Keynote speaker Irene Dodek and Bill Gruenthal, from the Temple Sholom 60+ group, at the latest JSA Snider Foundation Empowerment Series event, which took place May 15. (photo by Marcy Babins)
Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver and the seniors group Temple Sholom 60+ co-sponsored the fourth in the 2018-19 JSA Snider Foundation Empowerment Series, which has the theme “Renewing and Reinventing Ourselves.” About 60 attendees met at Temple Sholom on May 15 for lunch, followed by a talk by Irene Dodek on Writing Our Own Stories.
Bill Gruenthal of the 60+ group welcomed the audience and announced the names of everyone who was having a birthday in April and May. He then introduced Ken Levitt, president of Jewish Seniors Alliance, who thanked Temple Sholom for the opportunity to co-sponsor the event with them and briefly outlined JSA’s programs, with particular emphasis on the Peer Support Program. He also explained that JSA’s motto is “Seniors Stronger Together.”
Gruenthal introduced Dodek, one of two charter members of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia (JMABC).
Dodek is a graduate of the University of British Columbia in anthropology and museum studies. She said she first became interested in stories while growing up in Wapella, Sask., where she heard many family tales from her grandfather and her uncles, who were homesteaders there.
Dodek has been conducting interviews for the JMABC for many years. She outlined a few of her early interviews and pointed out some of the mistakes made by beginners. She offered the following tips, stressing that the most important thing is for the interviewees to be heard. Questions must be open-ended, she said, to give the person a chance to talk and explain. Confidentiality must be maintained, as well as respect for the person, and patience in waiting for answers. Interviewers must give people a chance to think before they answer, she said.
Dodek – who said that history is her passion – was also involved in a Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation project that required 30 hours of training in three days on how to interview Holocaust survivors. She commented that this was very different from interviewing community pioneers.
The title of her family history, which she wrote, is You’ll Always be My Darling. Dodek took the name from a note her mother once wrote in her autograph book. She did a lot of genealogical research and the book contains many maps and family photographs. The book is in the national archives in Ottawa.
After a number of questions about interviewing and also about writing, Gruenthal thanked Dodek for her stimulating presentation.
The fifth in the “Renewing and Reinventing Ourselves” series will take place on June 24, sponsored by JSA and the Kehila Society of Richmond. Called Dueling Pianists, Lester Soo and Marilyn Glazer will entertain. Lunch is at noon and the program starts at 1 p.m. at Congregation Beth Tikvah. For more information and to register, contact Toby Rubin at 604-241-9270 or the JSA office at 604-732-1555.
Shanie Levin is an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.