The Yiddish Book Center's

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.

Linda Gritz's Oral History

Linda Gritz, a Yiddish cultural activist and medical writer, was interviewed by Christa Whitney on July 24, 2011 at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Both side of Linda's family came to the United States from Poland. She shares the story of her grandfather abandoning Hasidic Judaism when his mentor insisted that he officiate a wedding between an engaged bride and her dead fiancé. Her maternal grandmother's entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. Linda grew up in the Amalgamated Housing Co-operative in the Bronx, which was created to provide affordable housing and a rich community life to union members. Her parents were involved in the tenants' association. She attended a Workers Circle (Arbeter Ring) shule after school, where she learned to read and write Yiddish and recalls Chana Mlotek singing in Yiddish with the children. Her home was secular, but her father listened to Temple Emanu-El's shabes services on the radio. Her family also loved opera, classical music and Theodore Bikel. They had a Passover seder each year with her Orthodox grandparents, and Linda and her brother would recite the fir kashes (four questions) in Yiddish. In the summers, Linda went to Camp Kinder Ring, the Workers Circle (Arbeter Ring) camp. Linda went to Bronx High School of Science and eventually became a molecular biologist and then a medical writer focusing on biotechnology, clinical trials and translational research. Outside of work she is a Yiddish cultural activist, wife and mother. Linda describes how she met her husband Mike and how their relationship went through many stages over time. She laughs that some considered them a "mixed marriage" because his family came from Camp Kinderland (a Yiddish communist summer camp) and a more left-wing background. After she relocated to Boston and they married, the two of them joined the Boston Workers Circle, a Yiddish singing group, and adult language classes. Once they completed the beginner and intermediate classes, they helped to start a Yiddish conversation group, a yidish-vinkl. Although she and her husband are not fluent, they are raising their children in Yiddish with help from friends, grandparents, and the community. Linda describes finding relevant children's books and having playdates with other families committed to this idea. Linda and Mike now sing in a Yiddish chorus called "A Besere Velt" (A Better World). They have put together concerts themed around the Warsaw Ghetto and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Although resistant at first, she and her family now develop their own rituals to celebrate the High Holidays in a way that is meaningful to them. She is hopeful that Yiddish will continue to live on in some form among secular Jews. Linda believes that when people work together, they can create a secular, progressive, nurturing world that incorporates Yiddish.

This interview was conducted in English.

Linda Gritz was born in Bronx, New York in 1956.