In Our Own Voic­es: A Guide to Con­duct­ing Life His­to­ry Inter­views with Amer­i­can Jew­ish Women

Jew­ish Women’s Archive, ed.
  • Review
By – July 30, 2012

His­to­ry will nev­er for­get Emma Lazarus, Mol­ly Picon, Bel­la Abzug, and oth­er famous Jew­ish women of val­or” who blazed trails and changed the world, or at least a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of it. But what of the ordi­nary” Jew­ish woman whose con­tri­bu­tions res­onate through a small­er uni­verse— that of her fam­i­ly and local com­mu­ni­ty? Aren’t her tri­umphs, strug­gles, mem­o­ries, recipes, jokes, and words of wis­dom worth pre­serv­ing, too? 

With a resound­ing Yes!” the Jew­ish Women’s Archive pio­neered the use of com­mu­ni­ty-based oral his­to­ry projects to uncov­er, chron­i­cle, and trans­mit the rich­ness and diver­si­ty of 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can Jew­ish women. JWA, which has com­plet­ed two oral-his­to­ry projects since its found­ing in 1995, now seeks to draw more peo­ple into the process with the pub­li­ca­tion of In Our Own Voic­es, a step-by-step guide to con­duct­ing life his­to­ry interviews. 

The man­u­al includes tech­ni­cal details, inter­view­ing tips, and guide­lines to facil­i­tate the record­ing and archiv­ing of old­er Jew­ish women’s per­son­al sto­ries on video, audio­tape, or dig­i­tal media. This extreme­ly user-friend­ly spi­ral-bound book also offers hun­dreds of inter­view ques­tions to con­sid­er ask­ing. Sug­gest­ed cat­e­gories of inquiry include fam­i­ly, edu­ca­tion, work, Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, home, sex­u­al­i­ty, and world events. Ques­tions range from how the woman learned to cook to how the Holo­caust affect­ed her family. 

A pre-inter­view ques­tion­naire, sam­ple releas­es, an inter­view log, and oth­er forms are pro­vid­ed, as is tran­scrip­tion infor­ma­tion and options for com­plet­ed nar­ra­tives. Quotes from JWA archives, along with nar­ra­tors’ pho­tographs, spice up the vol­ume considerably. 

The book is avail­able by mail order. For infor­ma­tion, call 6173836754, email oralhistory@​jwa.​org, or vis­it http://​www​.jwa​.org/​guide.

Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

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