Title: In Our Own Voices – A Guide To Conducting Life History Interviews With American Jewish Women
Author: Jane K. Guberman, Editor
Publisher: Jewish Women’s Archive, Brookline, MA

 

 

The art of letter writing seems to have gone the way of the buggy whip. Even my 85 year-old mother-in-law stopped writing letters a few years ago. Now she only e-mails, remaining in touch with her two daughters in Sedona, Arizona and in Brooklyn, New York. No more “snail-mail,” and nothing hand-written anymore.

In addition to the “modernization” of the communication process between the generations (the grandchildren are also far afield), the fact that there is often a geographical gap means that close socialization between the members of an extended family doesn’t always happen. An unfortunate by-product of this lack of physical closeness means that family histories and the collected wisdom of the generations are no longer being shared as they would have been just from conversations at the dinner table or from sitting on Bubbi’s lap, or walking with Zaide to shul.

Happily, a growing number of lay individuals are making the decision to conduct oral histories of their families to help preserve important memories and traditions that could otherwise become lost. Stories of how the family came to America and survived are an even more important legacy than heirloom china and silver flatware.

Ms. Guberman, together with an assemblage of a dozen female historians, has constructed a basic “how-to” with instructions and recommendations that will assist the reader’s efforts to capture the very essence of the experiences of senior members of their families that can be passed on to younger generations. Such mundane and prosaic details as to selection of tape recorders, editing, selecting conceptual topics, etc., are all covered.

Preparing family genealogies has become a quite popular pastime, including the collection of photographs and memorabilia of family members. Oral histories can make the faces in the albums and the names in the book come alive.

Of course, the amateur historians certainly should not necessarily stop after practicing their craft on members of their own families. They can interview members of their community as well.

For more information about In Our Own Voices, or to obtain information about The Jewish Women’s Archive, please go to their website: www.jwa.org
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