Aliza Parker

b. June 10, 1932

Aliza Parker (born Sandra Parker) was born in Brooklyn on June 10, 1932. Her family had immigrated from Ukraine in 1921 to escape pogroms. She grew up in Bensonhurst and attended the Workmen's Circle Elementary School, receiving a secular Yiddish education. As a teenager attending Lincoln High School in Ocean Parkway, she became involved with Zionist youth groups, especially Hechalutz Hatzair. In 1950, the organization invited her to go to Israel on a year-long scholarship to study in Jerusalem and help to establish a new kibbutz. On that trip, she met her husband, Jerry, representing the International Zionist Federation of America. They married in 1953 and spent their honeymoon directing the Hechalutz Hatzair summer camp. Aliza finished college at Boston University, received her master's degree at Harvard University, and then moved to Haifa, Israel, with her husband, where they both taught at the Technion. After returning to Boston, she earned her Ph.D. in education from Harvard, where she analyzed Yiddish secular school curricula and history. In 1967, Aliza began teaching at Northeastern University in the education department. She had two children, Jonathan and Ryah. She passed away in June 2022 at the age of 90 in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

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Scope and Content Note

Parker talks about her childhood, career, and involvement in the Zionist movement. Aliza's children arranged the oral history to celebrate her 75th birthday. Aliza speaks about her family's history, including her grandparents' immigration through Ellis Island from Ukraine and the pogroms they were fleeing. She describes growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where her parents lived close to her maternal grandparents. Her father worked as a motion picture operator, and her mother did intermittent mending work. She attended the Workmen's Circle Elementary School, a secular Yiddish "storefront school." Aliza talks about her family's relationship to Judaism; they kept kosher and observed holidays through family gatherings. She then describes the beginnings of her involvement with Zionist youth movements, including Habonim, Hashomer Hatzair, and finally Hechalutz Hatzair, where she occupied the role of secretary by the age of seventeen. Aliza recounts her memories of learning about World War II and the Holocaust and its impact on her extended family, which they received news of via letters. She later took a trip in 1977 to the Soviet Union and managed to reconnect with some of these family members. Aliza traveled to Israel in 1950 on a scholarship from the Zionist Youth League, where she represented Hechalutz Hatzair. On this trip, Aliza studied Hebrew in Jerusalem and lived on the newly established Kibbutz Alonim in the Emek. She met her husband Jerry in Israel during this scholarship; the two returned to the United States in 1951 and married in 1953. After their honeymoon, they went to the Catskills to run the Zionist Youth Camp for Hechalutz Hatzair. Aliza moved to Boston to join Jerry and finished her college education at Boston University. After the birth of their son Jonathan in 1955, they moved back to Israel, where Aliza taught English as a second language at the Technion. She talks about the gender dynamics of her marriage and how they were affected by transitions from the United States to Israel and back and narrates her daily life during her time teaching at the Technion. Aliza reflects on why the family ultimately left Israel and never moved back; they didn't want to uproot their children's lives as they grew older. She then recounts her studies at Harvard, where she pursued a doctorate analyzing the Yiddish secular school curricula and the history of educational movements in Yiddish schools. Aliza began teaching at Northeastern University in 1967 while still studying at Harvard and ultimately received her degree in 1973. She describes how she feels she fit into the burgeoning feminist movement in the 1960s and '70s as a woman balancing a career and the responsibilities of motherhood. Aliza also discusses the dynamics of gender in the faculty at Northeastern. She found many things frustrating about the education department at Northeastern, including the unevenly enforced academic standards and the poor quality of teachers they produced. Eventually, Aliza retired after almost thirty years at Northeastern. Aliza talks about a study group that she was a part of, composed mainly of Jewish couples, that began as a Bible study group but eventually became focused on Jewish history. Finally, she reflects on her successful marriage and her two children, Jonathan and Ryah, and discusses the changes in the world and Israel across her lifetime. 

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Aliza Parker. Interviewed by Jayne Guberman. 13 February 2008, 28 March 2008. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/parker-aliza>.

Oral History of Aliza Parker by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.