There were 300,000 people at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in
August 1969, and about 250,00 people gathered in Washington,
DC on August 28, 1963 to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King say
“I have a dream today.”
Hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. and Canada
fought during World War II.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese lived through the Chinese Revolution
Hundreds of millions lived in India and Pakistan when those countries
gained their independence in 1947.
Many hundreds of thousands of European Jews lived through the
Holocaust years and survived, and many hundreds of thousands of
Israelis remember vividly the day Israel’s independence was declared
on May 14, 1948.
These are events you read about and see films about. Wouldn’t it be great
to actually speak with people who can tell you their own experiences of events.
Many probably live in your own community.
1. This is a great activity to do together with a couple of friends.
First of all, decide what topic you want to speak with people about.
a. Coming to America
b. Jewish holidays in my (their) parents’ home
c. Dramatic newspaper headlines
d. Volunteering (in Israel) during the Six-Day’s War (1967)
e. Fighting for civil rights
f. Fighting for Jews in the Former Soviet Union
g. Volunteering in Israel’s War of Independence
h. Fighting Nazism
i. Working in the community
j. Volunteering to teach English to school kids in Israel.
(It’s not a bad idea to discuss this with a teacher and do it
as a school project!)
2. Decide what format you want: newspaper; radio documentary,
video documentary, multi-media production.
Many communities have local Jewish radio stations and local television
If the project interests a producer, s/he may want to help.
3. In all these cases you’ll probably have to fill in with information
with from other sources: local public libraries, university libraries
(check particularly oral history collections, photograph collections,
film and video collections, etc.), digitized data-bases. national governments
have records of all legal immigrants, when they arrived, on which boat, etc.
4. Once you’ve decided all these things, organized your equipment,
you’ll have to find your people. You can advertise in all kinds of ways:
a. Put in a press release to your local Jewish newspaper which reads something
like this: “A group of young researchers is preparing a story on Jewish
immigration to Beachville. We are looking for people who have their own stories
or people who remember stories from parents, aunts and uncles.
Best if there are also photographs, newspaper clippings, momentos, etc.
If you are interested, please contact: (your names and phone numbers).”
b. Print out the same language attractively on 20 - 30 pieces of paper.
Make certain that it’s printed in such a way that it will attract the attention
of people. Go to your local synagogues, Jewish community center,
Jewish federation offices, Jewish senior citizens residence, Jewish food store,
B’nai B’rith lodge, etc.
c. Find the director, the rabbi, the person in charge of senior citizen
programming, etc., and describe your project. Ask them to put your announcement
on the bulletin board (don’t do it without talking to them first!).
Ask them for other help and advice.
5. Once people start calling you, you’ll have to make sure of a
number of things:
a. Try to find out on the phone whether that person really is appropriate
for your project. Ask a few questions. You can say that right now you’re
making a list of people and you’ll get back to them. Take the person’s name,
address and phone number. If you decide not to interview a person,
make certain you either write or call back, thanking the person for the interest
shown, but say that the person’s story is not really what you were looking for.
b. Find out from where the person heard about the project and then contact
the director, rabbi, etc., to hear from them about the person.
c. Schedule meetings allowing enough time to get people talking,
but not too long so as not to tire them out! An hour and a quarter to an hour
and a half should be right.
d. Keep careful records!
6. Follow the interview suggestions in For the record.
7. If you publish something, make certain that you show people what you’re
doing before you publish it and get their approval. Make certain they get
a copy or know when the program will be broadcast.