New Kaplan Centre Oral History Project to be launched

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The Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town is about to embark on a new Oral History Project, building on an earlier project which was carried out nearly thirty years ago.

At that time the focus was on life histories of elderly Jewish men and women who had grown up in South Africa or at least came to South Africa as children. About 300 interviews were conducted in the early 1980s by a team of interviewers.

These valuable memoirs were transcribed and archived. Subsequently the interviews have been used by scholars in the reconstruction of the South African Jewish past.

According to Professor Milton Shain, director of the Kaplan Centre, the new project will focus on Jewish leaders. The emphasis will be on the ways in which Jewish leaders entered into communal life, the burning issues they dealt with and the changing priorities. Interviews will be led by Lauren Snitcher.

“This is an exciting and timely project,” Professor Shain explains. “It is an important dimension of the South African Jewish experience. We need to build on the memories of those who were at the communal ‘rock face’ in recent decades. Ultimately each interviewee will have important information to share – and this will add to the richness of our history.”

Lauren Snitcher and a team of interviewers will be contacting appropriate interviewees over the next few months.

“We look forward to acquiring at first hand the testimony of those who gave so much of their time to the community, shaping its policies and priorities,” adds Lauren. “All interviews will be transcribed and archived for posterity.”

Professor Shain notes too that the Kaplan Centre wishes to build an archive of visual material. In this regard he asks the community to consider passing on old 8/16 mm visual material for archiving.

“This too will contribute to our knowledge of the South African Jewish experience,” he says.

Anyone having visual material should please contact Janine Blumberg: 021 650-3062 or Janine.Blumberg@uct.ac.za

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