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Lorraine and Alan Sandler
Material Format
moving images
Interview Date
12 May 2015
Oral Histories
Lorraine and Alan Sandler
OH 420
Canada--Emigration and immigration
Jews--South Africa
South Africa--Emigration and immigration
Interview Date
12 May 2015
Lisa Newman
Total Running Time
1 hr. 30 min.
Use Restrictions
Partially closed.
Lorraine, the daughter of European immigrants to Africa, was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) where she grew up with her three siblings. For his part, Alan was born in Cape Town, South Africa where he grew up a single child, his only brother passing away at a young age.
Alan first met Lorraine while on vacation in Bulawayo with some friends. The two dated while Alan was doing his accounting exams and Lorraine was attending teacher’s college. They married in Bulawayo after dating several years.
After their honeymoon, Alan and Lorraine began their new life in Cape Town, where they started their family. One incident in particular prompted the couple to seriously consider leaving South Africa: Their eldest son requested to attend a movie with his nanny, which would have been illegal under apartheid.
Not seeing a future in South Africa, the family looked to immigrate. Initially, Lorraine wanted to make aliyah, but Alan felt the language-barrier would be an obstacle to finding work. Eventually, they made their way to Toronto where they attended a Shabbat dinner that persuaded them that Jewish life could flourish in Canada.
The family—Alan, Lorraine, and their two sons—arrived in Canada on August 5, 1976. Unlike many subsequent Jewish South Africans who came to Toronto, the family chose to live downtown, enrolling their children in Jewish day school. Both Alan and Lorraine took on leadership roles within Toronto’s Jewish community. Alan is a founder of the South African Jewish Association of Canada and was president of the UJA Federation of Toronto. In turn, Lorraine was chair of both the Women’s Campaign and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. Today, their children are married and Alan and Lorraine are proud grandparents.
Material Format
moving images
Name Access
Sandler, Alan
Sandler, Lorraine
Geographic Access
Bulawayo (Rhodesia)
Cape Town (South Africa)
Toronto (Ont.)
Original Format
Digital file
Copy Format
Digital file
00:09 Lorraine's maiden name was Weinstock. Her mother came from Lithuania. Her father came from Poland.
00:38 Lorraine describes her parents' histories and their respective journeys to Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe).
04:56 Lorraine describes her parents' courtship and decision to marry. Together they saved enough money to bring Lorraine's aunt to Rhodesia. Lorraine's father was a carpenter; her mother was a seamstress.
06:48 Lorraine describes her parents' early years together. Initially, they lived outside of Bulawayo, where her father worked for a mine. Lorraine's two older siblings, Mickey and Fay, were born there.
07:47 Lorraine's parents moved to Bulawayo. Her father and a partner started a lumber business, which flourished over time. Lorraine describes the business.
08:51 Lorraine was born. Her younger sister, Sheila, was born five years later.
09:11 Lorraine explains how despite financial struggles, life was good. She cites the weather, education, sports, friends, and fruit trees.
10:08 Lorraine describes the critical role Habonim played in her life.
11:09 Lorraine describes the Jewish community in Bulawayo. She addresses the important role the synagogue played in their lives, especially the Friday-night service.
12:30 Lorraine explains that her parents spoke Yiddish at home with one another and English with the children. The children were able to understand Yiddish, but not speak very much of it.
13:10 Lorraine attended Hebrew school but learned very little Hebrew. She learned Hebrew vocabulary at Habonim.
14:00 Alan's maternal great-grandfather came to South Africa from England. His maternal grandmother and her three sisters and four brothers were born in Cape Town. His maternal grandfather came to South Africa from Germany in 1908.
14:54 Alan's paternal grandparents came from Lithuania with other members of their shtetl. His grandparents tried (unsuccessfully) to farm. Alan explains how his father's four sisters enabled the only brother to attend university. Alan's three younger sister and father were born in South Africa. His oldest aunt was born in Lithuania.
16:35 Yiddish was not spoken. The majority of Cape Town's Jewish community came from Lithuania at the turn of the century. English was spoken at home. Alan learned Afrikaans and French at school.
17:50 Alan describes the vibrant Jewish community in Cape Town. he notes that there has been a Jewish presence in Cape Town since 1652 with the arrival of the Dutch.
19:30 Alan recalls that the meeting place for Jewish children in Cape Town was Muizenberg Beach.
19:58 Alan explains the reasons he did not have a strong Jewish education. In contrast, his Zionist education was very strong.
21:05 Alan explains that his father developed Zionist leanings while in university and he grew up in a Zionist household. He recalls meeting David Ben-Gurion and fundraising events for Israel.
22:42 Alan shares memories from his bar mitzvah. He recalls that he did not have a close connection with synagogue, but was actively involved with Zionist and Jewish community needs.
25:22 Alan contrasts the Jewish community in Cape Town with Toronto.
28:05 Alan's father was an accountant. He notes that in the 1930s and 1940s the large accounting firms did not hire Jews. The situation changed after the war as Jews became more affluent.
30:35 Alan and Lorraine describe how they met and dated.
36:20 Alan and Lorraine discuss their wedding.
38:40 Alan shares an anecdote about his aufruf (calling to the Torah) before his wedding.
40:30 Lorraine discusses their early years of marriage living in Cape Town. She discusses her and Alan's active involvement in the Jewish community.
43:17 Lorraine identifies an incident that served as a trigger for their decision to leave South Africa.
44:22 Alan discusses the inception and practice of apartheid in South Africa. He describes his personal dissonance with the situation.
47:26 Both Lorraine's father and Alan's parents supported their decision to South Africa.
48:40 Alan explains that the only people who were leaving South Africa were forced to leave because of their political activism or Zionists making aliyah. Lorraine wanted to move to Israel.
50:09 Alan and Lorraine discuss their exploration of English-speaking countries in 1974. They explain the factors that facilitated their decision to choose Toronto.
54:08 Alan discusses the financial implications of leaving a "blocked-currency state."
54:38 Alan explains his reasons for not going to Israel.
55:34 Alan discusses the sequence of events that delayed their departure until August 1976.
57:07 Lorraine discusses their difficult circumstances upon arrival in Toronto. She explains why they chose to settle in the Bathurst-Eglinton area and their decision to buy a house.
1:02:07 Alan discusses his initial involvement with the Toronto Jewish community and how he attempted to promote the needs of new Jewish South African immigrants.
1:04:00 Alan explains how he was able to integrate into a new country.
1:04:22 Once Lorraine started to run Holy Blossom Temple's preschool, she felt less isolated.
1:04:38 Alan describes the shock of a Canadian winter.
1:05:14 Alan discusses the impOHt of the influx of Jews from Montreal during the same period.
1:11:50 Alan describes their involvement in the Toronto Jewish community.
1:13:00 Lorraine cites her reasons for reOHhing out and persevering despite the obstOHles.
1:14:28 Alan compares his experience to other Jewish families who remained in South Africa. He contrasts himself as an immigrant to the majority of immigrants who leave their home country.
1:16:28 Alan discusses the success of the next generation, more specifically their own children.
1:17:58 Lorraine discusses her career as a Jewish educator in early childhood education in Toronto.
1:21:24 Lorraine discusses her volunteer work in the Jewish community.
1:23:04 Alan comments that the establishment of Leo Baeck Day School was a direct result of the success of Holy Blossom Temple's preschool.
1:24:39 Lorraine displays and discusses some family mementos: heirloom candlesticks and some photographs.
1:27:38 Alan describes some family photographs and shares some family anecdotes. He discusses some of the barriers to Jews at university when his father was a student and some of the successes of Jewish students.
1:30:09 Alan and Lorraine share a photograph of their children, their spouses, and grandchildren.
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