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NORMAN AMATO

ZIMBABWE

Photography by David Amoils

Norman was born in Gatooma, Rhodesia (known as Zimbabwe as of 1980) in 1934. His family left Spain in the 15th century and went to Turkey and then Rhodesia, as Jews were offered 100 years free of tax in Rhodesia.

His father was born in Turkey, and Norman’s great uncle was one of the first Jewish members of Parliament there and a good friend to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of Turkey. After his uncle died, Ataturk built a memorial to honour him. His father, along with Norman and his older brother, had a business in Zimbabwe where they sold everything from pins to anchors. Their motto was, “If you don’t see it, ask for it.” Norman split his time between the business and required service in the army. He had to alternate months. He went into the army at 18 years of age and was the welfare officer of his regiment. In the army, he earned a Distinguished Medal for Meritorious Service (D.M.M.). His brother was able to go to university, but Norman was needed to help with the family business.  Later, he got a PhD in Jewish Studies. In 1951, he wrote a book called “Hidden Angels.”

His brother moved to Canada, where he opened up a sporting goods store, eventually expanding to four locations. By then, Norman had three daughters. The new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe was Africanizing everything, and there was no real infrastructure in the country. In 1980, Norman moved his family to Canada as well, after changes in Zimbabwe left him feeling there was no future in the country for his family.

In the 1960s, there were about 8,000 Jews in Rhodesia. There are about 80 now remaining. There are two synagogues, one Ashkenaz and one Sephardic.

Norman and his wife, Ketty, have three daughters. Ricia lives in Florida, and gives classes in “The Value of Israel,” Sandra lives in Toronto and works in investments and has four children and two grandchildren, and Linda works at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and has one child. The couple’s son Albert works at RBC.