HOW IT WORKS:
It starts with a curator: Dena Scher, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who has collected oral histories about migration to Detroit, women involved in the Civil Rights protests, and experiences of migrant workers in Florida. Professor Scher created and curates the Novak Archive (http://detroitjourneys.marygrove.edu). A partial list of Dr. Scher’s activities and the scholarly uses of the Detroit Journeys collection can be found at http://detroitjourneys.marygrove.edu/about.html.
Dr. Scher decided to continue her work of collecting oral histories by exploring Jewish identity. Dr. Scher is a founding member of Congregation Shir Tikvah. She explored the project with Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg, Sarah Chisholm (Director of Education, and Lorelei Berg (Executive Director).
Who are the interviewers? In winter, 2016, Dr. Scher and Herschel Poger (Teacher/Facilitator of High School student programs) discussed the Jewish Journeys project and decided to allocate time in three sessions of the Monday night curriculum. Dr. Scher came to these sessions and discussed the ethics of interviewing, modeled techniques for collection of oral histories, and provided recorders for practice. In the future, it is anticipated to develop activities to engage students at Shir Tikvah as interviewers and to expand opportunities for adults to join the Jewish Journeys project.
Who are the interviewees? Grandparents! Interviewees are selected by the interviewer and approved by Dr. Scher and for students also by Herschel Poger. Often it is grandparents … but it could be anyone that has a “Jewish identity.”
What happens then? Lorelei Berg created a web page linked to the congregation website. She also pursued the technology to upload large audio files. The web address for the Jewish Journeys is https://shirtikvah.org/cstoralhistoryarchive. Dr. Scher wrote explanations for the web site.
Take a moment to listen to excerpts from an interview with William Hoffman. The interviewer is Adena Collens, and she is interviewing her grandfather, William Hoffman. In the first snippet, Mr. Hoffman describes his Jewish high school and fights with Catholic boys taunting them, saying that Jews killed Christ.
In this brief extract, a Rabbi uses the ruler to reprimand students and the student quits!
A final piece displays the challenge of questioning “chosen knowledge” versus just believing.
What effects Jewish identity? How would the experiences described in these snippets effect a young man’s Jewish sensitivities?
What is the impact of anti-Semitism? Is rigid belief a basis for a sense of Jewishness?