Interview Guidelines

The purpose of the Oral History Archives is to preserve the family histories of Jewish South Carolinians. While the shape of any particular interview is determined by the interaction of interviewer and informant, the questions below have helped shape most conversations.

Roots
1. When and where were you born? When did your family first come to America? (We are interested in both maternal and paternal sides of the family.) Where did they come from? When did your family arrive in South Carolina? Why did they come here?

2. Tell me about your parents and grandparents? What were their names and occupations? Where did they live?

3. Was anyone in your family a “pioneer”—that is, the first Jewish person in the community? Describe the various professions, businesses or jobs family members engaged in, as far back as is known.

4. Did anyone in your family hold an important office, for example, in town, county, or state government?

5. Do you have a family tree? Do you have photographs or portraits of your forebear’s? Family heirlooms? Documents, such as steamship tickets or naturalization papers, pertaining to the family’s arrival in America? Is there any object, such as a candelabra or tallit, still in the family, that was brought here from the “old country”?

Growing Up Jewish in South Carolina
6. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Please tell a little about each one—his or her name, order of birth, personality or character, role in the family, education, occupation. Where is he or she now?

7. What relationships from your childhood do you remember best? What childhood memories, pleasant or unpleasant, stand out in your mind? What stories from childhood have you passed on?

8. Where did you go to school? Describe your most memorable teachers, friends, academic experiences, sports. What did you do at home after school?

9. Describe your Jewish education, if any. What synagogue did you belong to? Did you have a bar or bat mitzvah or confirmation? Did you belong to any Jewish youth organizations?

10. How did your family celebrate the Sabbath? What religious holidays did your family observe? Was your family concerned about keeping its Jewish identity?

11. Did your family keep kosher? Did you have access to a kosher butcher?

12. Describe your professional training and work experiences. To what organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish, do you belong today?

13. How did you meet your spouse and when were you married?

14. How many children do you have? Have they remained in South Carolina or have they moved elsewhere? Describe their occupations and families.

15. Are there any marriages or conversions into or out of the Jewish faith in your family?

The Changing Jewish Community
16. How “Jewish” were your ancestors? How important to them was the synagogue and Jewish religious life? What Jewish customs and ceremonies do you observe?

17. Has your synagogue changed in recent years? Has its membership grown or declined? Are the rituals, music, sermons different than they were several decades ago? Are women and children more or less involved in religious services and synagogue activities?

18. How has the role of the rabbi or cantor changed?

19. How is the Jewish community in your area different from other communities you know about? Has there been an influx of newcomers? An out-migration or assimilation of old families?

20. What is your congregation’s attitude toward Israel? Has it changed in recent years? Have you visited Israel?

21. How would you describe the relationship between Jews and gentiles in your community? Have Christians participated in synagogue services, for example, as members of a choir on the High Holidays? Have you had occasion to attend services in any local churches?

22. Have you or your family experienced or been aware of anti-Semitism? Do non-Jewish people in your community regard you as different?

23. Do you thank of yourself as a Jewish southerner or as a southern Jew? In your opinion, are there special challenges to being Jewish in the South?

Historic Events
24. Where were your forebear’s in 1861? What role, if any, did they play in the American Civil War?

25. Where were your ancestors in 1900? Were they involved in the migration of Jews from Eastern Europe or in efforts to provide assistance for Jewish immigrants?

26. What effects did World War I and the Great Depression have on your family and community?

27. What impact did the Holocaust have on you and your sense of identity as a Jew?

28. Did any of your family or other members of the Jewish community serve in the armed forces during World War II?

29. What were race relations like in your community during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s? What was your reaction to school desegregation? How would you characterize relations today between Jews and African-Americans in your community? In South Carolina? In the United States?