Wexler Oral History Project

A growing collection of in-depth interviews with people of all ages and backgrounds, whose stories about the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and culture offer a rich and complex chronicle of Jewish identity.

"It's a Very Painful Story": My Family's Escape from the Pogroms of the Ukraine

Watch now:

  • Haim Gunner, research scientist and Ottawa-born native Yiddish speaker, recalls his family’s escape from the pogroms of the Ukraine.

  • Penina explains how her grandfather, a shoykhet (kosher butcher), convinced the rabbonim to certify him as well as arguing with them for three hours that Zionism would provide a better future for the Jews.

  • Henry recounts his experience performing a brit milah in rural Vermont.

  • Vardit recalls her memory of davening with her father on the men's side of her Modern Orthodox synagogue.

  • Maddie explains some the benefits and peculiarities of her experience learning Yiddish as a non-Jew.

  • Rachel describes how she discovered Yiddish was an essential part of her vocabulary as she only knew the Yiddish word, "polkes," for "thighs."

  • Elissa Kraemer, student in the 2010 Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, is on a quest with Yiddish. She explains how she will try to continue with Yiddish after the end of the Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program.

  • Florence Schumacher describes her urge to escape the Jewish bubble she grew up in during her college years, then her eventual return to Jewish culture as an adult.

  • Nora Gerard shares the experience of many children of Yiddish speakers, as a language exclusively understood by their parents.

This is an excerpt from an oral history with Haim Gunner.

This excerpt is in English and Yiddish.

More information about this oral history excerpt



About the Wexler Oral History Project

A photograph of two men

Since 2010, the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project has recorded more than 500 in-depth video interviews that provide a deeper understanding of the Jewish experience and the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and culture.

Tell Us Your Story

An illustration of a woman

Do you (or someone you know) have stories to share about the importance of Yiddish language and culture in your life?