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.
Leonard Strear and Albert Dinner's Oral History
Leonard Strear (poultry farmer) and Albert "Boonie" Dinner (cattle rancher), cousins, were interviewed in Denver, Colorado on July 6, 2011. Albert was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado, and Leonard was born in Detroit and grew up in Denver. The two cousins talk about their shared family history, their childhoods in Colorado, and their lives as Jewish farmers there. Growing up, Leonard spent much of his time working for his father, a poultry farmer. He describes waking up at 4:30 am to pick up truckloads of poultry from farms and cream stations that they would then bring into Denver to sell. Later, his father bought a farm where they raised turkeys. Leonard's parents were fluent in Yiddish, but he says they spoke English all the time. Their family observed all the Jewish holidays, and Leonard attended Hebrew afternoon school until he was thirteen years old. He recalls the European teachers at the Hebrew school who enforced discipline with little switches. Albert grew up in a traditional, orthodox household. He says his father was "very adamant about being Jewish," and remembers that he garnered respect from the community because of it. The family got kosher meat from Denver, observed the holidays, and sent their children to Hebrew school. Albert learned to understand some Yiddish, and his older siblings could speak it. At the same time, he got along very well with his Christian friends in Greeley. He was very involved in school, and was captain of the football and tennis teams. Albert's father was a cattle farmer, and he tells stories about driving cattle, riding in the Greeley rodeo, and taking a caboose ride to Chicago on a cattle train. Leonard and Albert also discuss their different experiences during World War Two. Leonard was drafted into the army as a medical man in the Second Infantry Division, and was part of the Invasion of Normandy and many major battles. Alfred was stationed at Army Post Office 610 in Keflavik, Iceland, where the U.S. Air Force had a base. Both cousins discuss their encounters with anti-Semitism, and their experience that if you defend your station in life, you will win the respect of others. The two cousins tell stories about their family history and the values that their parents passed on to them, as well as their own experiences as parents. They remember Kiddush at the Strear family's warehouse office, with such delicacies as pletzl and p'tcha, and plenty of liquor. They talk about balancing business with a sense of Jewish identity, and trying to pass on that Jewish identity to their children. Together, they reflect on the importance of passion and compassion, and of being true to oneself.
This interview was conducted in English.
Video highlights from this oral history
Sharing Our Family Pictures2 minutes 43 seconds
Kiddush at the Distillery2 minutes 55 seconds
Landing on the Beaches of Normandy51 seconds
Driving Around Town in a Jack Benny Maxwell with Friend2 minutes 8 seconds
How My Judaism Has Changed Over the Years: Reflections on Relationship to Shul1 minute 52 seconds
Our Advice1 minute 53 seconds
A Time I Felt Aware of My Jewishness: Serving in World War II3 minutes 25 seconds
My First Time Eating Shellfish1 minute 2 seconds
"Bubbe Maytse"2 minutes 5 seconds
Growing up in Greeley, Colorado2 minutes 21 seconds
Describing the Rodeo2 minutes 20 seconds
Our Favorite Yiddish Phrases1 minute 51 seconds
Liberating a Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia During World War II1 minute 57 seconds
"I Could Do Everything a Cowboy Could Do"2 minutes 17 seconds
Experiences of Anti-Semitism While Serving in the War1 minute 59 seconds
The Last Patrol1 minute 50 seconds
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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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