Bessie Diamond: The National Council of Jewish Women and the Well Baby Clinic

Posted by jyuhasz

Bessie Diamond, age 91, in her apartment
Rights - JMABC
Diamond, Bessie
Vancouver, BC
Dodek, Irene
Monday, May 20, 1974
Digital audio recording #: 19.74-04
BD:         Well, we were on the, there wasn’t a Canadian set up at all at that time.
ID:          Not in the Eastern part of Canada?
BD:         No, we were all part of the American, we had regions. We were part of the ‘Western Interstate’ which was California, Seattle…Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Albert I think was included too but there was nothing there. We were already organized but we were part of the Western Interstate. And then, I’ve just forgotten the year that…maybe I have it here, when the Canadian, the National Council of Jewish Women was formed. Of course we severed our roots, severed our connections, we were still part of the international group, but we became a separate organization with our own government, with our own rules, and bylaws, and so on and so on.
               In 1924 when Council first started, it was only of course volunteers that did everything we used to do. And now my particular job at that time was carrying treats, like carrying chocolate bars, rice pudding on occasion.
ID:          To whom?
BD:         To the old ladies in the incurable ward of the Marpole Hospital.
ID:          My goodness.
BD:         That was part of my job there. It reminds me, you know now volunteer work is an entirely different story but in those days it was terribly important.
ID:          [It’s probably as important today].
BD:         Council’s work in the community was really recognized those days because we worked in various fields. They had tag days, they’d call on Council for the Community Chest drives, [and they’d] have over the years too, those days we had Council—there was a tag day almost every Saturday, you know, for some thing or the other. Always Council was called upon and always we provided the volunteers for the Community Chest after that was started. And wherever you were needed in the community, you were called upon, and you found volunteers to do it.
ID:          And this was sort of Jewish representation for community work?
BD:         Yes.
ID:          And was it hard to find volunteers or could they offer their services readily?
BD:         People had help, help was attainable in their homes for very reasonable amounts of money. Some people paid $25 a month for help, yeah. I didn’t, I never believed in that sort of thing, I always paid more. But we all had help so that we were free to do work in the community.
ID:          Yes, that makes a difference.
BD:         In the early days too, when all this immigration was going on following our organization’s beginnings we organized what we called the Well Baby Clinic. There was a lot of immigration here and hardly any of the women in Council could speak Jewish [Yiddish]. Couldn’t understand it, couldn’t speak it, but there was a great need for, for giving these people advice, whether it was to take care of their babies, whether it was to help them to become, to have a bit of a social life, and that sort of thing. And that’s where we did a good job. Our Well Baby Clinic was conducted in the Heatley Avenue synagogue, which was the first synagogue in Vancouver. It was Schara Tzedeck in reality but it was Heatley Avenue. We used to meet in the big hall…
ID:          Now this was strictly the Jewish immigrants that had come and were coming to the Well Baby Clinic?
BD:         That’s right, they came to the Well Baby Clinic. And it was my job, it was Dr. Davies who was the doctor, girls like Frances [Weinrobe], Charlotte Boyaner, Jenny Chess was the nurse incidentally, you know she’s Jenny Brotman now.

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