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March 7, 2006

Jewish oral history

I had been thinking a lot about my final project, yet still felt very unsure about what I wanted to do for it. I was thinking a lot about oral histories, as I had mentioned in my last post, but my thoughts really hadn't gone anywhere beyond that. I also was trying to think of a way to make this project really relevent to my own life, something that I could feel very emotionally , as well as intelluctually, connected to. Well, these thoughts were swimming around my head, becoming no less clear as time went by.

Two saturdays ago I was at my synogogue getting things set up for my dance group to perform. During some down time I happened to look at a table containing many announcements about upcoming events in the Jewish community. There, on the table, like a tangible epiphany, was an advertisment about an oral history workshop being held by the Jewish Historical Society. Aha! Exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do for my final project!

So now I have been thinking further about how I would like to proceed with my project. I am going to attend the workshop this Sunday (March 12). It is supposed to teach me how to "capture family stories on tape," as well as how to develop interview questions and choose audio equipment. It also says that they are looking for volunteers to conduct oral histories with Jewish WWII veterans and displaced persons.

So this leads me to two ideas. One, I could possibly volunteer for the orginazation and use my experience as a basis for my final project. Without knowing too much about what help the project is looking for, it is hard to know if this is a viable idea or not. My other idea is that I could just use this as a launching pad for my own project. I could learn how to conduct oral histories through this workshop and then go off on my own. I would like to at least research some of the oral histories the Jewish Historical Society already has in order to get a good idea of how I should best conduct one. Then I may just go out on my own and do an oral history.

I was thinking that a great project would be to get the oral histories of the "elders" at my synogogue. It would be really neat to compile them all and then donate this compilation to the synogogue. However, this is much too large of a project for this class. I could just begin on this project by doing one or two oral histories with people at my synogogue. I was thinking especially of a woman named Grandma Zelda who is beloved within the community. I would love to hear her story. Otherwise, it would also be interesting to look within my own family and talk to some of my great aunts (my own grandparents are no longer alive). I'm not really sure exactly what I'll do, but at least I feel like I have some good ideas...