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Brenda and Colin Baskind
Material Format
moving images
Interview Date
16 Jul. 2015
Oral Histories
Brenda and Colin Baskind
OH 423
Canada--Emigration and immigration
Jews--South Africa
South Africa--Emigration and immigration
Interview Date
16 Jul. 2015
Lisa Newman
Total Running Time
1 hr. 52 min.
Brenda met Colin on a blind date while attending teacher’s college in Johannesburg. The two dated for one year before getting married at the Pine Street Shul in 1967. Together, they raised three children—Stacey, Alana, and Cliff—and helped bring up the nephew of their maid, whom they regarded as family.
Around 1976, Colin and Brenda began thinking about emigrating as a result of the country’s worsening political situation. At first, their daughter was unwilling to move, but after a riot broke out at her university, she declared she had had enough. Initially, the family considered moving to Australia, but soon settled upon Canada, immigrating in 1987. Although they found the prospect of starting over intimidating, they received a warm welcome from both the South African Jewish community and the larger community.
Brenda and Colin purchased a khaloupe (a fixer-upper) that they transformed into a beautiful home, planting trees in its large garden. Brenda found employment with Holy Blossom Synagogue while Colin became president of the Southern African Jewish Association of Canada. In their free time, they took up running, a hobby that introduced them to many friends. By 2015, they had participated in eleven marathons.
Material Format
moving images
Name Access
Baskind, Brenda, 1944-
Baskind, Colin, 1941-
Geographic Access
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Port Elizabeth (South Africa)
Toronto (Ont.)
Original Format
Digital file
00:13 Brenda (née Bebrow?) was born 29 October 1944 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Brenda discusses her parents’ divorce and the death of her brother from polio in 1956.
01:25 Brenda explains the reasons her mother sent her to boarding school in Grahamstown.
02:12 Brenda’s father drowned in the ocean in Port Elizabeth at age eleven.
03:41 Brenda’s mother worked as a bookkeeper in Johannesburg.
03:50 Brenda discusses her limited Jewish education and practice while living in Grahamstown.
05:40 Brenda reminisces about her experience at boarding school.
06:43 Brenda discusses how she was able to cope while dealing with her parents’ divorce, followed by the deaths of her brother, father, and grandmother.
07:36 Brenda’s maternal grandparents and great-grandmother were from Russia. They were observant Jews.
09:12 Brenda moved to Johannesburg at age eighteen to attend teacher’s college. She describes living with her great-aunt, great-uncle, and cousin.
10:21 Brenda describes how she met her husband, Colin.
11:37 Colin was born on 20 April 1941 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived with his parents and younger sister.
12:03 Colin reminisces about his early years. He discusses his friends and interest in sports.
13:50 Colin’s father was a butcher. His mother assisted his father.
14:18 Colin discusses the high quality of his education.
15:32 Colin’s father practiced Orthodox Judaism.
16:26 Colin discusses his Jewish education. He reminisces about his bar mitzvah.
18:43 Colin describes how he helped with his father’s business.
20:21 Colin’s father was born in Lithuania at age 11. His mother was born in Latvia. Both came to South Africa in the 1920s.
21:39 Colin attended university in Johannesburg.
23:21 Colin discusses work experience.
25:12 Colin and Brenda reminisce about their initial meeting, courtship, and marriage.
29:30 Colin and Brenda’s eldest daughter Alana was born.
29:36 Colin and Brenda discuss their close relationship with their nanny and her family. They describe the living conditions for nannies in general.
33:23 Colin and Brenda recount how they helped raise the baby of their nanny’s sister.
36:50 Brenda’s mother remarried a third time.
39:18 Brenda discusses her work as a nursery school teacher in Johannesburg and Toronto.
41:06 Colin and Brenda explain the reasons that triggered their decision to emigrate. They describe the Soweto riots in 1976.
45:08 Colin explains how they chose and were accepted to immigrate to Canada. Colin and Brenda discuss the distinct advantages of living in Canada relative to South Africa and Australia.
52:33 Colin only considered leaving South Africa after his parents passed away.
53:10 Colin and Brenda discuss their children’s points of view about leaving South Africa.
55:23 Colin and Brenda describe how they got ready for the move to Canada. They discuss what they were and were not allowed to bring out of South Africa.
57:27 Colin explains how some South Africans left the country without going through the steps of formal immigration.
57:26 Brenda describes her fears concerning the move and explains the reasons some of her friends have remained in South Africa.
1:00:04 Brenda shares early memories of moving to Toronto: buying a house and a car.
1:03:09 Colin and Brenda contrast the quality of living between Johannesburg and Toronto.
1:05:04 Colin and Brenda discuss how they formed their early social connections.
1:07:46 Colin discusses how he maintained interest in sport, both as a participant and as a spectator. Sport was another means of making friends.
1:10:0 Colin volunteered with the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) for five years and became involved with the Southern African Jewish Association of Canada (SAJAC).
1:10:40 Colin discusses his involvement with SAJAC.
1:12:44 Brenda and Colin discuss some of the language and cultural challenges they encountered when they arrived in Canada.
1:16:17 Colin and Brenda discuss the achievements of their children.
1:20:42 Colin and Brenda discuss their daughter Stacy’s decision to be a single mother. Brenda discusses their involvement with baby Lily’s care and their decision to buy a house with private quarters to share with Stacy and Lily.
1:28:18 Brenda discusses two trips back to South Africa to care for her mother in 1998.
1:32:28 Brenda discusses the changes she noted in South Africa during her visit.
1:34:43 Colin discusses his volunteer work with JIAS, SAJAC, Jewish Family & Child (JF&CS) and JVC. He explains his desire to enable others to prepare themselves for and find work.
1:43:33 Colin discusses some of the challenges faced by his sister.
1:46:50 Colin and Brenda share their views on the current and future situation in South Africa.
Oral Histories

The Way Things Were

A khaloupe!

A Scholarship Based on Need

Part Of
The Shuls Project fonds
Fonds 64
Archival Descriptions
Part Of
The Shuls Project fonds
Material Format
multiple media
1859-1980, predominant 1977-1979
Physical Description
ca. 5178 photographs and other material
Admin History/Bio
The “Shuls Project” was the work of three University of Toronto architecture students, who in 1977 wrote a research paper on the eight Toronto synagogues built before World War II. Concerned at the lack of resources on these synagogues, Sidney Tenenbaum, Lynn Milstone and Sheldon Levitt foresaw the loss of communities’ recorded history as membership dwindled and elders passed on. The students conceived a project that would photograph and document every synagogue in Canada, gathering visual evidence, memorabilia, plaques and stories before they disappeared and history was lost. The students’ goal was to document synagogues’ architecture, art, and historical development through research, interviews and site visits.
The students secured a large portion of the required funding for the project from the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation in Montreal, funding which was matched by the Canadian Jewish Congress. This financial support enabled Levitt, Milstone and Tenenbaum to begin their study, named “Shuls… A Study of Canadian Synagogue Architecture.” They began in the summer of 1977, traveling through the Western provinces. The next summer, they visited eight Maritime cities, Montreal and other Quebec communities. Financial support in the project’s second year was again provided by the Bronfman Family Foundation, along with the Canadian government and donations in kind from businesses, including Benjamin Photo Finishers in Toronto, and Polaroid. The summer of 1979 was spent in Ontario, with an added grant from Wintario. In total, the Shuls project team traveled over 24,000 kilometres, taking thousands of photographs and conducting several hundred interviews. Photographs were taken by Tenenbaum, with Levitt and Milstone assuming primary responsibility for researching synagogues’ history and gathering historic records. Interviews were conducted by all three researchers, in both English and Yiddish.
With no handy index of every shul in Canada, the researchers located small shuls by word of mouth. They spread word of their project and solicited assistance using press releases, letters to known communities, and slideshow presentations as they traveled. They would first examine a building to get an idea of a community’s character and heritage, then conduct interviews with designers, architects, rabbis and other prominent community members.
With the research and photographs created, the team compiled three catalogues of the Western, Eastern/Quebec, and Ontario phases of the project. These catalogues have entries on each synagogue that include historical summaries highlighting the founding, growth, mergers and decline of Jewish communities, their changing needs, changing architectural expressions and trends, and the evolving uses of synagogues over the course of the twentieth century. There are also building descriptions, some with critical comments by the authors, and lists of the photographs and slides produced.
The compilation of materials and preparation of these catalogues took place at the Project’s offices at 26 Ava Road in Toronto, and continued through the summer of 1980 when the Ontario catalogue was completed. In 1985, Tenenbaum, Milstone and Levitt published a book highlighting their work, called Treasures of a People: The Synagogues of Canada.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of the records created and collected by the team of students conducting the Shuls study from 1977 to 1980. The majority of the fonds is made up of graphic material, in the form of 35mm colour slides and black-and-white Polaroid prints and (print-size) negatives. There are approximately 5110 photographs in the fonds. Fonds also consists of notes and inventory forms of buildings' architectural features. There are no interview transcripts, but the fonds does include three audio cassettes with recorded interviews and shul tours. Reference materials used in researching the history of the shuls include dedication and anniversary commemorative books and programmes, newsletters, articles and newspaper clippings. In addition the fonds contains 47 blueprints, the majority from Montreal synagogues. The fonds is arranged in the following series: 1. Quebec synagogues; 2. Ontario synagogues; 3. Western Canada synagogues; 4. Eastern Canada synagogues; 5. Reference.
Physical description note: includes 92 cm of textual records, 42 architectural drawings, 3 audio cassettes, and 1 drawing.
Physical extent note: many of the slides were culled because they were felt to be reproductions. Some of the synagogue images in the research book may therefore not be included in the fonds.
Name Access
Shuls Project
Repro Restriction
Copyright is not held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission prior to use.
Levitt, Sheldon
Milstone, Lynn
Tenenbaum, Sidney T.
Archival Descriptions