Tell Me Your Story: How to Collect Oral Histories

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Tell Me Your StoryHow to Collect Oral HistoriesSharing StoriesInspiring Change

JWA documents Jewish women's stories, elevates their voices, and inspires them to be agents of change.Sharing StoriesInspiring Change2You Cannot Be What You Cannot See

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeJewish educators are essential partners.Educators are catalysts for bringing the rich and inclusive history of Jews in America to students of all ages and genders.Together we inspire (young) Jews to learn about who they want to be and what impact they want to have on the world.


Sharing Stories, Inspiring ChangePOWER COUPLESPower Couples showcases extraordinary Jewish women, matching an early female trailblazer with a modern woman at the top of her game.Sharing StoriesInspiring Change4What is oral history??5Components of an oral history project

Collecting (Interviews)



Sharing StoriesInspiring Change

Now, the pendulum is swinging more and more towards collecting and sharing stories (moth, TAL, Storycorps). Technology is allowing us to capture and share history in a much more democratic way.This is also a fundamental assumption of our work at JWA: everyone needs to know these stories, and everyone is responsible for sharing them.

7I am thinking this should be slide 3. It sets up the framework for the trend and importance of capturing oral histories, not just JWA but lots of others too.Why do we collect oral histories??8We are all responsible for collecting and telling these stories

Sharing StoriesInspiring Change

Weaving Womens Words:Dr. Ruth Finkelstein, Baltimore Women Who Dared:Dr. Lynn Amowitz, Physicians for Human RightsKatrinas Jewish Voices,Joel Brown, Owner of Kosher Cajun restaurant in New OrleansInitially we conducted local projects in Boston, Baltimore and Seattle. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, of men and women. Why? 10


Oral history builds and diversifies the historical recordSharing StoriesInspiring ChangeIts a powerful, if labor intensive, way to document personal and private experiences that inform the grand narrative gleaned from public records, written documents, etc.It gives a voice to people who do not appear in the historical record.(Other examplesex-slaves in 1930s, Hcaust survivors, African Americans)

11Sharing stories makes communities stronger

Sharing StoriesInspiring Change12Stories help people construct identity

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeTwo people perform two rolesNarratorthe person telling the storyInterviewerthe person asking the questions

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeInterviewer has two main responsibilities

Sharing StoriesInspiring Change15Asking great questionsWhat would you ask someone if you wanted to learn more about their Jewish identity and religious/cultural practices?Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeTypes of questions1. Closed-ended questionsFor gathering factsHave clear answersWho, what, when, where, how many

2. Open-ended questionsElicit stories, feelings, and memoriesDescribe, tell me about, why, how

3. Both are essentialSharing StoriesInspiring ChangeOne - two punch methodSwitch off between open and closed questionsDraft extra questionsFollow the narrators lead and the interviewers interest/curiosity

Sharing StoriesInspiring Change18Role playing: What not to do

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeWhat not to doAsk too many questions at onceInterrupt the narratorInterrupt with uh huh, or mmmm. Instead use non-verbal communication to show you are listening.Offer your own experiences or stories. This is not a conversation.Express assumptions e.g. Wow, you must have been so angry.Sharing StoriesInspiring Change20Practice with a partner!

Sharing StoriesInspiring Change21JWA resources for collecting storiesIn Our Own VoicesResource for conducting life history interviews with Jewish women Family History Tool KitGuide adapted for tweens/teens (for girls but anyone can use it)http://mybatmitzvahstory.orgMuseum of Family HistoryLesson plan for creating a museum of stories and artifacts

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeOther resources for collecting and sharing storiesStoryCorps ( Guide for National Day of Listening (Day after Thanksgiving) Jewish Museum ( of Survival: Creating and Exploring Oral Histories in the Classroom

Sharing StoriesInspiring ChangeWhat else do you need to know?

What ideas do you have??24Tell Me Your StoryHow to Collect Oral HistoriesSharing StoriesInspiring Change