Aubrey and Lucille both grew up Jewish in South Africa, but in many respects their experiences of Yiddishkeit were quite different. The son of Orthodox Eastern European parents, Aubrey grew up in a kosher household that took religion very seriously, even if his parents, who owned a small business, had to work Friday evenings in order to make ends meet. Lucille, on the other hand, was the daughter of German immigrants to South Africa who belonged to a Reform synagogue; as a result, she was less familiar with the nuances of kashrut. After meeting Lucille, Aubrey’s mother made several phone calls to verify that her future daughter-in-law was, in fact, Jewish.
Lucille tells a story related to her lack of familiarity with kashrut that illustrates several aspects of Jewish life under apartheid South Africa. When Aubrey was fourteen years old, his family employed a servant of the same age who went on to work for the family for decades. Years later, when Lucille was staying with Aubrey’s family, the servant, despite being non-Jewish, would inquire whether Lucille would be giving her child meat or milk that night and would then proceed to put out the food along with the appropriate plates. Immediately after doing so, he would tell Lucille not to touch anything until he returned in the morning lest she inadvertently violate kashrut!
Aubrey and Lucille left South Africa in 1965, ending up in Kingston after a two-year stay in Birmingham, Alabama. Aubrey became one of the first Jewish academics to teach at Queen’s University while Lucille found interesting jobs in social work, ending her career at Kingston General Hospital. Initially, they had some difficulty integrating into the local Jewish community, but the situation improved as they slowly became more integrated into the Jewish community and more Jewish academics settled in Kingston. Aubrey and Lucille have four children and are the proud grandparents of ten grandchildren. Aubrey passed away in February, 2018.
01:07 Lucille Groll (née Godfrey) shares some of her family history. Her parents were born in Germany. Her father (né Gothelf) came to South Africa in the late 1920s as an adult. Her mother came to Johannesburg as an infant and was educated in a convent.
02:36 Lucille describes her Jewish upbringing as Reform and liberal with minimal Zionism.
03:10 Lucille's brother attended a Reform summer camp with Zionist leanings.
03:34 Lucille discusses her Jewish education, practice of Jewish holidays, and her Jewish social life.
06:50 Lucille's parents and other elders spoke German at home.
07:14 Lucille recalls the German-style food eaten at her home.
09:34 Lucille's maternal grandfather came to South Africa in 1910, returned to Germany, and then returned to South Africa after the First World War.
10:41 Aubrey shares some of his family history. His parents were married in Lithuania and migrated to Furrow, a farming community. His parents ran a general store. He had two brothers.
13:38 Aubrey discusses his upbringing in Somerset West such as going to school and Jewish practices (Shabbat, kashrut, holidays, Zionism).
15:44 Aubrey discusses her father's affiliation with the Revisionist Zionism. He relates an anecdote involving a visit by Menachem Begin to their town.
16:35 Aubrey discusses her parents' involvement with the synagogue.
17:28 Aubrey reminisces about his education, bar mitzvah, foods, the Jewish community, synagogue life, Hebrew school, and keeping kashrut.
22:00 Aubrey notes that his parents did not discuss the Holocaust or their family's history, despite losing all of the family that remained behind in Lithuania.
23:20 Aubrey's parents spoke Yiddish with one another and friends but not with their children.
25:35 Lucille recalls first meeting Aubrey and his family.
26:45 Aubrey discusses antisemitism during his school years.
27:48 Lucille relates a humorous about Aubrey's mother confirming Lucille's Jewish background.
28:38 Lucille and Aubrey discuss how they met.
Aubrey explains how they ultimately moved to Kingston, Ontario in 1967 via Birmingham, Alabama.
01:36 Lucille discusses her work as a social worker in psychiatry.
02:10 Aubrey and Lucille discuss their relationships with Lynne and David Ginsburg and their role in helping David find work in Kingston.
03:24 Lucille explains how she assumed there would be a Jewish community in Kingston. She shares her impressions of the Jewish community when they arrived. Aubrey shares his impressions as well.
06:20 Aubrey and Lucille were the first Jewish South Africans in Kingston. Other South Africans came to Kingston in 1969 and the 1970s. Aubrey discusses the involvement of South African Jews in the Kingston Jewish community.
08:23 Lucille discusses her family's involvement in the Jewish community in Kingston.
09:22 Lucille discusses her children and grandchildren and their practice.
14:10 ?Joyce (Aubrey's relative?) relates an anecdote about finding and repairing some old candlesticks.
15:45 Lucille discusses changes in Jewish practice over time in Canada versus South Africa.
16:50 Aubrey shares comments about the strong sense of Zionism and Jewish identity in South Africa during his youth.
19:35 Lucille notes that most South African Jews in Toronto have been affiliated with an Orthodox synagogue on Bayview Avenue and the Reform Temple Emanu-El.
00:00 Aubrey briefly discusses the prominence of Zionist movements and camps in South Africa.