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.
Benjamin Fox-Rosen's Oral History
Benjamin Fox-Rosen, klezmer musician, was interviewed by Pauline Katz on December 30, 2010 at KlezKamp, in the Catskills of New York State. Benjy Fox-Rosen's interview begins with an in-depth exploration of his family's history. Benjy details how his paternal grandparents were from Poland, his grandfather from Lvov and his grandmother from Krakow; and, how his maternal grandparents were from Germany, his grandfather from Vienna and his grandmother from Dormant. The geographical details, however, only brush the surface of the stories Benjy shares about his grandparents and his parents, which includes migrations from Europe to Israel to New York and California. In fact, Benjy's grandmother, Sara Rose, wrote a book that explains much of what Benjy covers called "My Lost World." Benjy goes on to describe his life growing up Los Angeles in a conservative home. He went to Solomon Schechter elementary school and Milken Community High School. He spends time describing both his father and mother's lives before children, proudly sharing how his mother was one of the first female rabbis in the world. Benjy describes the smattering of languages he heard growing up: Polish from one set of grandparents, German from another, Hebrew from his parents, and the occasional bit of Yiddish. Benjy also recounts his summers at Camp Alonim, an unaffiliated institute that cultured a labor Zionist environment for camp goers. Benjy then moves on to describe his evolution as a musician. Beginning with his first attempts at the piano, Benjy careful traces his interests in trumpet, guitar, and eventually bass with beautiful detail. The middle section of the interview is filled with incredible detail as Benjy recounts his time playing music in his adolescence as well as his work as a student at The New School at New York University. The section ends with Benjy's descriptions of his final project, and how that concert led him into the career he is now pursuing today. The last portion of the interview focuses on Benjy's conceptions of his work, his involvement with Klezkamp, and his thoughts on Yiddish language and culture. He discusses his tours in Europe and why he thinks there is an audience for such music, as well as describing those who have helped him and worked with him throughout the years. The interview ends with Benjy looking towards the future; he explains that he plans to return to school to get a Master's in composition. Benjy ends the interview imploring those interested in Yiddish to just begin; there is so much out there to learn, and it's all for the taking!
This interview was conducted in English.
Video highlights from this oral history
Klezmer Did Not Exist In a Vacuum1 minute 30 seconds
The Influence of Gebirtig2 minutes 48 seconds
"All the information is there and it belongs to you"2 minutes 13 seconds
What is a Klezmer1 minute 5 seconds
Learning Yiddish and the Future of Yiddish2 minutes 37 seconds
Early music experiences2 minutes 11 seconds
Luminescent Orchestrii2 minutes 7 seconds
More information about this oral history
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About the Wexler Oral History Project
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.
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