Women Reflect on American Jewish Identity
Highlights from the Wexler Oral History Project
Lekoved (in honor of) Jewish American Heritage month, we’re thinking about how the women in our oral history collection understand their own American and Jewish identities. What have they learned when negotiating these dual aspects of themselves? We’ve gathered a selection of stories here in which women across generations candidly reflect on Jewishness, American culture, and a well-loved bilingual Yiddish cookbook from a major American brand.
“We’re Legitimate Here”: Honoring American Jewish Identity
Deborah Wexler, former Yiddish Book Center board member, discusses the importance of recognizing the value of Eastern-European Jewish culture in the United States.
Crisco and Jewish Women: An American Company’s Recipes for Traditional Yiddish Dishes
Annette Epstein Jolles—Washington, DC, native and social worker—discusses the bilingual English and Yiddish cookbook that Crisco, the company that produces vegetable shortening, sent to specifically Jewish women, and the nostalgic dishes her family made using recipes from it.
Negotiating Chinese, Jewish, and American Values
Mei Li Isaacson, 2012 January term Yiddish student, compares Chinese and Jewish cultural values and reflects on how growing up in an American household has shaped her beliefs.
American and Jew: Negotiating Identities
Elaine Trehub, z”l, retired Mount Holyoke College archivist, details how she carefully merged her American and Jewish identity, her experiences with other Jews, and her determination to never feel ashamed of her Jewishness.
“Who Your People Are Shifts”: The Multifaceted Nature of American Identity
Leela Corman, graphic artist, discusses her Jewish identity and speaks to how, for her, being an American means having a multifaceted identity.
“I’m an American, I speak English . . . and by the way, your English is terrible!”: My mother at 103
Helen Kurzban, Brooklyn-born native Yiddish speaker and former administrator in the New York City public schools, remembers how as a young girl she helped her mother with her English-language skills. She relates the story of how her mother, at the age of 103, equated mastery of English with being a proud American.