Perhaps it's because I never knew any of my grandparents and felt deprived, never hearing any of their stories about Poland or Russia and their struggles to “make it” in America. Or maybe it's because I've been a lifelong researcher and storyteller, first during my career in market research and now in a second career as a genealogist. Whatever the reason, when Rabbi Brian Fink announced that he needed a team leader for the Memory Book Project, I was only too happy to accept the challenge.
After several months of developing a game plan, the project began at JASA Club 76, a senior center on the Upper West Side, near the JCC. To date, three memory books have been written:
How I Survived the Holocaust: Rosy Stub's compelling recounting of her family's six-country journey to stay one step ahead of the Nazis during World War II. As Rosy remarked, “Just because I never spent time in a concentration camp does not mean I'm not a Holocaust survivor…we are all survivors.”
10% Of My Life—Tales of a Talent Agent: Ed Sommerfeld's lighthearted account of his fascinating career as a talent agent, spanning the late 1950s through the early 2000s. He is quite a raconteur himself, with so many stories about the Hollywood elite that we had a hard time deciding which ones to include in the book!
Samuel Bliman—Celebrating Life In My Own Words: Sam's heartwarming family story, starting with his parents' meeting in a DP camp in Sweden after World War II, his adjustment to life in America after immigrating alone when he was 20, and continuing through today, as an active volunteer at Club 76.
So, what does it take to become a Memory Book Project volunteer? Three attributes are absolutely critical to ensure your success as part of the team:
- Flexibility and patience with your time: As part of the team, scheduling interviews at times that are convenient for participants is essential.
- Interviewing and listening skills: The best interviewers are those who ask the right questions, and listen carefully to the answers so they know how to follow up.
If you're interested in volunteering for this exciting project, please contact Rabbi Brian Fink at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.505.4408. There are so many stories yet be told!