends, they have Muslim friends, they, they dealt with them in business and everything, oh yeah.
[04:27:38] Interviewer: And they would visit in each other's houses?
[04:27:42] Ruth: I don't recall that maybe...within his capacity as a businessman, dealing with them he would visit their place or whatever but not as a rule that we went to visit them on Sunday or Friday, you know what I mean? Yeah.
[04:28:02] Interviewer: What was your father's work?
[04:28:04] Ruth: He was a businessman. He did an import of spices. He uh, I think he dealt with India and England for tea and all kinds of things. And he also, later on, he started to import uh, silk, fabric and he opened a beautiful boutique there also in a special place, not downtown Baghdad. [04:28:31] It's an area that they have, really upscale stores and everything where...
[04:28:35] Interviewer: What's it called, that area?
[04:28:37] Ruth: I can't remember, honestly. I was gonna ask my sister but, I told you, she's in a nursing home and it's very difficult to get out of her information and so anyway um, so he had a business there, that, that's a side business he was, they were selling, you know, silk, all kinds of silk. [04:29:01] And the clientele were all British, they all spoke English, yeah. We had a lot of people, like, you know, from England that were there working, doing all kinds of things. They have a tennis club, we used to see it from our roof, we see them playing tennis and everything, yeah.
[04:29:21] Interviewer: Did you do sports...as a young...
[04:29:24] Ruth: Well just at school. Yeah.
[04:29:27] Interviewer: Tell me, your siblings, who else was in your family?
[04:29:30] Ruth: Okay, I have four brothers and two sisters, so we were all seven in the family.
[04:29:38] Interviewer: The oldest?
[04:29:40] Ruth: The oldest is Carmella, she lives in Israel and just a few months ago she went into a nursing home. Yeah she is unable to be on her own and take care of herself. And after Carmella, which her name was Juliette it's...Hadasa [ph] and in Arabic her name was Daisy. [04:30:08] So she also lived in Israel, in Ramat Gan. Unfortunately, she died ahead of her time. She had a burst appendix. Doctor mis - really, diagnosed her so that's really, very sad. She was in her 60's. Then I have a brother that's the older brother, Shaolih [ph] his name and he lives in Los Angeles. He's married to an American uh, girl. [04:30:42] She came to study in Israel and they met at the university so they got married, he immigrated - she went back home of course and he left Israel in 1967, left, yeah Israel in 1967. That's Shaol -
[04:31:01] Interviewer: [overlap]...lives in LA?
[04:31:04] Ruth: He lives in LA. Yeah.
[04:31:05] Interviewer: And after him?
[04:31:07] Ruth: After him, Edward and he is...uh, yes so he came also to Israel and from Israel he immigrated to Canada in 1967 as well. And he got married here to a Canadian... have children and what not, yeah. [04:31:30] And then, after Edward I was born. And after me, my other brother, the third one. His name is Uri [ph].
[04:31:41] Interviewer: And where does he live?
[04:31:43] Ruth: He lives in Israel. And....after Uri, we have our younger brother, his name is Danny and when he came to Israel he was 4 years old. So right now Danny, Danny came to Canada in the '70 I believe, '74, '75 and he was working with IBM in Israel. [04:32:09] And then he came here to Canada, he was working also with IBM and then he worked with the [Avelin?] and whatever, anyway, ten years ago he left to New York and he's there with his family and everyone, yeah.
[04:32:25] Interviewer: I forgot to ask, your mother's maiden name...
[04:32:29] Ruth: My mother maiden name was uh, Habiba Saleh [ph] ah come on, I can't tell you what...because we, Cohen, that's her father. Yeah, so that was Cohen. Habiba Saleh Cohen. Or...yes. And her father, her...yeah, her father was a Cohen. Sorry, yeah. Habiba Saleh Cohen.
[04:32:58] Interviewer: And you said that you lived in a very big house.
[04:33:01] Ruth: Yes.
[04:33:02] Interviewer: Tell me about that.
[04:33:03] Ruth: Okay, originally, when I was born I was born in Baghdad in a different area than when I grew up I was about seven years old and we moved to the al-Wahda, this is the place that was...the most prestigious place in Baghdad. When you go there and if you have a house there it's really, you see all the people, lawyer, accountant and also non-Jewish as well, not only Jewish people. [04:33:35] So my father built a huge house, three stories. It's like a big complex ok? We had two rooftops, you know, different levels um, two basements. While we were building we used to go, he used to take us there to see how they are progressing with the building and everything. My brothers used to go with their bikes, two wheels to ride their bike between the living room and dining room, the space was so big and they...[04:34:10] Can you imagine they were going with their bike, turning around. That big was the living room, dining room. And on the main floor they have like the master bedroom. On the second floor we have the girls and the third floor we have the boys. And everybody has his own bedroom. That's why - and also they balconies, you, you go out on the balcony, you see the river. [04:34:44] And the river has, they created an extension, the water was flowing from the river into the street that we were there and it's a big, it's like a, you know, really a...they call it jdirah [ph]. A big place that there are flowers around it and everything but when you stand on your balcony you see the water moving. [04:35:10] And the house was so big we had two addresses for it because we had two frontages on the house. One on this street, and one on this street. This is how big it was. And the garden was just like beautiful. The house was surrounded with, with the garden, the garden that we had uh, a gate like, iron gate with all, intricate - was beautiful. [04:35:38] And the reason the garden was just so beautiful because they used to use the earth from the beaches of the river and this was so uh, good. You don't need fertilizer. If you use this and it's reddish like uh, sand, reddish sand, this is how the earth was. [04:36:01] And we used to have the Arab or the Bedouin, we used to carry this and bring it your yard and maintain the garden and that's how uh, uh, how we had a beautiful garden. Actually, all over Baghdad you have beautiful, beautiful gardens. I think they were famous with their gardens and uh, roses. I remember one day I came from the gahn [ph?] when I was at, you know...[04:36:31] Coming home and I see a truck full of roses. That's something that I will never forget. This truck full of roses. They unloaded into our house. Truck. Full. And what they are doing, he called people with equipment that they steam the roses and take the rose steam to become after that water. And that's what we used at home for baking, for making jam like the vanille, you know. [04:37:08] That's what we used, yeah. Fresh, that it's homemade. Yeah. And this is just to show you the prosperity the, the, the things that they have.
[04:37:22] Interviewer: You mentioned to me that your mother, when she visited your house...
[04:37:25] Ruth: Yeah.
[04:37:25] Interviewer: Said that....
[04:37:27] Ruth: My mom said, "Our house in Baghdad was bigger than your house, right?" I said, "Yeah." And she said, "We had another floor more than what you have and more bedrooms." And I remember my friend, she was from Romania, but I guess they came form a different background or whatever and they said, "So what did your mom say about your house?" [04:37:48] I said, "She said our house in Baghdad was bigger." Which is true.
[04:37:53] Interviewer: And your house that she said hers was bigger, your...
[04:37:56] Ruth: It's 3800 square foot. We extended that, yeah. And it wasn't as big as our...[overlap] our house in, at home. Yeah.
[04:38:07] Interviewer: So tell me, besides the gahn, what did you do as a little girl? What do you remember?
[04:38:14] Ruth: Uh...what I remember, I think we came home, we studied, we uh, we played games uh...we did a lot of things what kids can do. We didn't have television, we didn't have computer but we...it kept ourselves with all kinds of things. We had books, we had games and this is what they, what we did.
[04:38:43] Interviewer: You had help in the house.
[04:38:45] Ruth: Yes, I did.
[04:38:46] Interviewer: Who were they?
[04:38:47] Ruth: We, we had two women. They came once a week on Wednesday to do the laundry. And then we had one woman that did the ironing. Because in Baghdad all the linen were either silk or cotton and when you wash them you have to iron them, that is a rule and until today I do that. My friend laugh at me. [04:39:14] And I said, "Well they're all cotton, I have to iron them." So yes, this is what we had.
[04:39:22] Interviewer: She would iron...
[04:39:23] Ruth: She would iron all the sheets, she would iron all the shirts for my dad because my dad always wore suits with white shirts, never coloured shirts, never. This is how he came to Israel and they, they were laughing at him. They said, here you wear a sandal and you wear shorts. [04:39:42] And my father never in his entire life wore shorts and whatnot. Anyway but, that's a different story. Yeah.
[04:39:53] Interviewer: Did any of the help live in the house with you?
[04:39:57] Ruth: Oh yes, we had help that came, they washed the floor, they did the uh, sweeping. Because don't forget we had carpet, Persian carpet in every room, in every hallways, all the staircases. We had two staircases at this house. One at the front and one in the back. And we also have, on this side of the house, a garage and on top of the garage we have a section for the bed, for the maid. [04:40:26] This is how big was the house. Yeah. So we, we, we did have all, we had a gardener, we had uh, my mom need helps. she, she was cooking or what not but a lot of work at home with seven kid - nine people. Yeah. Everyday you set the table in the dining room, it's like you are having Passover party.
[04:40:54] Interviewer: Was there someone who looked after the children particularly?
[04:40:58] Ruth: Uh, not really, not in my household. My mother looked after us yeah. She had help, she had, actually my aunt, she wasn't married, my bro - my father's sister she used to come and help.
[04:41:13] Interviewer: Did you have cousins, aunts, uncles, that you saw regularly?
[04:41:18] Ruth: Oh yeah, well, originally before we moved to the Al-Wahda we were in Baghdad, I told you , and it was as a neighbourhood of only Jewish people. We all lived one next to the other like, we lived in this house. My grandmother and grandfather and her kids were living next door. And then my uncles were living the following door. That's how we were living, one next to the other and it was great because we all gathered together on Friday nights, Saturday. [04:41:53] And my father orthodox and we had to, you know, to keep all the tradition and Friday by four o'clock or five o'clock, depends on the time of the year, everything was shut and, you know, and it's a kaddish [?], it's a holy day, that's it. Yeah. Until Motza'ei Shabbat. Then Motza'ei Shabbat, when before Motza'ei Shabbat if, like, my brother was younger than me and he was a baby, we have to warm up the milk for him. I couldn't, my mother wouldn't light the uh, the, the, the uh...
[04:42:35] Interviewer: The stove?
[04:42:36] Ruth: The stove or whatever to warm up the milk or the food. You, all you have to do is stand outside of the door and you see people walking and you call them to come and light the, the stove or turn it on, or turn on the light. The same on Yom Kippur. Yeah. [04:42:55] So it's uh, we had good relationship with them until...1941, the Pogrom and then it quieted down and then in 1948, until we left '51 it was terrible.
[04:43:13] Interviewer: You were little in '41.
[04:43:15] Ruth: Yes.
[04:43:16] Interviewer: What did you understand of what was going on?
[04:43:19] Ruth: I didn't understand. All I remember, because they were talking about it and everything. I guess before the day that it happened my father knew what's going on because the news, you know, they were talking about it and he had to protect us. So he came home and he bought all these, like drywall, plywood, I don't know what it is and he blocked all the windows. [04:43:47] And we were in Baghdad, we weren't in the Al-Wahda at that time. And my older sister, she was, she was much older than me. She's actually 15 years older than me so she, she understood what's going on and she was 18 or 17 and she...or more even. [04:44:08] She was crying and she said, "Dad, what are you doing? You are spoiling the house? How could you put, you take all these drapes and put all these boards to block it?" And he did this same thing at the front door, not from the outside, inside. And the next day we knew why dad did it. They were banging with hammers and sledgehammers on the doors to break the doors to get in to...take over whatever you have and kill whoever there in the houses. [04:44:42] If they succeeded to go into the homes for people who didn't really prepare to protect themselves that was disaster. They killed the mother right away, the father, the babies, they burned them. They really tortured them. And my father has to go downstairs to the basement to hide in the chimney because he knew they would take the head of the family right away. [04:45:11] Okay, and we were terrified. And we couldn't get out of the house like, to get some supply because there you shopped every day. You didn't sto - store food for a week of something like that. You need fresh uh, food, fresh milk, fresh break, everything. And that was impossible. Life was very, very difficult during the Pogrom and they killed so many people. [04:45:40] And I remember at that time, like, my sister is telling me, I used to, I used to cry in the middle of the night. I think I went through trauma. Until now I talk about I feel so emotional. I was so scared because they used to say, they used to hear people crying in the middle of the night and my sister said, these are the people were affected or died and they are...calling god or something like that. [04:46:12] And I used to be terrified and they used to take me, they took turns either go to my mom and dad's or my older sister or my older brother to be there and be covered with them and that was nightmare every day, until even today like. Sometimes I dream about these things it's, it's something that you never, never forget.
[04:46:39] Interviewer: Did you know people who were attacked at that time, or killed?
[04:46:44] Ruth: [overlap] I personally don't, didn't know or I don't remember but definitely yes, my father and my mother and my sister, there were a lot of families wh - families were affected by the Pogrom. You know, they literally killed people and stole all their belongings. And it was not a joke. [04:47:09] They took a radio, okay, I...and they put they put in on, on a stove, it's not a stove, it's a clay stove that that's how they baked their houses, their bread and things like that. And they put the radio on this clay things, it's like a barrel and they wood and burn the, the wood there and that's how they, they bake their bread. [04:47:37] So they put the radio on thi barrel and say, "Why can't you sing? How come only other Jewish people you sing then here you are not singing?" They didn't know they are primitive, that there is a plug and a wire that they have to plug it in their wall. Yeah.
[04:47:57] Interviewer: Did you know people at that time that left Iraq? Jews?
[04:48:03] Ruth: It was difficult to leave right away, no. I mean, you didn't want to be...what happened after that...I can't remember what happened after that. All I remember what happened after the establishment of [inaudible] Israel. This is the time that they started to attack people. This is the time that if you went to your office in the morning and you don't know whether you're going to arrive back home safe or not. [04:48:33] Because that's when they kill either, attack them, kill them or cut their throat and never came back home. And there were many, many, several people that went through this. They lost their father, their husbands, their kids. That's what it was. And we, we didn't go to school, we couldn't go to school. [04:48:57] My dad would be terrified to send us to school. And then the, the Jewish community gathered all the Jewish people to go into a synagogue and that's where we were living. We weren't sleeping, we were, you know, 200, 300 people. Everybody went to their own synagogue to spend the time there to feel they are there, they are safe because they had security and things like that. [04:49:25] Life wasn't....
[04:49:27] Interviewer: How long did that go on? Do you know?
[04:49:29] Ruth: That went from '48 up to '51 then we left. I don't know what happened after that, it continued until they managed to get rid of all the Jewish They agreed at one point, yes, we don't want to have Jews living in Baghdad at all, we have to get rid of them.
[04:49:48] Interviewer: When your family had made the decision to go, did you tell other people? Or...
[04:49:55] Ruth: Yeah well my dad used to communicate with other people. What happened, he, he let my sisters, the two sister, the older sisters to go with a Bedouin and he gave them money to take them to Cyprus. I believe it's Cyprus or Iran, I don't remember. [04:50:19] And they were supposed to come back and there is a code that my father gave to the girls that if they arrive safe, to tell this Bedouin whatever, this code so my dad knew that my two sisters got to Israel safe, okay, and he will pay him the balance of the money. [04:50:42] And they went on a...on a small boat, it's not like a ship or something, it's a boat with one person driving it or...
[04:50:52] Interviewer: Like a rowboat.
[04:50:54] Ruth: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And they risked their life and that's how he send also my two brothers, the oldest one. So we, we...
[04:51:04] Interviewer: And the code came back?
[04:51:06] Ruth: Sorry? Yes. Yes. Uh, I'm not sure how Shaolin Edward [ph] left Baghdad but I know the history of Carmella and Hadassa because I know it was also traumatic for me, they are going on their own and, and they are, and also I have to tell you one thing how he [mumbled] equipped them to get there. [04:51:30] He called a tailor at home and brought all these wool fabric to sew pants for them. In Baghdad you weren't supposed to wear pants because no women never wore pants or a girl never wore pants. But they heard that in Israel you are allowed, you are more liberal and you wear pants, the women wore pants. [04:51:56] So he brought a tailor to our house and it was all like, secret. Nobody has to know what's going on so that's how he equipped them with the best shoes because we had uh, uh, rosdibach [ph] I think the name of a, a store, a department store from England. [04:52:15] And that's where he went to shop for them. Loafer shoes and all these goodies and beautiful things. They arrived to Israel, they took them to a kibbutz and not, you didn't see these clothing, nothing because they never even wore them. Yeah, and we did the same thing. I still remember my mother used to go to the, to shul, you know, in the High Holiday and she used to wear a special garment. [04:52:48] And it's also made all with pearl and uh, gold thread that you wear only in High Holiday. Yom Kippur and on New Year's day. That's how you to the synagogue and I know some of them, every Jewish woman had it. And it was a special place that you ordered this once you get married, this is part of your noudounia [ph] and this is what they do for you because as a lady, a woman, you know goes to shul, that's what you have to wear. [04:53:20] It's so beautiful. And my dad wear, he used to wear white gown, silk and that's how he, he wore suits every day but to go to shul on the High Holiday, not every day, this is what they wore. White, white pure white silk. It's like a gown yeah.
[04:53:44] Interviewer: What do you remember of celebrations, Rosh Hashanah?
[04:53:49] Ruth: Oh celebrations was a big deal in our house. Every holiday was a big deal. Rosh Hashana was very, very special. My mom, and all her help and my sister used to help and bake and prepare all these beautiful things, beautiful cookies and things like that. And my dad used to shop every day. [04:54:16] And when he shopped he doesn't go with a basket, he brings somebody with him okay, to carry all these loads. Everything in a bushel. It's not in a plastic bag, in bushels, whether it's peaches, whether it's uh, apricot or pomegranate, whatever. And the, the table will be filled with all these fruits and vegetables and you have chicken, you have fish and you have meat. [04:54:46] That's all these three things, all the dishes. Sorry, I need tissue.
[04:54:52] Interviewer: Did you have fruit trees in your garden?
[04:54:55] Ruth: Ah, no we didn't have fruit. It's strictly, strictly flowers and ever day we used to walk all of, basically me and my sisters and sometimes my brothers to see what flower opened that day and it was just like, so beautiful, so beautiful all these, we had roses, we - yeah we had, we had grapes. [04:55:20] Yeah, we, yeah because dad built this uh, like a canopy and yes, we had grapes there. But it's more for beauty than conception, consumption. Yeah.
[04:55:36] Interviewer: What about Yom Kippur? What do you remember about that?
[04:55:41] Ruth: Our... my what?
[04:55:43] Interviewer: Yom Kippur.
[04:55:44] Ruth: Oh Yum Kippur okay. Prior to Yom Kippur, the week before Yom Kippur my dad will go and buy chicken and rooster. This is something probably doesn't exist here, maybe they thing it's, it's terrible but that, this is a tradition. [04:56:09] So they are roosters for the boys, there are five roosters, four for the boys and one for my dad, okay. And four chickens for each female. And the [inaudible] of Yom Kippur, that day before the Kippur, uh, my dad used to give us a blessing and take the chicken and does a kaparah [ph] and that's what he used to do. [04:56:39] And the same of the boys as well. And also, on many occasions, he used to have a small sheep, like a lamb, and you will call a shohet to come to the house and...slaughter the lamb and that's what you have, that's specially on Rosh Hashanah. Yeah. Yom Kippur, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. That's what they have done.
[04:57:07] Interviewer: What would you do with the chicken of the kaparah [ph]?
[04:57:10] Ruth: I, it, well they cooked all of them because we had people, we had ozrot [ph], we had help and things like that so we gave it away. And gave also to the needy people. Our house was open. If somebody knocked at the door you are welcome. Until today, when I go shopping I am one person, I shop for ten people. It's, it's a habit. [04:57:32] My friends come and say, "Why do you have all these fruits and whatever?" I said, "I don't know, maybe somebody will want it." This is how we managed our life there. It's never just perfect for us, it was for everyone else.
[04:57:50] Interviewer: Tell me other holidays, Hanukah. What do you remember?
[04:57:54] Ruth: Oh Hanukah was the best High Holiday. [laughs] Or course, you know, the Hanukah was, you know, we used to make the cookies that you saw, the elongated one, with syrup and things like that, that's what my mom used to do and used to do sufganiyot alright and...[04:58:16] That's really, it's a tradition that we did that every Hanukah and of course all the food and everything and for me my dad used to give us guilt [??] and we used to play, all the kids with the dreidle. Some of these dreidles, they were written in English. They didn't, didn't say [dreidle words], it's a game. [04:58:40] That it says like, you know, you put money in a big tray and we all sit around the round table and the dreidle turn around and it says, let's say, give one. If you played for a penny or five pennies or whatever, if I turned it around and it fell on this side it says, "Give one." You give one. Someone else give two or give three or give double, give two, that's it. It was one and two. [04:59:09] And there is one that it says, all give so everybody put into this tray and there is one rib [?] that is says, "Take all" So that's the purpose of the game, you play and you put all this money and you wish that you turn the dreidle and it's land on the "take all" or everybody give or take on or take two, or give one or give two. [04:59:36] I had, I think, believe six of, yeah. That's what we did, these are the games that we played as we older that was entirely different. We came to Israel so yeah.
[04:59:50] Interviewer: What about Purim?
[04:59:52] Ruth: Uh…Purim we...didn't have any, we didn't have mask or [Hebrew?]. Not that I remember. When I came to Israel that was what they were doing but uh, you know, they used to say, we are burning Haman, we are doing this, we are....but uh we didn't have any uh...
[05:00:15] Interviewer: And what about Pessah?
[05:00:17] Ruth: [overlap] Pessah was a big to do, a big to do because the preparation for Pessah, to clean the whole house was a lot to do. Every single drapes were removed, washed and ironed. And there were all embroidered, okay, handmade, all these drapes, all the sheets and everything, all ready for Pessah. Um...[05:00:46] The matzo, we didn't have factory that produced matzo. We used to bake the matzo at home but the matzo has a really, a, a lot of process to do to get to the matzo. You bought the wheat, you called two people that come to your house and my dad used to buy a full, maybe two bags of wheat, the grain, the grain of the wheat. [05:01:16] An those women they came, they used to take a bit of wheat on their hand, on the tray to see if there is anything there, whether it is a small stone or a crumbs or whatever. Everything has to be pure. So that's how they did, they spent a day or two days if they didn't finish, they'll come the next day and do it because they had a lot. [05:01:40] And then my dad used to take it, I still remember, in white bat [?] cotton because it has to be new and clean, never used, put them there and go to the mill. And the mill was, the, the equipment that they grind the wheat was brand new and that's how you did the wealth, the flour, okay. [05:02:06] So he used to bring the flour at home and all, the whole family, not the kids, like you know, my aunt, my, my...cousins, they all came to help to prepare the Matzo at night, at four o'clock in the morning. But it was very, very hard to prepare the dough. Now I am saying, I assume because it didn't have the uh, the uh, yeast. [05:02:35] The dough was very, very hard and it was very hard to, to uh, mix it properly so dad, once, he built a table covered it with stainless steel, he called someone to do all these things and he had arm that moved like that. So, so, he used to wake up with them, the prepared the dough and dad used to, you know, to work it back and forth until it will be uh...[05:03:08] It will be usable to open the dough and make it as a matzo. And all the matzo was matzo shmurah. It wasn't like the matzo that we eat today, you know, square mazto coming from a factory. This is how they made the matzo and the preparation, I remember my mom used to say to the kids, you don't go, you don't take your food anywhere, you stay here between the living room and the - the dining room and the kitchen. [05:03:38] That's where we ate for a week, not to move anywhere in the house. And we used to go, of course, to the, to shul in the morning and in the afternoon and it's, it was so much fun for the kids to eat the matzo and pray and say hagadah and all these things. It was, it was exciting, exciting time.
[05:04:03] Interviewer: You said your dad actually invented a machine to mix the dough?
[05:04:09] Ruth: Yes he do it, he did it! Yes. I told you. They covered the table with, he bought a table for this purpose, okay? And then we covered the table with sheet of stainless steel or something and he put an arm, the arm was sitting on something that was moveable, up and down. And that's how he did that. [05:04:32] I was young and I still remember how he did it. And it was amazing because I remember everybody was so happy and excited. It cut down on the time of the preparation yeah.
[05:04:46] Interviewer: What other religious uh, obligations did your father...
[05:04:52] Ruth: Well, you have the Sukkah that was even more fun. The Sukkah that he built way, in, in Baghdad, it was done from a real leaves of the decal [?] of the...
[05:05:10] Interviewer: Palm.
[05:05:10] Ruth: ...tree of, yeah the palm tree the, the t'marim [ph], the date okay so they used to bring all these huge palm uh, leaves to cover the Sukkah. And at the time, this time of the year we have all these new citrus like the oranges, the sweet lemons, the pomegranate and he used to make a bouquet, a bouquet for all these things, pomegranate and each one is that big. [05:05:44] It's and it was plenty of them, he would buy in bushel okay, and he prepare a bouquet of all these fruits and hang it in the Sukkah. And this is like, there are nine of them, for each child that he was, it's bouquet. We didn't eat it. And he would build a Sukkah on our balcony for us, for me specifically because I used to play there, go inside the Sukkah with my friends from school and everything. [05:06:15] So that was really amazing and we always ate at the Sukkah, not at home, not in the dining room, it's under the Sukkah. This is what we did. And...
[05:06:27] Interviewer: Did you ever sleep in the Sukkah?
[05:06:30] Ruth: Uh...my dad slept in the Sukkah but we slept in our rooms. Yeah, no. My dad slept in the Sukkah. I didn't say, did I cover the Rosh Hashanah? New Year's? I didn't say how my mom used to dress up to go the shul. I have to tell you that. She has a special cover up they used to wear white all the - but this cover up, like I guess ever woman when she got married , that's what they prepared for her. [05:07:03] And they called it in, in, I don't know what language is this but they call it "Izhar" [ph]. It's almost like [spells in Hebrew]. Izhar. And this is our, they wore it...twice a year, during Rosh Hashanah and during Yom Kippur. And that's how the woman went to Shul. And the shul was like upstairs, downstairs. [05:07:31] The women sat upstairs, the men sat downstairs and that's how the woman went there, to shul and...it was such like beautiful. You feel it's so festive. The mean all wearing the white garment and the women with the, with the izhar so it was beautiful, yeah. I miss this period. I mean, today, nobody pay attention to these things but as a child it was exciting. It's something to remember. [05:08:02] Because our children didn't have that and my grandchildren don't know anything about these things.
[05:08:07] Interviewer: What did you wear as a child?
[05:08:10] Ruth: I always wore dresses and my mother knew how to sew dresses and my older sister, and that's how I when to the gahn. Every day it was something new and since my dad was in the business also to import all these silk fabrics and things like that, so we were always really dressed beautifully.
[05:08:34] Interviewer: When your mom was wearing the izhar, what would you wear?
[05:08:38] Ruth: I would wear a white dress and black shoes, shiny [laughs] white, white socks. This is yeah. All my sisters were like that. They were all wearing white. Our, all her nightgowns they were silk, all embroidered and everything.
[05:08:58] Interviewer: Did you have long hair?
[05:09:01] Ruth: I had long hair.
[05:09:03] Interviewer: And who looked after your hair?
[05:09:05] Ruth: My older sister [laughs]. She prepared me to go the gahn every day. Yeah. Well, she went to school too but that's what she did. Yeah. It was amazing yeah.
[05:09:20] Interviewer: The scary time when you couldn't go to school anymore and you were mostly at home.
[05:09:27] Ruth: Yes, I was maybe eight at that time in 1948. Yeah. I was more [overlap] I was ten, sorry.
[05:09:35] Interviewer: Did you have any kind of studies or lessons?
[05:09:38] Ruth: Well, we read our books and things like that but we didn't, we didn't do any like, we didn't have any homework. We didn't know what's going on. We didn't have a phone at that time, during this time of, of you know, like, in '48 we didn't have phones. [05:09:54] Maybe one section of wherever you have a phone but not in our house. We did have electricity, we have all these things but we didn't have phone.
[05:10:05] Interviewer: Do you know if your parents told other people that you were going to leave?
[05:10:10] Ruth: Yes, all the Jewish people knew. The community, close community, if they arrive to the Shul or whatever they all knew we're all...revoking our citizenship. That's what they called it and in Arabic you are [Arabic]. That means...uh, finished with is. Erased.
[05:10:34] Interviewer: Cancelled.
[05:10:35] Ruth: Yeah. Erased, cancelled. It doesn't exist anymore. So everybody did the same because it wasn't, it was risky to live there, I mean, if you wanted to stay, yeah, fine, but nobody can guarantee your life. When you're here all these big names and multimillionaire, people that they were importing [inaudible] at that time or whatever cars and they were really very, very rich. [05:11:04] And these are the ones that they took them and, and accused them that they are spies and they hang them in the big square in the city. Oh and no Jews will, no Jewish person would go there and witness these things. That was scary, deadly.
[05:11:23] Interviewer: So what do you remember of your preparations for leaving?
[05:11:30] Ruth: I remember my mother crying. All the time. This is what I remember and looking at all of these things and she cannot take anything with her, okay. That's what it is. Don't, you know, all the beautiful silver things that she had it was just like, a lot, honestly. [05:11:54] It just...maybe will cover half of this room. So many things. It's chandeliers from silver, all the kiddu - you know, it's the holy things that you use. Also during the High Holidays and set the stable with things like that. This is what you have and some of them are really, very, very special that she inherited from her parents and, you know, it's antique. [05:12:24] Today it's in the museum if people managed to go prior to the pogrom or prior to the '48 and they managed to take it with them because a lot of people immigrated to England or India or the U.S. Yes. And they managed to take with them some of their stuff.
[05:12:46] Interviewer: Why did your family go to Israel?
3.[05:12:49] Ruth: Well there were Zionism and they felt the best place for the Jews after what happened in Europe and everything, the best pla - place to go it's Israel. Yeah. Israel you will be safe. Israel you can do whatever you want. Israel you don't have to be scared to get, to go out of the house. Israel it's, you don't have to be scared to send your kids to school and accompany him or her, yes.
[05:13:16] Interviewer: So do you remember of what you were able to take?
[05:13:21] Ruth: I didn't take anything. All, just, not even a book. Nothing. Just, because we were limited. I don't remember whether we are allowed to take ten kilo or, this is what we are allowed. My father, smart father, put all the valuable things that he felt this is the only thing he can take with him in his suitcase. [05:13:50] You have to remember, we didn't have the cash available, whatever cash my dad had, this is the only thing he had with him. Our bank account was frozen. You can't go to the bank and get your money, if somebody owe you money, you cannot go there and collect your money. If you sold merchandise and they owe you money, forget about it, you couldn't get it. [05:14:16] So whatever cash, money he had in his possession, and this is something very sad, that's what the Jews were doing, and he did the same thing. Those days, the luggage, the suitcases were built from wood, okay, and covered with leather. So into his luggage he opened a tiny hole in the wood, in the frame and he rolled whatever dinar notes he had, he put them there. [05:14:52] He drilled several holes in the frame and put it there, put it back, cover it with the leather, no one can see if, that you opened it unless somebody spy on you or whatever and found out what you are doing. And this is what he did. All our pictures, all our valuables when with that suit. [05:15:15] I don't know why, why he did it this way, maybe he thought he has control of his suitcase, he can carry it, maybe that's the reason. I don't have, we don't have, none of us have one single picture from our childhood. Nothing. Nothing. Not even the picture of the house or...they used to take pictures of the flowers, or everything. Of these beautiful , big balconies, you know. [05:15:44] Nothing. So, the suitcase, we arrived to Shar Haliya [ph], never arrived. So they said, oh maybe it will arrive later on. For two more than four years maybe dad will call me because I'm the only one could identify it, the suitcase. My other, younger brother he was younger than me, he was only four years old...[05:16:12] So he has to take me to say well, maybe you can spot the luggage. So we used to go to Shar Haliya [ph] in Israel, this is a place where all the immigrant arrived there and all their luggage and everything and there are shelves of luggage and, and he used to say, "Can you see my luggage?" No, dad, I can't see your luggage. And he, his heart was literally really aching and broken that everything he owns in the little that he was able to take with him in this ten kilo, it didn't arrive. [05:16:49] Not the money, not whatever. You couldn't wear the jewellery, you have to put it in the, the, in the suitcase okay? But...it's very sad. For four years he, he used to call me every once in a while and say would you come with me? I want to go to shar haliya to look for my suitcase. I even go so upset and so frustrated and I said, dad, they took it. [05:17:20] Because they already told him, they took it there in Baghdad. It didn't go on the airplane with us, okay? This, they know and this is what they've done. Probably to a lot of people.
[05:17:35] Interviewer: Tell me about arriving in Israel.
05:17:39] Ruth: Okay. The first welcome we arrived to Israel, they took us all and we stood in a row and they sprayed with the DDT our heads, our faces, our clothes and I know I started to vomit and yeah. My mother was very sick. My little brother was four - we were all sick from this spray. [05:18:06] Okay, so they said, they gave us [coughs], excuse me, a room. And this room has metal bed maybe two and a half feet wide with a straw mattress. mattress covered with, filled with straw. And you sleep there, it's better to sleep on the floor than on these mattresses. This is what, this is what we encountered the first day we came. The spray and this, and these rooms. It wasn't a room, it's hut, or a tent. [05:18:49] Then they gave us uh, musting [ph] they called it like in the army uh, dishes from aluminium or something like that, this is after the china that they used, we used to have. And you go there, stand in line to fetch your food, whatever they gave you that day or that night. [05:19:10] So we were there in the transition like, you stay there until they found, they find a place a ma'abarot. A ma'abarot it's basically not homes. It's a place, it's a vacant land that they uh, put tents on it and later on they built shacks, they are, they called it srephim [ph] to transfer from the tent to the t'srif[ph]. And the t'srif is, it's like a small room okay, and we have to fit into this but let me just tell you. [05:19:50] So ever day we had to deal with this shar haliya, with their no sanitation, their, nothing, really. It was terrible, terrible. This is the word I can tell you. No one can stand it, especially my parents came from this beautiful home. I forgot to tell you that my dad built a sauna in this house, okay? It used to have steam bath there and this is, he used to invite his friends to go into this sauna. [05:20:23] So we come here to the ma'abarot and there is a communal shower like when you go in the beach and see a shower and you take a shower. This is where you go to wash yourself. Alright? Okay, so after I can't tell you, I would be lying if I tell you it was after a month or a few weeks whatever. We were in shar aliyah they transferred us to the ma'abarot and they took us in messayot [ph], in trucks, like there is no benches, nothing, you stand there, a whole thing, we are all going to the ma'abarot near Rishon LeZion. Oh...I forgot the name of the ma'abarot, anyway, it's near Rishon LeZion, between Ben Dagon [ph] and Rishon LeZion, okay? That's another stigma that was so embarrassed to say. "I live in a ma'abarot"[05:21:19] And this is where we were. And one day, they had a strong wind and rain and this sand, because it was full of sand this place. It wasn't like paved or something. It goes into the tent and everything. The sand goes into your eyes, into your ears, everything. We were in this tent until one day it was blown away with the wind and rain and finally the moa'tza [ph?] came and the, the organization that took care of the immigrant, of the immigration. [05:22:18] They said, we are transferring you to a t'srif [ph]. The tris - the t'srif it's like, how should I tell you, a mini chalet. It's, it's made of wood and it has a few windows and that's it, and you take your beds to transfer them, them, there into the t'srif. The whole family, everybody, my mom, my dad, my brothers, my sisters, we are all living in this t'srif in the ma'abarot alright? [05:22:51] And go and live, there is no running water, there is no electricity, there is no nothing. And no food. The food was rationing and we have to, they used to bring a truck full of bread and at a certain time, and all the women used to run there, where the truck would stand and the guy inside the truck up there take the bread and throw it. Whoever has big hands and tall, long hands can...reach and take a loaf of bread and come back and feed ten people. [05:23:30] Most of the families they were big families. In Baghdad people have a lot of kids. They didn't have one child or two children. This is how it was and uh, so you have to feed your family with, with this loaf of bread. The eggs were rationing. They would give you certain [inaudible]. No meat, no chicken, no whatever. [05:23:58] They, nothing. And people...really the suffered a lot and I want to tell you. Water, no running water. And no bathroom. You have to go to a communal bathroom, it's a hole that's it's open and you go there. My mother was always afraid that I'm gonna fall down or my bro - oh yes, yes it was a big hole like that. [05:24:25] And the, the fly and the smell and everything. This is where they took us from and this is where we came. We are, I am - I can't complain because I understand that Israel was a young country and they haven't really established to absorb all these migration, all these people that came form Europe, people came from all over the Middle-East whether Morocco or Algiers or - everywhere. [05:24:56] to it was very, very hard for the government to accommodate and take care of everyone so that's what we went through unfortunately. Yeah. Then I went to the army, they took me to the army. I did some exam there. They were very, very happy. They call it dapar [ph]. It's like uh...[05:25:26] It's your IQ. Okay? My IQ was very high so I was there, in the army to be k'tsina [ph], to go to a special course to graduate as a k'tsina.
[05:25:42] Interviewer: [overlap]
[05:25:42] Ruth: So after I served in the army that my time arrived that I have to go for this course, okay, to be k'tsina and fortunately, a month before I had severe pain. I was on, you know, on duty for that night, for that evening. Severe pain in my stomach, on my side, didn't know what it is. They rushed me to the hospital. I went to the hospital. [05:26:13] The doctor came back and he said, "I'm sorry to say you have a matzhavot [ph]." That I have a stone in my kidney. And every time the kidney stone was moving the pain was...unbearable. So when I had this attack of paint I was, of pain, I was rushed to the hospital, and it's an army hospital. [05:26:40] And after that they have to give me a few [inaudible] like, I cannot go back to uh, to work in the army. Uh, I have to stay at home and they used to send me home for a week or so. So as a result of all these pain in my kidney and this stone my profile has to be reduced and I was, they call it in Hebrew [Hebrew]. It's like, triple A. [05:27:07] My, my health because I was healthy, I was everything, I did everything in the [Hebrew] we run, we, we did everything so I, I was strong, young girl. I did everything so and for me it was very, very much depressing to remove me from the list of the k'tsinim [ph] to go and study, that was devastating for me. [05:27:35] And I could not take it that my health profile was reduced to [Hebrew] or I forgot what it was that was way back in '57 [laughs]. So, however, after six months prior to my...finishing this service in the army, [05:27:59] at that time I was supposed to serve only two years, girls served two years, boys two and a half or three years...the stone came out, to my luck, anyway and I was so excited and the first week that the stone came out, I went to the, it's a committee of doctors that they have. I went, I requested an appointment to go there to check me. [05:28:26] And they restored my health profile to [Hebrew] and, for me, that was a celebration. So the authority came back to me and said, "Well, now that we restored your health we want to send you to this course be k'tsnah [ph], to be ka'tsin but under one condition, you have to sign to be in the reserve army for three years." [05:28:56] At that time I have my boyfriend, I was looking to get married, not to stay another three years in the army and finish my k'tsinim. It will take, I think six months or eight months and then I will k'tsinah and I said no. I don't wanna sign because I want to get married. [05:29:19] So that's how I, and only the first [Hebrew] I got it in a big ceremony and this ceremony it's the most rewarding thing. You feel like you are in your country, you are in Israel. We, we really said the hatikvah[ph] and all these things. It was so moving, so emotional. [05:29:46] Unfortunately, I couldn't, my other marks, like I was a [Hebrew] and [Hebrew]. I got them in the hospital while I was like, you know, I didn't spend months in the hospital, I just, as it turned unfortunately every time there wis - there was a ceremony to give all these promotions I was in the hospital. [05:30:09] So that's where my, the big k'tsin used, used to come to the hospital and say, "Who did you come to see? Who did you come to see?" Oh he came to see Ruthie. So that's, then I retired and I served actually in Wanim [ph] one time only. Because then I was pregnant and then I came to Canada. And in the...[05:30:32] During my service at the army I don't know if you want me to tell you about it, I was in charge of the [Hebrew]. They call it in Hebrew [Hebrew]. This is a place where all the confidential maps, and they design a war, they have to come to me to pick up the maps from there. Where all the exams for the soldiers, for the K'tsinims, for everything it's done in my [Hebrew]. [05:31:11] I had eight girls working for me. They were all typing, all these exams, everything [Hebrew] because it was stencil [?]. Is it? That's what they called it and we would just pack it in a special delivery to send it there. No one, no one allowed to see these [Hebrew], only the person that typed it and me that I was in charge. [05:31:37] And in my responsibility, I had all these eight girls working for me. I was in charge of them, to dismiss them for the week and send them, you know, on a, a weekend off and all these things so that was amazing.
[05:31:57] Interviewer: I forgot...
[05:31:57] Ruth: I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was so proud to walk with my uniform in Israel. That was the best thing and I believe every single person, boy or girl, they reach the age, 17 and a half or 18, have to go to the army. The army teach you so much. It teach you discipline, it teach you know how to handle yourself in, in, in case of emergency, in case of, in case of a war, in case of trouble. [05:32:31] That's what the army teach you and I feel like a boy or a girl wouldn't become a man or a woman, as you say, unless they go to the army. And when they dismissed from the army at the age of 21, they already know so many things. I remember when I came here to Canada and I said, the kids, at the age of 20, 21, they are not mature enough. They really, they don't have the experience, the knowledge, the, what they went through the same as kids growing up in Israel.
[05:33:10] Interviewer: I just want to go back to something you told me about your father, that he always wore a white shirt and jacket and how was it for him to come to Israel to the ma'abarot?
[05:33:27] Ruth: My mom and dad, they were so depressed. They never, never accepted this type of life. AS much as he was [Hebrew] and he, it was very, very difficult for them. Can you imagine, my mom she has a toothache, she went to a doctor in the ma'abarot, I don't know where he came from. He said he's a dentist, he pulled her teeth and she was 45 years old [inaudible]. [05:34:00] I, my mom came home crying. She said, "This is what they did to me." This is not, this wouldn't happen even in Baghdad where she was because we had proper de - proper doctors, proper dentists, proper lawyers. But there, you know, they didn't have all these people. Whoever came from wherever country and said, "I am doctor" or "I am a dentist" he was stationed there.
[05:34:25] Interviewer: What was it like for your father?
[05:34:29] Ruth: For...sorry?
[05:34:29] Interviewer: Your father.
[05:34:31] Ruth: Yeah, life, was terrible. He couldn't work, he, he couldn't do manual work, he wouldn't do that. That's for sure not. Didn't speak the language. He didn't have money to invest and to do business. I think he devoted himself to the shul and that's how he...ended up. It was a shul [?]. Yeah. I need a tissue. There is one thing, can you stop that. I can't I'm sorry because I'm trying to wipe my nose. Can I move?
[05:32:13] Interviewer: Lot of time on your career, you know, the property management and the public [?] company. Talk about it but [Hebrew?]
[05:32:22] Ruth: Okay.
[05:32:24] Interviewer: Because the main story here...
[05:32:26] Ruth: It's more...
[05:32:27] Interviewer: Is Iraq...
[05:32:28] Ruth: Yeah, but you want to know also where, where I ended up...
[05:32:31] Interviewer: [overlap] Where you ended up, absolutely.
[05:32:33] Ruth: ...what I accomplished in my life. Uh because it's something to be very proud of I feel like. As a new immigrant here in Canada I still don't have the perfect command in the language and I still reached where I reached and what I did.
[05:32:51] Interviewer: [overlap]
[05:32:53] Ruth: Yes. Yes. And even in Israel. Ha.
[05:32:58] Interviewer: Absolutely.
[05:32:59] Ruth: I had, I told you about this. I am not gonna mention all the, these [inaudible] because they were discriminating and I don't want to say these things. I don't. I don't want to mention these things. We came to Israel [overlap]
[05:33:13] Interviewer: [overlap]
[05:33:14] Ruth: The Iraqi people don't put in on, yes, Jeff.
[05:33:17] Ruth: ...And I even went to work to get money to buy a house in [overlap] Ramat Gan.
[05:33:22] Interviewer: I think it's worth saying. I understand if you don't want to but it's entirely up to you, but I think it's worth saying.
[05:33:32] Ruth: Well I can mention that time, because we didn't bring our money with us...
[05:33:37] Interviewer: Yeah.
[05:33:38] Ruth: Okay and my dad didn't work because he didn't speak the language.
[05:33:42] Interviewer: Right.
[05:33:43] Ruth: Alright and uh, so my brother, after school he was working [Hebrew]. He was in charge, he had a good position. Yeah, my other brother was working. My sister, before she got married, was working and I, during, you know, before I went to the army I worked...
[05:34:05] Interviewer: Okay, I'm gonna stop because we don't want to do it twice.
[05:34:06] Ruth: We gathered money, we paid a down payment, we moved into a house. This is the only time that we were able to get out of the Ma'abarot. Like, the government didn't do anything for us to get us out and go to live in a proper house. But I don't want to mention that now. I think you have more important things to say.
[05:34:25] Interviewer: I think it is important. I'm just gonna ask you about leaving the ma'abarot. You say whatever you decide to say.
[05:34:32] Ruth: Okay.
[05:34:32] Interviewer: then I'm going to ask you about your husband.
[05:34:34] Ruth: Yes.
[05:34:35] Interviewer: And his studies and what brought him here to Canada.
[05:34:39] Ruth: Yes.
[05:34:39] Interviewer: We'll mention his passing.
[05:34:42] Ruth: Yes.
[05:34:43] Interviewer: And [inaudible] and then what you've done with your life since.
[05:34:52] Ruth: Since, I'm miserable.
[05:34:53] Interviewer: ...which is a lot. Well...
[05:34:55] Ruth: Yeah, I went through so much.
[05:34:57] Interviewer: I know.
[05:34:57] Ruth: I sold our house. I moved here. I am renting here.
[05:35:02] Interviewer: Are you?
[05:35:02] Ruth: Yes. I didn't buy this. It's expensive. And also the rent is very expensive.
[05:35:07] Interviewer: I can imagine.
[05:35:07] Ruth: Where your mother lived right now they are paying four, five thousand dollars a unit.
[05:35:12] Interviewer: My mother lived next door for 30 years, she was under rent control.
[05:35:18] Ruth: I know, and they never were able to increase her rent.
[05:35:20] Interviewer: They were dying for her to leave.
[05:35:23] Ruth: Just to leave or, yeah. I remember before I came here I called the super next door at 3:30 at night. I said ,"Nina, I want to move, I'm selling my house, see if you have..." she said, "Oh we are waiting for Mrs. So-an-so to die and we are..." It's sad but that's what it is. They were in their 90's and they can hardly move. And they knew either they are moving to a nursing home or they are dying and that's how they have the apartment available.
[05:35:51] Interviewer: Exactly. That was my mother.
[05:35:53] Ruth: Yeah.
[05:35:52] Interviewer: So tell me about your family leaving the ma'abarot.
[05:35:59] Ruth: Well, we lived there I believe up to '56, I believe '57 I was in the army. I know that we lived in the ma'abarot.
[05:36:11] Interviewer: So how long was that?
[05:36:13] Ruth: That was, we came in 1951 so at least six years we lived there. Uh, of course, as you heard, my dad couldn't bring the money with him and he didn't have any money. We didn't have any money. He didn't work so...my sister was working, and my brother was working and I took a part-time job also to - I was working. [05:36:41] So we gathered some money. All we wanted to get out of this terrible, terrible place, okay. And we bought a house, beautiful, brand new home, two stories, no, sorry, not a house, it's a, a [Hebrew?], a complex in uh, in a three-story house- uh, building, in Ramat Gan. [05:37:07] Yes [Hebrew] I think, if I remembered that. So we bought it and it was empty, waiting for it to, to finish construction and this is when I got married and I went there for my honeymoon because being in the ma'abarot, and that, for me it was luxury to be there. That's before my parents moved in and whatnot.
[05:37:38] Interviewer: Tell me about your husband.
[05:37:40] Ruth: Okay uh, my husband of course he grew up in Israel. He came to Cana- to Israel with his parents [coughs] excuse me. He was four months old or so.
[05:37:55] Interviewer: From...?
[05:37:56] Ruth: From Baghdad. His father was working with the British uh, man [?] I think it was the oil company or something. So he had a job so he emigrated uh, of course with his family and he grew up in Israel. He's more [inaudible] than whatever he doesn't speak Arabic, he doesn't yeah, so uh...[05:38:24] He went to the army and he was, he was in [Hebrew]. And he finished...[overlap] the army. He finished high school. He went to Alliance by the way. Yeah, he spoke French, English and Hebrew. And he finished the army and decided to go to [Hebrew] and he put an application there. Of course, he was accepted. And he studied [inaudible] four years. [05:38:54] In his third year we got married. Fourth year he was there and, yeah, his, in his fourth year they came from the uh, atomic energy commission, at that time it was very secret and hush-hush. And they recruit him and it's uh, uh investigation about our, my family and his family. They ask us all kinds of questions and he was accepted to work there. So when he graduated from the [Hebrew] we moved to Beersheba because the [inaudible] was in the [inaudible]. [05:39:35] So they gave us a beautiful unit there. I think we paid the rent but that's what we had, a beautiful place there. And I had only my daughter Michelle. She was a year and a half old or something, when we move to Beersheba. So you work in the monah [ph], you had a bus coming every day to pick him up and uh...He was dealing with all these instruments and supplier from Canada and from the states. [05:40:08] And uh, Honeywell was supplying instruments there. According to the design, you know, the engineers preparing so anyway, I think he, had some contact with Honeywell and they offered him a position. And he said, "Okay fine. I want to do my masters degree there. I'll come to Canada for two years." He'll do his masters degree and he work, do this in a prt-time things. [05:40:39] So he came to me and he said, "We want to move to Canada." So he brought, bought all these books and things like that and at that time 9.it was all exciting, you know, I mean Canada, snow for us was something ah, we agreed, okay, we are moving to Canada but he promised we are coming back. [05:41:03] Because all my family they are, I have no one in Canada. We didn't sell our home, we didn't sell our furniture, nothing. So we came here, the first week we were here we tried to get organized, excuse me. We brought some money with us and after a week he started working. And then we were looking, we were in a hotel, we were looking for accommodation. [05:41:32] Uh, we went to Avenue Road to Lon, Lonsdale, we went to this building, we loved it. That's what we wanted, move in and I had Michelle in my hand and my tummy, I had Tammy. So the building manager said there, "I'm sorry, no adul - this building is adult. We, you can't move here." [05:41:56] So anyway we, we're looking for a section where all the Jewish people lived. We didn't know anything. All we knew was Bloor street and Bay street and that's what it is. And one day whatever Ned, my husband, came all the way to Bathurst street and he bought this beautiful bread, rye bread and he came back, he said, "Yes, they do have this Jewish bread."[05:42:23] Because the Wonder bread was just like cotton. We didn't like it. I'm sorry to mention that but anyway, so oh, there's a Jewish section? Let's move there. So we came here to Steeles and Bathurst was the last stop station to get there. Today it's all built. So we rented and apartment and we didn't want to go a used apartment and Ned said, no way, we have to have a brand new apartment. [05:42:56] And at that time, in 1966 we paid 180 dollars for a two-bedroom apartment, was a lot of money. But we said, if I have to reduce my standard of living, I'm going back to Israel. This is his [inaudible]. So we got this brand new apartment, was so beautiful, the hardwood floor and everything, two bedroom and I delivered my baby at Bronson Hospital and Ned was working with Honeywell control. [05:43:33] Any problem they had there they used to say, "Go and ask the brain." That referred to my husband. He is the brain. He worked there for many years and then he opened his own, no he moved to Stone & Webster. They had better opportunities there for three years or so and then he opened his own consulting firm. [05:43:56] So he had a firm, the name was Autocon [ph] Engineering. And he dealt with General Electric, with Monarch Food. He did automation there for Monarch Food. He built a robot that saved Monarch Foods 300 employees. That was his specialty. He was electronic engineer. [05:44:22] He built his own first computer. I still had it until I moved here. I had unfortunately to throw it. There is no room here. And uh...yeah. We...the kids got married here and...life was good but still we missed home, missed my parents, but my brothers followed. [05:44:48] My older brother married an American, you know, and he moved to the states, to California, Los Angeles. My other older brother, he also came here. He followed us and he married a Canadian woman. And my younger brother followed us. He came here. [05:45:12] So that's how, how it happened to I had, I feel sorry for my parents because all of sudden, you know, three of their kids, four of their kids are [inaudible] left Israel. But uh, we established here, always had in my mind to go back to Israel but now that my kids are here and grandkids there is no point for me to go to Israel. All it's left to go there on visit. [05:45:43] I did go to Israel with the UJA Federation and I've learned more about Israel and so more about Israel than when I was living there in, in, from, in 1966, which I didn't see much. We were in Haifa. Yeah.
[05:46:04] Interviewer: Tell me a bit about your career, what you did on your own.
[05:46:10] Ruth: Yeah, well, it's uh, I shouldn't say it's a long story. When Ned was working and we decided we, after two years we are not going back to Israel, we have decided to buy a house. And you know, in 1966, when he came here as an engineer his first year wages were 6000 dollars a year, that's for an engineer. [05:46:37] It was very, very low, it's not like in Israel. Israel, you know, they had more value to an engineer because there you want to the population to study and invent and do all these things. Anyway. So we decided to buy a house. We bought a house and it was 30 000 dollars, that's in 1968. And all we have down payment, we didn't have even the 6000 dollars, we had to pay 20 percent off. [05:47:10] We had to go to the bank and we couldn't say we are buying a house because they wouldn't give us money based on how much Ned is making and with two kids and whatever. So we said we are buying furniture so they lent us 2000 dollars on top of our 4000 dollars that we saved for the two years or so. [05:47:31] So we put it as a down payment but I had a baby with me, I couldn't go out to work so that's like, I took upon myself to take care of a child and give me any income. Anyway, my daughter is home, Tammy, she was a year, two years or something like that so...and I was getting 25 dollars, that was a lot of money. You can buy your grocery for 25 dollars a week. [05:48:02] They have to come to my house and, to see how I maintain my house. How clean is the house and this woman was just so impressed. The rate was 18 dollar to 20 but she agreed to pay me 25 because that's [inaudible] and this is how I can take care of her baby. And her baby was amazing. Very good baby. [05:48:25] I had the equipment, I had the [inaudible], I had the playpen, the highchair and everything. So that's how I helped my husband to pay the mortgage. The mortgage. Then we had a friend that he was in real estate, buying, investment homes and whatnot. And he bought six buildings and they were managing it themselves. [05:48:53] Him and three partners. And he needed someone to help him because he was never at the office. He realized that I have the talent to do it so he took me to work with him. I was doing the management...
[05:49:10] [inaudible question]
[05:48:49] Ruth: That's it. Ended up in, at Princess Margaret and I was there for two and half months.
[05:48:56] Interviewer: I'll say it for you so that you don't have to...
[05:49:00] Ruth: You can, you can add your remarks because sometimes when you present a person you said who they are, you, from your observation or whatever.
[05:49:09] Interviewer: Well you just tell me, what year did he die?
[05:49:14] Ruth: He died in October 12th. [Hebrew]
[05:49:21] Interviewer: I know.
[05:49:22] Ruth: Yes, he died October 12th, 2000 at Princess Margaret. It's already 17 years, next October, it will be 18.
[05:49:33] Interviewer: Wow. So...
[05:49:34] Ruth: He didn't [overlap] see any bar mitzvahs...sorry?
[05:49:38] Interviewer: With your permission I'm going to relay - I'll say that so you don't have to.
[05:49:43] Ruth: Yes, I want to mention that because I feel like it's, it's a life that we built together. It's a life that we had dreams to fulfil, to see our kids, to retire to do all these things and...I didn't have...
[05:50:05] Interviewer: You didn't have the last act.
[05:50:06] Ruth: Yes. That's it. I didn't have, I would say I was at the height of my career, of, my kids got married and they had beautiful marriage, beautiful people. One thing I can tell you, when he was very, very sick, he never believed in all these things, reincarnation or whatever. [05:50:32] And all of a sudden he said to me, he said to us, a day before he died, his mind was so clear and he said, "When I come back, this is what he said, when I come, come back I want to marry the same wife. I want to have the same kids and the same husbands that they have and the same kids." Because he felt he didn't really had enough to enjoy them, to see the grandchildren growing, to see the bar mitzvah.
[05:51:06] Interviewer: I'm gonna ask you to do something difficult, which is to say that sentence as though ...that'll be the last sentence.
[05:51:12] Ruth: Yeah. When he died, this is what he said.
[05:51:15] Interviewer: What he said.
[05:51:16] Ruth: Yes.
[05:51:17] Interviewer: Okay but let's just say a little more about your career. Then I'll say about his illness.
[05:51:23] Ruth: Yeah, okay. So we said that I was working for this man in property management. Yeah.
[05:51:32] Interviewer: And what did you do there?
[05:51:35] Ruth: I handled six buildings and I also undertook the renovation of these buildings. They were rundown buildings in Etobicoke uh, and had uh, gas furn - no, sorry, oil furnace and all the doors and everything, you know, required uplift and renovation. [05:52:00] And the people who bought it, there were partner, three, four partners and they were all busy. One of them was an accountant, admins [?], I don't know if you know them. But anyway, they left the whole project for myself. Six buildings, I was in charge of doing the renovation, negotiating with all the contractors, converting from oil to gas, review all these contracts with my, I would say limited English. [05:52:32] I knew exactly what I am doing but still. I did that, of course I would go the owner, I will have a meeting with them, once month, once a month and say, you know, these are the prices, this is what we are doing. I renovated all the hallways, removed all the doors, put aluminium doors, removed the furnaces, everything. And took the, then we were able to increase the rent, we were able to increase the value of the property. [05:53:01] So imagine, they bought the property, let's say a year ago or two year ago. I renovated their property, someone else came and bought it at a premium price because the rent was higher and the property was doing very well. We had fully occupied buildings. And even, as a member of parliament here in Etobicoke, Ruth Greer he name was, used to say that Ruth Meir renovated these buildings. [05:53:33] She changed the whole area. And that's a [overlap] and whoever ever invested money in the area, in buildings, that dilapidated, she would say you take Ruth, she will, she will do it for you. So anyway, from there, the building sold and someone else bought it and they came to interview me and they saw what I have done, they liked me. [05:53:58] So they took me to maintain the building. The building sold but the owner took me with him. So they bought other buildings, sorry, in this city and not in Etobicoke, in Toronto on Bay street and uh, and Bloor street, Bloor and Jarvis at the corner. These buildings are still existing, beautiful building. One if 475 units and the other 285 units. That was right on Bay street next to Manulife Centre. [05:54:33] So I was in charge. They were brand new Building, I was in charge to hire marketing people, to rental people, to do the rental to, to credit check on all prospective tenants. I took care of everything collected all the rent uh, provided financial statements to the owners and everything. So the building, the owners, these, they were Italian and they run into problem with the bank. [05:55:07] So another company, big company, came over and they purchased all the other projects, they had other projects, that I wasn't taking care of. So these people, the new people that came, their name at that time was Pagebrook Security Company. [05:55:30] The principal of the company, he was a pilot, Air Canada pilot and he organized through [merv?] shareholder. And they bought property and they were managing these properties. So when he took over these two buildings, one on Bloor, on Jarvis and the other one on Bay and he saw how organized I am. I gave him financial statement, the building is fully occupied and everything. [05:56:00] He said, he called me in, he said, Ruth I have over 8000 units and I have building everywhere, in Toronto, in Vancouver, in Brooks, Alberta, in Niagara - everywhere. And I want to buy your company because at that time I had my own company and the name was La Habitat Management Inc. [05:56:24] He bought my company and he brought me into his organization as a president to establish the management company within his company. Okay? And that’s where I joined Pagebook, I sold my company to him and I became the president of Pagebrook Properties Management. I had a hundred an fifteen employees. I sent a manual for all the building managers. I hired people, I fired people. [05:56:58] I did everything. Bill Grenier [ph] was a pilot with Air Canada, used to come once in a while to see what's going on and used to tell all this stuff, you are all living off Ruth's sweat. This is what they used to say. But anyway um, we grew so well and he bought more buildings and more developments and we had, I have a list of all these buildings, you might see it in some of these documents. [05:57:29] Because the buildings they were all post 1978, none of them were under control and all these buildings was earning really great money. So we became a public company, I guess on the advice of the accountant and everyone else and we used to have a shareholder meeting every once in a while and we used to give them, you know, information of what's going on and everything. [05:57:57] So we became a public company and this is an experience that I went through. It was unbelievable to be in the stock market but to prepare the prospectus and everything. And everything was secret, I wasn't allowed to say anything or divulge any information. They used to send it by a courier all wrapped and everything, Anyway, so we became a public company and that was at the beginning of 1987. [05:58:27] By December of 1987 we were subject to takeover by several companies. Okay? Our stocks were trading at the stock market at nine dollars uh, a share, or a stock. I remember that was November and Michelle and my husband and me went to Boston looking at universities there, you know, Harvard and Boston University. [05:58:59] And Bill Grenier [ph] called me and he said, you have to come back, we have a board meeting then we have an offer so I cancelled everything and I went back. My husband and Michelle was left there in Boston, I went back, so that a great experience. All these projects they sold including a hotel in Vancouver and a few buildings in Vancouver, building, all over. Anyway. [05:59:28] And then I had shares with the company, I held a lot of shares in this because I established this company and I went, established my own company again, and that's when I was dealing, everybody know who is AGF. He is my first client to manage for them. I managed all their buildings, not their fund, because they were experts on funds. But that was their business on the side. [05:59:56] And I remember Warren Goldring [ph] used to say, if you have any issue, he used to say to his kids, you go to Ruth. She'll help you out. This is how it is.
[06:00:11] Interviewer: I know that we don't have a lot more time and I do want for us to speak about the fact, and I'll say it because it's hard for you to say that at the height of your career, even a few year after that, your children happily married, everything...falling into place. Your husband was diagnosed...
[06:00:38] Ruth: With melanoma. No, it start like that. He went to a dermatologist and he said to him, it's innocent. He had a small spot on his leg here and he thought that he hit himself with the corner of the coffee table, you know, it was a glass coffee table at the cottage. [06:01:00] And I said, it doesn't look good, go to the dermatologist. And dermatologist said to him, it's innocent but I would send it to the lab. He scraped it, instead of excising from the root because he thought it's innocent. He scraped it. A week later, come from the lab, a melanoma. So the doctor called him on Friday and we were at the cottage. Usually, we left on Friday morning to the cottage. [06:01:31] So we didn't get back to the, to the house to get the note, it was Monday and the doctor said to him, the nurse said, "Come over on Wednesday, Doctor Steingberg wants to see you." That's when he told him he has melanoma. And now we have to go to Sunnybrook to excise it because it's going crazy. And this is how it started and Sunnybrook said, oh don't worry, everything is okay and we didn't sit down, everything is not okay. [06:02:01] And we went to all the doctors and we ended up at Princess Margaret and that was really treatment that he had with interferon, I have to inject him, inject it him everyday to draw squares on his stomach and his back everyday a needle in different spot, a new spot. And he was a, he, he attended a board meeting within his company in August and died in October, October 10th. [06:02:36] That's it. It was all over, it reached to stage four buy the time he got the treatment and during this ten months it was terrible what can I say? And he, one thing I want to mention, poor my husband, he was with epidural needle for tow and a half months, stuck into his back because they couldn't stop it. The pain was so severe they found out before he went to the hospital that the tumour from the melanoma, sitting, it grew up like that and sitting on his nerve, on his back. [06:03:18] And he couldn't walk and they all thought all the time it's lymphodema but his leg wasn't swollen and they were treating him for lymphodema, they didn't realize the tumour is sitting on his back. So anyway, he didn't last more, you know, we were in Europe, that's our last trip was in May and in August he had this pain that he couldn't walk. [06:03:45] I remember I took him to the doctor with a wheelchair and I couldn't even move so I was joking, I said, "I am a new driver." And my husband liked that. He said, "I like that. My, my wife she was joking, she said she's a new driver. "I'm sorry, I'm losing my voice. That's it, and before he died he was there and they knew there is nothing they can do to keep him alive. They gave him overdose by mistake, this is something I have to mention. [06:04:18] I have an apology letter from Princess Margaret. Nurses working hard there, 12 hours a day, 14 hours. They gave him over his dose. Instead of 6 mg or whatever, they gave him 72. So he went, you know, his blood pressure went down and...
[06:04:39] Interviewer: Tell me, this is really the last thing.
[06:04:42] Ruth: The last thing he said to me before he died, we were all standing there, he said, "In my next life, I want to marry the same wife, I want to have the same kids to name them the same name and I want them to marry the same husbands and the same kids." That's what he wanted. I guess he didn't have enough, not from his wife, not from the kids, nothing. Because he didn't enjoy. He had so much planned for our, plans for our future when we retire and everything. [06:05:23] And he went ahead of his time, it's very sad, I'm sorry.
[06:05:32] Interviewer: Thank you.
[06:05:34] Ruth: You're very welcome. I'm really sorry, Jeff, you have to take part of this as well, it's...
[06:05:44] Interviewer: I didn't want to make you cry but it's such a beautiful thing that he said.
[06:05:49] Ruth: Thank you. He was an amazing husband, loving husband and just amazing. Everyone tell me yes, life maybe was short but at least you had a beautiful life together. Supported me all the way. I used to work long hours as a president of the company, I used to come back from Vancouver, review all the mail, the messages, things like that, signing cheques, taking care of things. [06:06:21] And I used to cook in advance and he used to warm up the food. He said, "Ruthie, when are you coming home?" Oh, I'll be home at seven o'clock. He said, "I set the table, when are you coming home?" Oh I'm sorry, it took me longer, I'll be there at 8 o'clock. This is how my life was when I was working but he supported me 100 percent and he always said, "You are successful because you love what you are doing." [06:06:50] Honestly, and that's what I used to tell my staff. You love what you are doing, this is why you are successful. And if my, every my staff would see this video, my staff was working for me for 25 years. At AGF they used to asked me, "How do you maintain your staff?" I said, " I treat them like a member of the family." This is how I treat them. [06:07:18] And I was ready for them, to listen to them, to their issue if they had a problem at home, problem with, with their husbands, wife, whatever, the kids. I was always there for everybody and this is, and I understood them. [06:07:34] I never treated them that I am the boss. I am like them. And I have to tell you one thing, and this is the final. None of my, nobody from my staff, especially the office they would say, I am sick, I am not coming to work today. If they have an issue, their mother coming from the airport or they have a guest, they will be honest and tell me, this is what I have today. [06:08:03] And I paid them for it. And they never took advantage of these things. I used to send on of the girls, she had a blood clot that she was complaining, she was 25 years old. Her leg is hurting her and once I went, checked it, I said, "Kelly, you have a blood clot, you go to the doctor." Because she came in yesterday from the doctor and told her, no, no, you don't have any problem and tell them, "My boss said you have a, a blood clot." [06:08:32] And sure enough, a two o'clock at night her husband called and he said, "Guess what? Kelly has a blood clot." You knew. And who went there to the hospital to visit her? I woke up my husband and said, "Let's go and see Kelly at North York hospital." Next day I went there, I got her nightgown, I went to The Bay and bought her all these things. Okay, we are finished. Thank you. But this is - my staff way loyal to me because I treated them with respect. Yes.
[06:09:06] Interviewer: Thank you.
[06:09:07] Ruth: Thank you for this interview. And I hope my grandkids, this is what I want, will be able to see it. At least they know who is their [Hebrew].
[06:09:17] Interviewer: You'll get a copy...on a USB stick. If you want more copies we can arrange that.
[06:09:23] Ruth: There is no way that - can we delete certain things that I was so emotional?
[06:09:29] Interviewer: We don't edit.
[06:09:30] Ruth: No, okay. You don't do editing.
[06:09:33] Interviewer: No that's another whole thing. We don't do that.
[06:09:36] Ruth: Okay, alright.
[06:09:38] Interviewer: So it's up to you and...
[06:09:39] Ruth: No, that's okay. I felt – but I can review it at least and see. Yeah.