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Oral History

Timeless Sex Education

Wilma Asrael is an 84-year-old Baltimore native. Though it’s now in vogue, she’s has been talking about effective sex education since the sixties. She worked as a sex educator for over twenty-five years, after training as an occupational therapist and receiving her master’s in Education. 

L'Dor Vador: Lessons from my Grandmother

My grandmother, Marguerite, was born in Paris in 1937 to Polish parents, Fania and Adam. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Jarnac, a tiny village in southwestern France. The family was Jewish, though they were not observant. Regardless, after the fall of the Third Republic in 1940, it became dangerous for them to even speak of their religion. 

Saturdays with Rhoda

Almost every Saturday for the last five years, I’ve gone to visit my friend Rhoda Nissenbaum. We read together and talk, along with my mother and Rhoda’s aide, Sarah. What started as my Bat Mitzvah project has blossomed into a beautiful friendship.  Fortunately, I was able to record my recent meeting with Rhoda, and we got a chance to talk about her life, all 97 years of it! 

The Last Question

For someone I spend a lot of time with, I was sadly ignorant of much of my grandmother’s past.  My maternal grandma, Joan, grew up in Brooklyn, New York with an older and a twin sister, and her Judaism was largely cultural. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know where she went to college, why she chose Reform Judaism or how she felt about feminism. She simply never talked about those sorts of things. 

My (Eloquent, Intelligent, and Inspiring) Rabbi

Rabbi Emily Mathis always seems to know the right thing to say. I remember being a little girl looking up at her on the Bimah during Friday night services, and wondering how she produced such beautiful and meaningful speech. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently, and I found myself wondering how she was able to answer so many of my questions before I had even asked them. 

Different Stories, Same Meaning

A longtime fixture in the Philadelphia Jewish community, Arlene has been president of our synagogue for the past four years, overseeing numerous changes in shul clergy, staff, and financial circumstances. She’s everywhere all the time, attending board meetings, giving announcements from the bima, schmoozing with congregants at services. 

Because There's More to Russian Jews than Borscht

My aunt and I share so much more than our smile, passion for math and science, and college (go Barnard!). Our strongest and arguably our most important similarity lies in our shared sense of civic responsibility. Although I still have more to learn about social justice work, my aunt is the perfect model of a passionate, hard-working, and persevering activist.

From the Polls: Voting for “Nixon”

With the 2016 election only weeks away, the JWA staff wanted to share one of our favorite stories submitted to JWA’s ongoing collection of voting stories! In a year when “the women’s vote” is both highly scrutinized and vital to the election outcome, we especially love the following story detailing one determined young mother's inventive method of finding childcare so she could exercise her right to vote.

This story was submitted by Mae T.

What Really Counts

As we enter an election cycle that promises to be intense and potentially groundbreaking, the Jewish Women’s Archive is looking to collect your stories about elections. Some possible topics you might explore include:

Gertrude Wishnick Dubrovsky, 1926 - 2012

Gertrude Wishnick Dubrovsky’s parents immigrated to the United States from Poland around the turn of the last century. Early in their marriage, they made an unsuccessful try at farming and then operated a hand laundry on New York’s Lower East Side. With the help of a land grant from Jewish charities set up for that purpose, they tried again, joining a community of Jewish farmers in Farmingdale, NJ.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Oral History." (Viewed on December 15, 2017) <https://jwa.org/tags/oral-history>.

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