Writing Our Own Stories
Written by Shanie Levin
Photography by Marcy Babins
Jewish Seniors Alliance and Temple Shalom 60+ co-sponsored the fourth in the Empowerment Series of 2018-2019 with the theme “Renewing and Reinventing Ourselves”. About sixty attendees met on Wednesday, May 15th at Temple Shalom for a lovely lunch followed by a talk by Irene Dodek (z’l) titled, “Writing Our Own Stories”.
Bill Gruenthal, of the Temple’s seniors group welcomed the audience and proceeded to mention all the people who had birthdays in April and May. He then introduced Ken Levitt, president of Jewish Seniors Alliance. Ken thanked Temple Shalom for the opportunity to co-sponsor the event with them and briefly outlined the programs of JSA with particular emphasis on the Peer Support Program. He also explained that our motto is “Seniors Stronger Together.”
Bill continued with an introduction of the speaker, Irene Dodek (z’l). Irene was one of two charter members of the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. She was a graduate of UBC in anthropology and museum studies.
Irene explained that she first became interested in stories while growing up on Wapella, Saskatchewan, where she heard many family stories from her grandfather and her uncles, who were homesteaders there.
Irene conducted interviews for the Jewish Museum and Archives for many years. She outlined a few of her early interviews and pointed out some of the mistakes that can be made by beginners. She offered the following tips, emphasizing that the most important thing is for the interviewees to be heard. Questions must be open-ended, giving 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—the person must be given a chance to think before answering.
Irene was also involved in the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation project. This involved thirty hours of training in three days on how to interview Holocaust survivors. She commented that this was very different from interviewing pioneers. Irene has written a book on her family history called “You’ll Always be My Darling”. She took the title 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. Irene stated that history was her passion. She then answered a number of questions about interviewing and also about writing. Bill Gruenthal thanked Irene for her stimulating presentation.