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.
Bel Kaufman's Oral History
Bel Kaufman, z"l, granddaughter of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem and author of award-winning novels, was interviewed by Christa Whitney on April 1st, 2014, in New York City.
This interview was conducted in English.
Bel Kaufman was born in 1911 in Berlin, Germany. Bel, z"l, died in 2014.
This interview is part of the Beyond the Books: Yiddish writers and their descendants series.
Video highlights from this oral history
My Introduction to Communism3 minutes 31 seconds
To Me, He Was "Papa": My Grandfather, Sholem Aleichem2 minutes 14 seconds
The Writer At Work: Sholem Aleichem's Habits1 minute 44 seconds
"Huge Black Iron Gate": A Childhood Memory of Odessa1 minute 43 seconds
Bel Kaufman's First Memories of New York and English2 minutes 9 seconds
My Inheritance From Sholem Aleichem59 seconds
Memories of the Russian Revolution2 minutes 16 seconds
A Stepmother's Yiddish Curses: Sholem Aleichem's First Work1 minute 35 seconds
Sholem Aleichem's Gift: How My Grandfather Elevated Yiddish To A World Literature2 minutes 34 seconds
"You Must Not Call Him Mr. Aleichem": Sholem Rabinovitz' Pen Name1 minute 21 seconds
"He Was Not Like Any Grandfather I Knew": Memories of Sholem Aleichem2 minutes 25 seconds
Learning Empathy During the Russian Revolution4 minutes 2 seconds
The Jewish Mark Twain2 minutes 46 seconds
Sholem Aleichem: The Great Mimic1 minute 9 seconds
Motl, The Cantor's Son: A Childhood (Imaginary) Friend2 minutes 9 seconds
"You Have To Be Hungry To Appreciate Food": Chocolate Arrives to Odessa in a Hoover Package2 minutes 55 seconds
More information about this oral history
Themes in this oral history:
- Odessa, Ukraine, Sholem Rabinowitz, Sholem Aleichem, Mark Twain, Mischa Elman, Switzerland, 1850s, Russian Revolution, Bolshevik, communist, communism, writing, New York City, New York, proletariat, Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son, memory, Kiev, Russian,
- Family history
- stories about ancestors
- Jewish Identity
- Yiddish language
- Yiddish scene
- Eastern Europe
- United States
- Politics and political movements
- Yiddish personalities
- children/grandchildren of Yiddish personalities
- Beyond the Books
For other download options:
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.
Tell Us Your Story
Do you (or someone you know) have stories to share about the importance of Yiddish language and culture in your life?