No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family
Through March 2014
On view at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, now through March 2014, is an up-close look at the life-work of a Jewish immigrant couple in the early 1900s. “No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family,” a selection of postcards and other historical materials curated by Patricia Klindienst, explores the story of Abram Spiwak and Sophie Schochetman. Abram, a successful flower-grower in Queens, NY, and Sophie, a renowned dressmaker with a sense of “artistry” when it came to flowers, became quite prosperous and, in many ways, lived the ideal of the “American Dream.”
With the wealth they accumulated through their hard work and dedication, they were able to offer financial assistance to their relatives for the crossing to the U.S., thus extending the opportunity they had had to move up in society and thrive in America to even more immigrants. Their lived experiences, conveyed through the primary source documents and other materials on display at the Yiddish Book Center, offer both an up-close look at the Jewish immigrant experience at the turn of the century, and a lens through which viewers can more clearly examine the culture and history of the time period. Abram and Sophie’s story also offers a fascinating counterpoint to which we can compare current beliefs about and the experiences of contemporary immigrants in the United States.
Students with an interest in cultural, religious, or historical studies will particularly enjoy this exhibition, as will any visitor who is curious about their ancestry and the personal and societal motivations of their relatives. Keeping the history and cultural ideals of the 1900s versus the present era in mind, have your family or group consider the differences between the immigrant experience, then and now, by considering these questions:
- How might it have been easier for immigrants to establish themselves in the U.S. and dedicate themselves to the actualization of their own American Dreams, compared to today?
- What cultural and historical factors may have caused this shift in the American immigrant experience?
- Do you think that race, language, and other cultural differences between immigrant groups have affected (and do affect) the ways in which they are treated in this country?
- How do you think they have overcome issues like prejudice, language barriers, etc. in order to achieve a sense of success, similar to Abram and Sophie?
- Can you think of certain “immigrant stories” that are more celebrated than others?
- What are the criteria with which we judge these stories and the people who live them? Where did these criteria come from, and are they fair?
The primary source documents in particular have a fascinating story both contained within their pages and regarding their own discovery! Simply having a chance to take a look at these documents would be a significant experience for visitors solely by virtue of the work that went into the discovery and translation of these materials.
The Yiddish Book Center in located at 1021 West Street in Amherst, MA. The Center is a non-profit organization working to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity.