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Although he grew up in South Africa, Stephen was born in England where his father was studying. When they returned to South Africa in 1963, they visited Israel on the way, and five-year-old Stephen fell in love with the exotic, young Jewish state.
As a teenager, Stephen was OHtive in Habonim, South Africa’s largest Zionist youth movement and became head of that movement in the late 1970s, running the largest Jewish youth camp in the world. Stephen was also elected chair of South Africa’s Zionist Youth Council, the umbrella body for all-Jewish youth organizations in the country. He and his wife Michelle then moved to Israel with a Habonim group that established Kibbutz Tuval in the western Galilee.
In 1982 Stephen came to study in Toronto. He served as administrator of Bialik Hebrew Day School and as camp director of Camp Shalom, while completing MBA and LLB degrees, and was awarded the Gold Medal at Osgoode Hall Law School. Stephen and Michelle started a family and both their own parents immigrated to Toronto.
Stephen is a senior partner and executive committee member at Goodmans LLP, is widely regarded as one of Canada’s leading business lawyers, and has played a pioneering role in the development of the country’s capital markets. He is is the founding chair of the Canada Africa Chamber of Business, a director of Kew Media Group, a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, chair of the board of Makom, and founder of Kaleidoscope, a unique multi-dimensional Israel engagement program.
He and his wife Michelle; their two married children, Daniel and Lisa; granddaughter Olivia; and therapy dog Mannee all live in Toronto.
Pincus, Stephen, 1958-
00:56 Stephen discusses his family background, including notable forebears, his grandparents' immigration in the early 1900s, and the largely Lithuanian composition of the South African Jewish community.
03:04 Stephen discusses his South-African-born parents' backgrounds and how they met.
05:14 Stephen mentions that he was born in England in 1958, while his family was abroad for his father's medical studies. He lived there until they returned to South Africa in 1964.
06:25 Stephen remembers arriving in South Africa and all the family that had come to greet them who hadn't seen his parents for eight years. He mentions that all correspondence happened via mail.
08:01 Stephen describes his family's relationship to Judaism: They were Orthodox in name, but took a pragmatic approach. Stephen went to public school and received a lot of his Jewish education from Habonim.
09:27 Stephen describes his bar mitzvah celebrations. Stephen remembers preparing his speech. He enjoys public speaking and this was a starting point.
10:49 Stephen talks about the Habonim youth movement. Stephen's involvement began in his early teens. He became the head of the movement in the late 1970s and ran the camp for a couple of years. Stephen is organizing a trip this summer to Israel for alumni of Habonim.
14:50 Stephen explains that he has a foot in South Africa, Canada, and Israel.
15:43 Stephen talks about the unique environment in South Africa that contributed to Zionism. He talks about the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Israel was a place where South African Jews could create something better. Stephen finds it ironic that some see in Israel a continuation of apartheid.
19:53 Stephen talks about his parents' view of his involvement in Habonim. He relates a story where his father became upset when Stephen participated in a march protesting a United Nations resolution instead of studying for an exam.
21:37 Stephen's father was risk-averse and practical. He wasn't keen on Stephen moving to Israel and would discourage his son indirectly. Stephen went to Israel anyway.
22:20 Stephen's parents did not give voice to strong political views. Stephen remembers being at a poetry reading at a friend's parents' house when he was eight. It was his first mixed-race experience. Stephen and his friends were politically active in high school and as undergraduate students.
24:27 Stephen explains how Zionism and Israel were his major focus while the South African situation was secondary. Stephen remembers visiting Soweto a number of times.
26:00 Stephen discusses the paradox of under apartheid while opposing it. He sees this as a central issue that white South Africans of his generation faced. He discusses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings of the 1990s.
28:24 Stephen recounts how Israel fell into the arms of South Africa after being pushed away by various African states in the 1970s.
29:03 Stephen describes his involvement in resuscitating Machon Le'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz, a year-long leadership course for youth leaders in Israel. South African Jews would defer their army service to participate. In 1975, the South African government determined it would not let Jewish students defer for this purpose.
31:16 Stephen discusses his decision to leave South Africa.
32:51 Stephen discusses how not going on Machon is one of his regrets.
33:28 Stephen discusses the places he considered immigrating to. He was focused on going to Israel and was part of a group that went to live on a kibbutz in the western Galilee.
37:24 Stephen discusses previous trips to Israel. The first time he went to the country was when his family went from England to South Africa. This was before the Six-Day War and he remembers barbed wire in Jerusalem. Stephen thinks he probably fell in love with Israel at this time.
38:32 Stephen explains the meaning of the words machon and garin.
39:23 Stephen describes the kupah meshutefet ("common treasury box") economic system. The system didn't last very long.
40:16 Stephen describes how his family and friends reacted to the news that he was making aliyah.
41:09 Stephen discusses a car trip he and his wife took throughout South Africa. He relates how they were caught in a flood and ended up being taken in by a black family. Stephen reflects on the irony of their situation.
44:07 Stephen discusses he and his wife's arrival in Israel. Stephen was accepted by Hebrew University to study law. Ultimately, he and his wife chose to move to Toronto at the beginning of 1982.
45:06 Stephen shares what he brought with him to Toronto from South Africa.
47:20 Stephen discusses his initial trip to Canada in January 1982. He thinks that it was the coldest winter Toronto experienced until 2014. He discusses some of the hurdles he faced adjusting to the new climate.
51:33 Stephen discusses settling in Canada and going to school.
56:25 Stephen discusses opening an issue of the Canadian Jewish News and seeing that a summer camp was looking for a director. He was director for a couple of years and he and his wife would spend their summer at the camp.
57:05 Stephen discusses how Habonim was different from Camp Shalom, the camp he worked at in Canada.
58:24 Stephen discusses his transition from being involved in a Zionist and socialist youth movement to ending up in business and corporate law. He notes that he has shifted in a number of respects in terms of his perspective on economic values, social values, and religious values.
1:02:55 Stephen discusses his experience integrating into Canadian society.
1:05:20 Stephen contrasts his parents' experience coming later in life with his own experience. They had a wonderful time when they came because there was a large community of retired South African expatriates by then.
1:09:54 Stephen discusses the role of the local Jewish community, and local South African Jewish community, played in his acclimatization.
1:11:59 Stephen discusses how he came to work for Goodmans.
1:14:17 Stephen discusses the differences he has noticed between Canadians and South Africans. He feels that South Africans as a group tend to be more direct than Canadians. In his opinion, South Africans lie somewhere between Israelis and Canadians in terms of directness.
1:17:51 Stephen discusses his journey, coming from a secular Zionist background and starting a program of Jewish learning later in life.
1:20:40 Stephen discusses his own approach to keeping Jewish traditions and customs. He is observant, but not dogmatic.
1:26:11 Stephen discusses his two children. His son is a medical resident and his daughter is finishing up a law/business administration program.
1:27:09 Stephen discusses synagogues he is involved with.
1:29:10 Stephen discusses cultural differences he has experienced raising his children in Canada.
1:33:04 Stephen explains the decisions he and his wife made regarding their children's education.
1:35:15 Stephen describes his children's relationships with their grandparents.
1:37:31 Stephen answers the question, "Do you feel Canadian?"
1:41:55 Stephen discusses his involvement with the Canada-South Africa Chamber of Business.
1:42:42 Stephen discusses the differences in being involved with the ex-South African community more broadly and the ex-South African Jewish community.
1:44:58 Stephen discusses his children's connections to South Africa, which he says are quite limited.
1:46:37 Stephen shares food words and expressions that he shared with his children and which they now use.
1:47:55 Stephen offers a few final remarks about his decision to immigrate to Canada and the relationship between Canadian identity, Jewish/Israeli identity, and South African identity.