Recording the histories of vanishing communities

A growing number of Jewish oral historians are working to capture the diversity of the Jewish experience. Through documentary filmmaking, tape-recorded conversations and a variety of other primary source materials, these projects give voice to vanished or vanishing Jewish communities in China, Iran, Iraq, Cuba and other unlikely locales, reports JTA News (with thanks: Albert).

“When Carole Basri started taking oral histories of Iraqi Jews, she found even her own family members unwilling to talk.

“Telling these histories is a very painful process,” said Basri, a lawyer by training. “People don’t want to talk about being in jail, or hangings… nobody wants to think of themselves as a refugee.”

“Over time, however, Basri was able to get Iraqi Jews to open up, using connections from her grandparents, who were prominent members of Baghdad’s Jewish community. She now has produced three documentary films and interviewed 100 Iraqi Jews in the United States, Canada, Israel, India and elsewhere.

“I wanted to understand what made people decide to leave and why they did leave,” she explained. “The oral histories were so important because I couldn’t get the answers anywhere else.”

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