KoLAynu: Our Voice Los Angeles Jews Tell Their Stories
Submitted by: Jewish Historical Society of Southern California and Living Legacies Historical Foundation
Category: Engaging in Our Community
The Big Idea
"You should record what your Bubbie tells you. All of it. These are diamonds she gives you."
- Sam to Izzy in "Crossing Delancey"
Jews are a story telling people. We cherish our memories and celebrate them through our stories. We are called the People of the Book, but we are also a People of the Spoken Word. Biblically, the world was created with the spoken word: the Torah was given at Mount Sinai along with the spoken word; and the stories of our people are told and retold orally, for we all carry within us ancient memories of our history, legends, songs, and movements that must be passed along
Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another - Peninnah Schram
Wouldn't be AMAZING if our grandparents and great grandparents had been able to record their memories--stories about their own parents and grandparents' lives: stories they heard about the early and mid-1800s, and their own memories of the early 1900s and leave them behind for us and for the generations who will follow?
Our Next Great Jewish Idea is: KoLAynu: Our Voice L.A. Jews Tell Their Stories. Hundreds of volunteers--young people and adults--will be recruited and trained by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California and Living Legacies Foundation to conduct in-depth oral history interviews--and at the same time create a unique bond--with our Jewish community's elders from all walks of life.
KoLAynu reflects elements of all 3 Idea Categories: Engaging in the Community, Ensuring the Jewish Future and Caring for Jews In Need.
KoLAynu's volunteers, trained by Ellie Kahn, experienced oral historian, psychotherapist, journalist and producer of Meet Me at Brooklyn & Soto, the award-winning documentary on the Jews of East Los Angeles, will interview both the movers and shakers of the community‚ lay and professional leaders, rabbis, entrepreneurs--and also the ordinary people whose everyday lives and stories are nevertheless extraordinary, simply from having lived through unique times and experiences, as Jews, as immigrants from many lands, as Americans, as Angelenos, as people in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Through KoLAynu: Our Voice L.A. Jews Tell Their Stories, we will preserve their precious, unique memories and stories for future generations before they are lost forever.
KoLAynu will mobilize and strengthen the Los Angeles Jewish community by:
- Creating a living tapestry of L.A.'s Jewish community and honoring our elders' life experiences and wisdom. KoLAynu will afford older Jews in Los Angeles the chance to tell us their moving life stories--not just a few anecdotes, but stories of their ancestors' lives (e.g a great uncle who was a famous rabbi and was carried by hand through the streets of their town when he'd arrive, their mother and father meeting one another while plotting against the government in the Russian woods), their own childhood (life in the old country whether in the former Soviet Union, Iran, South Africa, Israel, stories of the boat trip to the U.S., playing stickball in the tenements of the Lower East Side, coming to Los Angeles and experiencing the fragrance of orange blossoms for the first time) and life and times in Los Angeles.
- Creating a cross-generational experience. KoLAynu student and adult volunteers will be trained and engage with senior members of their family and community and with one another, bringing young and old together. KoLAynu will reduce isolation for seniors, recognizing their kol, voice, giving them kavod, honor and respect, and reminding them they have much to contribute, while opening up new worlds of Jewish understanding and connection for the younger volunteers.
- Creating an overarching community-building experience. KoLAynu volunteers and interviewees will be recruited from all parts of the community, from Federation, synagogues and organizations, schools and Hillel, social service agencies, neighborhoods, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, reflecting the diversity that makes Jewish Los Angeles so special.
This Is A Great Idea Because
KoLAynu is new and innovative because it reaches across the generations, engages so many segments of the L.A. Jewish community and creates several tangible products as well.
Leaders of the community will be able to pass on their wisdom through their oral histories, giving first-hand accounts of their own successes and challenges, including entrepreneurs, philanthropists, heads of organizations, entrepreneurs, artists and entertainers. Federation, synagogues, organizations and agencies will have their histories captured through interviews with their founders, builders, supporters, members and clients.
But in addition to leaders, celebrities and well-known personalities, all social and economic levels and cultural backgrounds of the community will be reflected. KoLAynu is new and innovative because we believe that each senior has a life story that should be told, heard, recorded and preserved.
Also, unlike other oral history projects, each senior will have a full-length, recorded interview covering his or her entire life, not just focused on a limited number of subjects or specific period or event (Holocaust), or that capture only a few anecdotes. Seniors will be asked to share their experiences of being Jewish, the times and cultures within which they lived, dealing with anti-Semitism, survival of difficult or life-threatening experiences, moves to America, changes in lifestyle, the impact of technology, social customs, economic circumstances, institutions, government, religious practices, etc., family history and their personal insights about living a satisfying, productive, valuable, compassionate, and giving life.
The Jewish high schools, universities and Hillel, as well as synagogues, agencies and organizations, will be provided with a unique opportunity to have their students and members engaged in a community-wide, intergenerational project and exposed to personal and communal life lessons. Using a curriculum developed by Ellie Kahn, educational institutions will be able to integrate KoLAynu into their coursework, from history and humanities to art and theatre arts. The oral histories will be stored in the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California's archives, and, with the permission of the interview subjects, made available to their families and public, institutions and organizations, through a web site that will be created as part of the project, as well as through DVDs and transcripts. The Jewish Historical Society, museums and other cultural institutions will be able to use the interviews as the basis for exhibits, performances, films and publications.