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.
Alana Fichman's Oral History
Alana Fichman, 2014 Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program student, was interviewed by Christa Whitney on July 24, 2014 at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. She grew up in Santa Rosa, California. Her parents were physicians, and although they were not very religious by some standards, they were more observant than many of the people in their milieu. Alana's family was musical; she describes how they and their friends gathered in Redwood Grove one year during Rosh Hashanah to play klezmer music. The polarized political atmosphere on her college campus and the desire to create a progressive Jewish space there led Alana and a group of fellow students that focus on Yiddish rather than Hebrew. Alana participated in the Helix Project which takes groups of young Jews to Eastern Europe to learn about their heritage; the experience gave her a stronger connection to her Jewish identity, and she decided that she wanted to learn Yiddish. Alana is enrolled in the Steiner Program where students have language and culture classes, see films, and participate in a poetry group and music club. Alana plans to continue her Yiddish studies, although her family have mixed feelings about her pursuing this trajectory. To Alana, books and learning are central to Jewish culture and have allowed the Jewish diaspora to maintain a coherent identity throughout the years of dispersion. She feels that coming from a "fringe" immigrant group has influenced her sense of self. She warns that learning Yiddish may not fulfill one's specific expectations but will nevertheless change the way one views the world.
This interview was conducted in English.
Alana Fichman was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1991.
Video highlights from this oral history
"Making a Space for Progressive Judaism": Yiddish and Queer Yiddishkayt Workshops at UC Berkeley
5 min 46 sec
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