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Can you imagine: to put our life in two suitcases?

4 Jan

This video, “Coming to America: Soviet Jews Reflect on Their Immigration Experiences,” was created by Cat Bell, who was an intern for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program during the fall semester of 2012.

The oral history program has partnered with the University of Colorado Jewish Studies program since 2010 to collect oral histories about Soviet Jewish immigrants who left the Former Soviet Union and relocated in Boulder from 1987 to 1997. This collection includes interviews with both the immigrants themselves and with members of Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry, a group that assisted hundreds of Soviet Jews in both their emigration from the Former Soviet Union and resettlement in Boulder.

Cat Bell conducted new interviews for the collection and reviewed the existing interviews as part of her internship. These interview clips, from interviews with Alla Levy and Anna Nemirovskaya, were chosen for their moving stories about leaving and finding home.

The original interviews were conducted by Shirley Steele, David Shneer, and Brandon Springer. They can be heard in their entirety at www.boulderlibrary.org/oralhistory, the Boulder Library’s online oral history archive (choose “Special Collections,” then choose “Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry”).

Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry: The Beginning

9 Nov

By Brandon Springer

AS THE SOVIET UNION BEGAN TO CRUMBLE in the late 1980s, a group of Jews in Boulder organized to aid and resettle Soviet Jews who faced increasing discrimination from the Soviet state and refusal of their requests to emigrate (earning them the label of “refuseniks”). These Jewish Boulderites called themselves Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry.

Listen to the first in a series of podcasts about the history of Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry.

Over the past year, interns and students from the University of Colorado, along with volunteers from the Maria Rogers Oral History Program, collected interviews with volunteers and organizers for BASJ as well as with new Americans resettled by the organization. Nearly 20 interviews have been conducted with these individuals.

Judge Murray Richtel during a trip to the former Soviet Union

The interviews ranged from the original founders of BASJ—attorneys Bill and Sara-Jane Cohen and Judge Murray Richtel—to some of the first board members; from families that served as “anchor families” to Soviet émigrés (providing them with guidance and advice on adapting to American culture and life) to professional and volunteer ESL tutors who taught English to the new Americans. In addition, of course, many of the interviews documented the lives of the Soviet Jewish émigrés themselves. Continue reading

Get Your Red-Hot New Interviews Here!

25 Oct

John Sand III, President of the Gold Hill Club, was interviewed about Gold Hill history by Caitlin McKenna not long before the recent Fourmile Fire.

THIS JUST OUT: our fall newsletter with descriptions of 18 new interviews that have been added to our online archive. You can read the newsletter online. To hear the new interviews, including one with John Sand III who tells about the history of Gold Hill, its community spirit and ongoing efforts at preservation, visit the archive.

The new recordings include a series of interviews conducted by the fourth-grade members of the Whittier Student Historians Club, in which they interviewed people who attended Whittier Elementary School long ago.

Also included are interviews with people from the group Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry (BASJ), which formed twenty years ago to obtain the release of “refuseniks,” Jewish people who had been refused permission to emigrate from the former Soviet Union and suffered severe discrimination as a consequence of both their religion and their desire to leave the country. The interviews record the experiences of BASJ organizers; those who helped with resettlement; and those who immigrated, becoming “New Americans.”  This project is an ongoing one, undertaken in conjunction with former BASJ members and the University of Colorado’s Jewish Studies program. Look for additional interviews in our winter and spring newsletters.

In addition, this edition of our newsletter contains descriptions of interviews about the history of and life in Gold Hill, and interviews with a member of the Boulder Potters Guild, a long-time Boulder attorney, and a former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant administrator who describes working to change the culture of safety at the now-defunct plant.

Lost and Found: A family love story

29 Sep

LATE THIS SUMMER, eight Boulder Library staff members had the honor and pleasure of spending three intensive days learning the methodology of digital storytelling as taught by Daniel Weinshenker and Kayann Short from the Center for Digital Storytelling.  Staff members learned to create short, first-person video narratives by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. The experience was deeply moving and meaningful for all involved, not to mention a huge opportunity to improve professional skills.

If you would like to see more about what digital storytelling is all about, I invite you to watch the five-minute video I made during the workshop, which is titled “Lost and Found.” It tells about my own family history in relation to my job as the oral history program manager.

If you’d like to see more digital stories, you can visit www.storiesforchange.net. Continue reading

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