The firstborn twin (he insists he and his brother are not competitive), Richard grew up in the small town of Muizenberg in an old house on the seafront with his parents and four siblings. Born in 1937, Richard’s childhood was untainted by apartheid, which came into effect eleven years later in 1948. As a child, he played with children of colour on his grandfather’s farm; by adolescence, those same childhood friends were obliged to call him Boss on account of his race.
After completing high school at Kingswood College, a Methodist boarding school five hundred miles from where he grew up, Richard returned to Muizenburg where he worked on a farm before going back to school to obtain a diploma in agriculture. Around this time, he had a small mishap working at a winery. He had been warned not to fall asleep while the grapes were fermenting; sure enough, he did just that and the next morning the winery found itself with ten thousand gallons of vinegar.
Richard gained more experience in different wineries after completing a tour of Europe with the National Union of South African Students. He stayed in England and worked at a winery located under the Tower of London and later at wine farms in Bordeaux and the Champagne region of France. While in Europe, his twin brother told him about agriculture in Israel, which prompted him to go there. It was in Israel that he met his first wife with whom he had three children.
Richard worked at several jobs in Israel and opened three of the first Supersol supermarkets there. He also served in the Israel Defense Forces. Eventually though, he decided to come to Canada, which he did with his family in 1963. In Ottawa, he operated a supermarket for a short time before going to work for the head office of Loeb. Through this position, he got to see a good deal of Canada and developed a sense of its geography and a feel for its people.
In the early 1970s, Richard made a living as his own boss in a brokerage business before the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce recruited him to market Canadian grocery and alcohol products. It was while working for the department that he became a Canadian citizen.
Today, Richard is retired and married to Doris. They have four children and eight grandchildren. He considers himself a Canadian Jew, but retains a strong affection for South Africa and its natural beauty. Since leaving, he has been back to South Africa between twenty and thirty times with Doris.
Stern, Richard, 1937-
Cape Town (South Africa)
Muizenberg (South Africa)
00:00 Richard was born in Muizenberg, South Africa on 5 January 1937. He was the first of a set of twins.
00:57 Richard discusses his grandfather's business in Cape Town.
01:38 Richard reminisces about his childhood in Muizenberg. He shares memories about school, after-school activities, and his school performance.
04:06 Richard discusses his siblings: Robert, Maxwell, Peter, and Jean.
06:11 Richard studied viticulture. He describes the challenges he faced realizing his dreams after leaving his country and support system.
08:37 Richard reminisces about growing up in Muizenberg.
09:30 Richard discusses Jewish life and education in Muizenberg.
10:23 Richard discusses his bar mitzvah.
11:11 Richard describes the history of his parents' home.
12:07 Richard recalls his family celebrating Jewish holidays.
12:42 Richard discusses his affiliation with the Second Muizenberg Jewish Boy Scout group and camp.
13:15 Richard notes that his father was a leader in the Habonim youth movement, but did not want his children to participate in Habonim.
14:18 Richard discusses his father's involvement with the scouting movement in Cape Town. His father was involved in Jewish communal affairs. He describes his father's involvement with an entertainment group.
15:59 Richard discusses the make-up of the Jewish community in Muizenberg.
16:30 Richard shares stories involving his personal relationships with black or "coloured" Africans. He relates an incident that occurred during his first work experience.
19:40 Richard discusses the changes that arose with the introduction of apartheid in 1948. He refers to the risks associated with political involvement against the government.
22:09 Richard discusses Klingswood College, the boarding school he attended.
00:00 Richard continues to reminisce about attending boarding school. There were about twelve Jewish students.
03:42 Richard mentions the Sharpeville massacre.
04:12 Richard describes the student mix at Kingswood College. He describes exemptions made for Jewish students as well as mandatory church services.
06:33 Richard describes his pursuits after graduating from Kingswood College. He describes working on farms and vineyards. He earned a diploma in agricultural science from the College of Agriculture at the University of Stellenbosch. He relates stories from his college years.
11:44 Richard speaks of his travels and work experience in England, France, and Israel after graduating from college.
14:19 Richard speaks of his contact with Israel's first ambassador to Canada, Michael Comay, and his first marriage to Michael's daughter, Jill. They had two children.
15:49 Richard discusses his decision to remain in Israel and his early work experience in Israel.
17:22 Richard describes suffering from jaundice while completing his army training in Israel.
18:14 Richard was in Canada for six months and then returned to Israel.
18:18 Richard describes some of the challenges he encountered as manager of some of the newly-opened chain of Supersol supermarkets in Israel.
21:26 Richard discusses his decision to apply for immigration to Canada.
00:00 Richard discusses the breakup between the Bronfsmans and Bert Loeb.
00:58 Richard describes his ten years of work for Loeb's in Ottawa.
02:50 Richard opens up a brokerage business in 1971.
03:11 Richard describes how and why he was approached by the government of Canada to work in industry, trade, and commerce.
03:57 Richard explains how he became a Canadian citizen.
04:45 Richard describes his involvement in marketing alcoholic beverages and grocery products on behalf of the government of Canada.
06:01 Richard discusses his post chairing Canada-Israel agreements.
06:29 Richard describes the events that led to his wife and children returning to Israel in 1967. He notes the likelihood of his moving back to South Africa had his wife not decided to return to Canada.
07:06 Richard discusses his attachment to South Africa and offers his impressions of the country.
11:37 Richard praises the liberal political position taken by Jews in South Africa.
12:30 Richard discusses his ancestry. His paternal and maternal grandfathers came from Germany to South Africa. His paternal grandmother came from New York. He tells some stories about his grandparents.
14:42 Richard muses about his lack of awareness of different Jewish groups while growing up.
16:50 Richard discusses his identity as a Canadian Jew.
18:30 Richard discusses some of his philanthropic support.
19:55 Richard recalls memories about his grandparents.
00:00 Richard displays and describes two photographs of himself and his siblings.
00:00 Richard displays a photograph of the opening of the Voortrekker monument commemorating the Afrikaner scouting movement. Richard discusses his involvement with the movement and his attendance at the opening of the monument.
01:45 Richard displays and discusses a photograph of his school cadets band.
03:03 Richard displays and discusses a photograph of his rugby team.
03:49 Richard displays a photograph of himself and his brother-in-law, Yochanan, while serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Richard discusses how Yochanan was killed in the Golan Heights in 1967.
00:00 Richard displays and discusses a plaque that was present to his grandfather, Max Sonnenberg, for his service in parliament for twenty years.
01:38 Richard displays and discusses a book that was written by his grandfather.
00:00 Richard discusses his work with Agriculture Canada as director of processed food and later director of international marketing. He took early retirement in 1990.
01:23 Richard displays and discusses a photograph from the International Dairy Congress in 1994. He shares a story about Stephen Lewis, who was a guest speaker.
03:14 Richard displays and discusses a photograph of Richard presenting a cheque to the deputy minister of agriculture repaying the grant for the Dairy Congress.
04:12 Richard displays and discusses a photograph that related to his work with the sheep council in 1997.
05:44 Richard displays and discusses a photograph that related to his work with the cervidae industry.
06:50 Richard displays and discusses a trophy honouring his father for his contributions to the Community Chest Carnival. Richard shares some stories related to the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg that was started by his father.
09:56 Richard displays and discusses a program relating to the re-opening of the Masque Theatre in 1999.
00:00 Richard displays and discusses a photograph from his parents' wedding.