Neville and Ruth were born toward the beginning of apartheid rule in South Africa. Indeed, Neville was born the same year the National Party returned to power and formalized the system of apartheid. Because of their young age, Neville and Ruth were largely unaware of the political developments taking place in their country. By the time they left South Africa in the mid-1970s, the government had devolved into a police state. For them, the Canada of Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a welcome contrast to the injustice of apartheid South Africa.
Neville and Ruth grew up in traditional Jewish homes, in which their grandparents spoke Yiddish and were treated with deference. Neville met Ruth while attending medical school in Johannesburg. He was twenty-one at the time; she was eighteen. The two married on the condition that they leave South Africa and, after a positive look-see, came to Canada in 1975. Initially, Neville had trouble finding work as a general practitioner but was eventually able to open a clinic, where he has worked for forty years. Ruth, meanwhile, quickly found work in the nursery department of Holy Blossom Temple, the latter serving as a launching pad for their integration into Canadian society.
Although there were challenges along the way, Neville and Ruth have never regretted their decision to immigrate to Canada. They have four children, all of whom have made friends with the children of their Holy Blossom friends, and hope to see those friendships continue into the third generation.
Benoni (South Africa)
Cape Town (South Africa)
Germiston (South Africa)
00:35 Ruth discusses her parents' immigration history. Her father came to Benoni, South Africa from Lithuania and Latvia at age fifteen. Her mother came to Cape Town from Lithuania as an infant with her mother.
03:40 Ruth discusses her Jewish home life growing up. Yiddish was the primary language spoken by her grandmothers and between her grandparents and her parents. She describes her parents' home as traditional but not religious.
05:04 Ruth discusses her education. She attended a public school. She describes her brothers' Jewish education. She did not have any formal Jewish education.
05:42 Ruth continues to describe her home life.
06:55 Neville discusses his family's immigration history. His father came from Sveskna, Lithuania to live with an aunt in South Africa at age sixteen in 1927. He eventually bought a men's clothing business in Germiston, where Neville was born. His mother was born in South Africa. His maternal grandfather came to South Africa from Lithuania at the turn of the twentieth century, leaving behind a wife and child. He was able to bring them to Johannesburg, South Africa thirteen years later.
09:23 Neville explains that he lived in Germiston until 1971, when he moved to Johannesburg to go to medical school. He met Ruth while he was attending medical school. He explains that he and Ruth were married knowing they would leave South Africa.
10:29 Neville discusses the factors that contributed to his decision to leave South Africa.
11:49 Neville considered moving to England after he did an elective there during medical school. He explains why he decided to come to Canada instead. Neville discusses the circumstances that led to two of his father's cousins to leave South Africa and come to Canada.
13:24 Neville and Ruth explain why they decided to settle in Toronto rather than Vancouver, their initial destination. Ruth discusses the challenges of leaving her family. She recalls her first Rosh Hashanah in Toronto and how she found comfort from a sense of community.
17:23 Ruth notes that she chose Toronto over Vancouver thinking she would have a greater chance of seeing family. Paradoxically, her family immigrated to Oregon.
18:21 Ruth discusses the reaction of friends and family to their decision to emigrate.
19:12 Neville and Ruth discuss a look-see visit to Canada in 1974. They relate a humorous incident involving trying to get to the Canadian embassy in Rome.
21:04 Ruth describes the homesickness she felt as a new immigrant to Canada. She highlights the poor communication at the time: slow mail; postal strikes; sending mail via Buffalo, New York; expensive and complicated long-distance phone calls.
23:06 Neville discusses some of the challenges he encountered when he first arrived.
24:38 Neville and Ruth discuss the support they received from the Jewish community. They identify support from their colleagues.
26:10 Neville and Ruth explain the factors that directed them to choose their first neighbourhood.
27:12 Ruth discusses her adjustment to Canadian winter.
28:31 Ruth comments on her surprise of being able to practice Judaism openly in Toronto.
30:44 Ruth contrasts open conversations about the Holocaust in Canada with minimal discussion in Johannesburg. Neville discusses the impact of the Holocaust on his family.
32:25 Ruth discusses the role their household staff played in her life in South Africa.
33:11 Neville recounts an anecdote demonstrating the prevalence of domestic help in white South Africa.
34:08 Neville contrasts the oppressive society of South Africa with the open, welcoming Canadian governance and society.
35:11 Neville discusses why the military was glorified in South Africa.
36:02 Ruth discusses her professional career.
00:47 Neville's sister and family and parents immigrated to Canada a year-and-a-half after their arrival. Ruth's family immigrated to the United States.
01:25 Neville and Ruth have four children, all born in Canada.
02:01 Both Neville and Ruth strongly identify as Canadian. Neville recalls he felt Canadian when she took his children to school. Ruth distinguishes between her "childhood life" in Africa and her "adult life" in Canada.
04:16 Ruth explains when and why she returned to South Africa for visits.
05:07 Neville discusses a desire to help young children and families in South Africa.
07:17 Neville notes the similarities between Ruth and his backgrounds (e.g. living with a grandmother, Yiddish spoken in the home).
00:22 Ruth explains why she is grateful for coming to Toronto.
00:47 Neville discusses a social group in Toronto comprised of former Jewish residents from Germiston. He notes that he has a large extended family in Toronto.
01:38 Ruth notes that most of their close friends tend to be South African.
02:01 Neville discusses his cousin, Ben Sischy, who had been a political activist in South Africa.
02:30 Ruth notes her awareness of South African politics became stronger after she immigrated to Canada.
03:15 Neville relates stories about black medical students in his medical school class.
04:24 Neville and Ruth explain that they visited Israel but did not consider moving there.
04:57 Neville and Ruth discuss their limited involvement with Zionist youth movements and reminisce about fundraising as children for Jewish organizations.