Women Writing Memoir

Stories from Women Memoirists in the Oral History Collection

The work of the oral historian and the work of the memoirist are related; both people are collectors of memory and careful observers of moments of personal and cultural significance, and both are committed to shedding light on the past to inform our present and inspire our future.

This month we are exploring the relation between women, Yiddish, and memoir. Over the years, we have been drawn to women who are themselves memoirists or who have had meaningful encounters with works of memoir. We share excerpts from interviews with six extraordinary women who’ve documented either their own lives or the lives of women who have inspired them.

This month’s feature is part of the Yiddish Book Center’s 2022 Decade of Discovery: Women in Yiddish.

My Father's Memoirs: A Family Project

 “The most important work I've ever done.” Social worker Diana Cohen describes the process of writing and translating her father's memoirs. 

Watch her full interview and excerpts. 

"On the Condition that It Be in Two Languages": A Lithuanian-Yiddish Memoir

Bibliographer Fira (Esfir) Bramson, z"l, explains, in Yiddish, how she agreed to write about her work in the Lithuanian National Archives on the condition that the book be published bilingually, both in the original Yiddish and in Lithuanian.

Watch her full interview and excerpts, in Yiddish. 

I Read Every Holocaust Memoir I Find

“To be whole. To not lose the truth of what happened.” Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, z"l, Yiddish poet, reflects on why she reads all the memoirs of Holocaust survivors she can find.

Watch her full interview and excerpts, in Yiddish. 

What a 17th-Century Memoir Reveals about Jewish Identity and Values

Chava Turniansky, professor emerita of Yiddish, describes some takeaways about Jewish identity and values from Glikl of Hameln, memoirs of a Jewish woman in 17th-century Hamburg, which Chava retranslated and annotated over many years. 

Watch her full interview and excerpts, in Yiddish. 

The Tree of Life by Chava Rosenfarb: A Synopsis

How does memory and lived experience shape fiction? Goldie Morgentaler describes her mother Chava Rosenfarb’s 3-volume novel Der boyn fun lebn (The Tree of Life), about ghetto life in Lodz, Poland, which Rosenfarb herself experienced.

Watch her full interview and excerpts. 

Writing the Jewish Immigrant Experience

"To tell about life and how it was." Arlene Cohen Stein, writer and retired music teacher, discusses why she chose to write in her first book, The Olive Tree, about her parents, the Jewish immigrant experience, and growing up in Utica, New York.

Watch her full interview and excerpts.