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.
Thomas Lunderquist's Oral History
Thomas Lunderquist, producer of a Yiddish radio show in Malmo, Sweden, was interviewed by Christa Whitney on June 25th, 2018, in Limhamn, Sweden. Thomas' mother's family is Jewish. Her grandfather emigrated from somewhere near Bialystock to Sweden at the turn of the century to avoid the Czar's army. Thomas knows very little about his other ancestors. His father, a retired judge, is from a non-Jewish family. Thomas grew up in a suburb of Malmo in a household where many languages were spoken, in part because his mother taught Spanish and French. No one spoke Yiddish, as the family had been in Sweden for four generations. However, they did celebrate some of the Jewish holidays and were part of the small Jewish community. Since his father was a practicing Christian, they celebrated Christmas as well. Today, Thomas feels grateful that he grew up connected to both religions and traditions. Thomas remembers with pride the day that Isaac Bashevis Singer won the (Swedish) Nobel prize. He attended Jewish camps but found them a little too religious. He was bar mitzvah-ed and remembers searching for a more spiritual connection in his teens. Thomas does not feel knowledgeable about how Yiddish became an official minority language in Sweden, along with the languages of the Sami and the Roma. He recalls the Jewish community lobbying in support of this designation, even though few Jews in Sweden spoke the language. A long-time radio producer, he now produces two Yiddish radio programs. One, on the public radio station, involves reading stories for children in the various minority languages. The other, called "Yidish far Ale (Yiddish for All)", is a nine-minute show where he interviews Yiddish speakers. To become more proficient in the language, he has taken a web-based course taught by a professor at Lund University. Thomas asserts that working on the show has made him feel more connected with his Jewish roots. He is planning to attend the Yiddish summer program in Vilna this year. Although the number of Yiddish speakers in Sweden and elsewhere may be small, he sees a revitalization of interest in the language and culture. Thomas ends the interview identifying a Chava Alberstein Yiddish song as a favorite and mentions two of his favorite writers – Sholem Aleichem and Anna Margolin. He chooses to be hopeful when briefly alluding to the subject of antisemitism in Malmo.
This interview was conducted in English.
Thomas Lunderquist was born in Malmoe, Sweden in 1969.