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.
Miriam Oles's Oral History
Miriam Oles, granddaughter of Yiddish writer Eliezer Schindler, was interviewed by Amanda Lundquist on December 15, 2013 at the Association for Jewish Studies Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Miriam's mother and father were born in Munich, Germany, to parents who immigrated from Poland. Both her mother's and father's immediate families managed to get out of Germany before the war; many relatives who stayed behind were murdered. Her parents met at a gathering for Jews from Munich held in New York. Miriam's maternal grandparents became chicken farmers in Lakewood, New Jersey. She reminisces about visiting them there and marvels that these people, who had just lost so many relatives, could enjoy life so much. Her grandfather, Eliezer Schindler, had been a very well-known Orthodox Yiddish poet in Europe and continued to write in the United States. In her twenties, Miriam decided that she wanted to read some of his work in the original and began to study the Yiddish language at YIVO. Part of her motivation is to pass on this important part of their family history to her four children and eight grandchildren. Miriam's father was a rabbi and the family moved from place to place throughout her childhood. His first congregation was in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania; she describes their journey from there to Peabody, Massachusetts, Cincinnati, Ohio, Seattle, Washington, Berkeley, California, and then Southern California. During her high school years in Berkeley, Miriam was involved in the Young Judea group, where she got to know singer Adrienne Cooper. Although he was ordained at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox seminary, Miriam's father got a PhD at the reform Hebrew Union College and unusually was comfortable serving in synagogues of either denomination. He was very scholarly, and she recalls seders with unique insights about the traditional story. Her parents raised Miriam and her sister to value education, follow the traditions, and love the country which had welcomed them. Miriam attended the University of California at Berkeley during the late ‘60s and early '70s and describes the politics and developing feminist consciousness of the time.
This interview was conducted in English.
Miriam Oles was born in United States in 1947.