Who can be interviewed?
We welcome narrators of all ages and backgrounds. Interviews explore Yiddish cultural topics and issues of modern Jewish identity. We are particularly interested in how Yiddish language and culture inform Jewish identity, and how they, along with Jewish values and practices, are transmitted across generations. We seek diverse perspectives on these issues; you need not be a Yiddish speaker nor Jewish to be interviewed.
Where do the interviews take place?
Most interviews are conducted at the Yiddish Book Center’s Karmazin Recording Studio in Amherst, Massachusetts. We also do special field-collection trips organized around the themes of our interview series: Yiddish in the Arts: Musicians, Actors, and Artists; Yiddish in the Academy: Scholars, Language Instructors, and Students; and Beyond the Books: Yiddish Writers and Their Descendants. These off-site interviews are generally conducted at Jewish festivals, conferences, or individuals' homes. If you are interested in being interviewed but cannot travel to Amherst, please fill out a pre-interview questionnaire so we will have your information on file as we are planning our fieldwork.
Can you do phone interviews?
Sorry, we’re not equipped to conduct phone interviews at this time.
What does the interview cost?
There is no cost to you to record the interview. The project is made possible with support from our generous donors.
Why do I have to fill out a pre-interview questionnaire?
The information you provide in your pre-interview questionnaire helps our oral historians tailor the interview to your unique life experiences and allows us to do more research in preparation for the interview. The more detailed you are in your responses, the better prepared we will be to do the best interview possible.
How long does the interview take?
A typical interview is sixty to ninety minutes of recorded video. For interviews in our Karmazin Recording Studio at the Yiddish Book Center, we schedule two hours for the interview process. For interviews in the field, we schedule three hours, due to the additional technical set up. If you are being interviewed at the Yiddish Book Center, please plan to arrive a few minutes before the scheduled start of your interview.
Is the interview recorded in video or audio?
Our standard recording mode is high-definition video. If you prefer to be recorded in audio only, please contact us ahead of time to discuss that.
What should I wear for the interview?
Dress in clothing you feel comfortable wearing. We will clip a small microphone to your shirt or top. It’s a good idea to avoid clothes that are all white or that have bold stripes or patterns. Please avoid wearing jewelry or other accessories that could make noise and interfere with the audio recording.
Can you interview me together with another person?
We only interview one person at a time, except in very specific situations. If you would like to be interviewed with another person, please contact us and we will determine whether a joint interview is possible.
Can my friend or family member sit in on the interview?
No. Only you, the oral historian, and a technical staff member are allowed in the space during the interview recording. If you bring someone along to an interview at the Yiddish Book Center, they can explore the Center’s permanent and visiting exhibits while you are being interviewed.
I prefer to do the interview in a language other than English. Is this possible?
Currently, we conduct interviews in Yiddish and English. Please let us know ahead of time which language you’d like to use in the interview.
What will you ask me?
Each interview is unique and is based on your pre-interview questionnaire. We generally ask about your background and family history, as well as your specific experiences with Yiddish language and culture in relation to Jewish identity and community. If you have a great story, we’d love to hear it!
What if I don’t want to answer a question?
You don’t have to answer any question you’re not comfortable with.
Who will interview me?
You’ll be interviewed by specially trained oral historians who are staff, volunteers, or fellows of the Yiddish Book Center.
Can I bring family photos, documents, or other items to my interview?
Yes, please do. We ask you to bring no more than ten photos or other items. We will ask you to identify the subject of your items in a short description on camera after the conclusion of your formal interview. With your permission, we can scan the artifacts you bring during or immediately following the interview. Alternatively, we can scan them after the interview at the Yiddish Book Center and then mail them back to you. You can also bring or send us high-resolution scans of your artifacts.
Can I have a copy of the interview?
Of course! You will receive one free unedited archival DVD copy soon after your interview. We encourage you to share your stories with your family and friends. You can also order additional DVD copies of the final, edited version of your DVD for $25 each, which we will send to you after your interview has been processed.
How will the interview be used?
The full interview will be accessible to researchers and the general public on the Internet Archive as well as the Yiddish Book Center’s website. Excerpts from your interview may also be posted on YouTube and on the Center’s website and featured in our exhibits, publications, and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The interview and associated excerpts and artifacts will be available for viewing and downloading, though they will be protected by a Creative Commons license, which requires users to provide a full citation and prohibits commercial use and/or the preparation of any derivative works (excerpting or editing) without explicit permission from the Yiddish Book Center.
Can I limit use of the interview?
Yes. After the interview, we’ll ask you to sign a release form allowing the Yiddish Book Center to use your interview and to make it available online to researchers and the general public. The release form offers an option to impose restrictions on how your interview is used. Please be assured that no interview will be used for any purpose without a signed release.
Still have questions?
Natalie King, the Wexler Oral History Project’s administrative assistant, would be happy to give you more information. Contact her at [email protected] or 413-256-4900, ext. 148.