Hadassah Oral Histories—Friendship and Professionalism, Intertwined

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By
Janine Veazue

Oral
history is distinguished from other forms of interviews by its content and
extent. Oral history interviews seek an in-depth account of personal experience
and reflections, with sufficient time allowed for the narrators to give their
story the fullness they desire. The content of oral history interviews is
grounded in reflections on the past as opposed to commentary on purely
contemporary events.

Oral History Association Principles and Best
Practices, 2009

As an organization,
Hadassah has created a wealth of opportunities for scientific and cultural
advancement in Israel. Along with supporting Jews internationally, it has also
maintained its vision of “connecting and empowering Jewish women to effect
change” (“About Hadassah,” 2016) by encouraging American Jewish
women of all ages to also advocate for their community and women’s rights in
healthcare, the workplace, and beyond.

 In order to
document nearly sixty years of hard work and camaraderie, Anna Tulin, the
National Audio-Visual Chairperson for Hadassah, began a series of oral history
interviews with some of the organization’s most influential members. They also
happened to be her closest friends.

 Starting in the
1970s, these interviews documented and celebrated the lives, struggles, and triumphs
of these intrepid Hadassah members. Tulin understood their struggles to
advocate passionately while still balancing professional lives, families, or
both (as she experienced the same while working with Hadassah), and spoke to
them as friends and professional equals.

image

Dorfman, Rose—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 5; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY

image

Benton,
Juliette—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection in the Hadassah Archives;
I-578/RG 20; box 3; folder 1; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY

image

Benton,
Juliette—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection in the Hadassah Archives;
I-578/RG 20; box 3; folder 1; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY

Each interviewee is
completely at ease during Tulin’s recordings, which are uniquely structured as a
friendly chat over coffee, despite the breadth of archival information being
relayed.

image

Cohen, Fannie—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 2; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY. Cohen served as both the National Membership
Chair

Although Hadassah
was an organization that set out to help others
in need, it also greatly impacted those who organized, led, and volunteered to
make those projects a reality. Tulin was a part of this experience and through her
interviews gave many others, including Rose Dorfman and Fannie Cohen, a chance
to voice their sincere thanks to a lifetime of selfless work:

image

Dorfman, Rose—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 5; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY

image

Dorfman, Rose—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 5; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY

image

Cohen, Fannie—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 2; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY

A good oral history
interviewer acquires the most out of their interviewee with solid,
comprehensive pre-interview research. In Tulin’s case, her experiences and personal
connections were her research. By working side by side with these fellow
Hadassah elites for years before officially documenting their experiences for
posterity, she and her interviewees made the most out of their recorded time. These
oral histories bring life into many of the other related correspondence and
photographs collected over the years, making the Hadassah archives richer and
more complete.

image

Dorfman, Rose—Transcript; Oral Histories Collection
in the Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 5; American Jewish
Historical Society, New York, NY

image

Shukow, Blanche; Oral Histories Collection in the
Hadassah Archives; I-578/RG 20; box 1; folder 24; American Jewish Historical
Society, New York, NY

Listening to these
recordings first-hand truly brings these people and their histories to life. No
longer are they merely names on a page, but flesh and blood, with both
tragedies and triumphs to share.

Many of the oral
histories conducted by Anna Tulin (along with those of Mirah Yungman and Manfred
Waserman) can be found in Record Group 20 of the Hadassah Archives on Long-term
Deposit at the American Jewish Historical Society: http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=2916671.

image

Oral Histories Collection in the Hadassah Archives;
I-578/RG 20; boxes 3 & 4; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY

From
2015-2016, Center archivists processed the Hadassah Archives on Long-Term
Deposit at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) thanks to the generous
support of the Leon Levy Foundation. The Hadassah Archives measures over 1,500
linear feet and is one of the most frequently used collections at AJHS.


Janine
Veazue is an Archivist at the Center for Jewish History.

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