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Aheym - Going Home

Updated: Nov 20, 2023



May 20, 2008, the AHEYM research team travels to the community center of Balta, Odessa, Ukraine to interview Rakhila Shmulevna Klimenko, born in Pervomayskiy in 1928. The hour-long interview puts you directly in contact with a life-time of Jewish knowledge through the 20th century in a place that once breathed Yiddish - and this piece of media is only one of the 800+ multimedia documents available in AHEYM’s collection stored, converted, and preserved by the Archives of Traditional Music.


AHEYM, The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (also, the word for "homeward" in Yiddish) is corpus of oral histories of Jewish life in Eastern Europe containing linguistic and dialectological data, Holocaust testimonials, musical performances, folk songs, liturgical and Hasidic melodies, macaronic songs, folklore, anecdotes, jokes, stories, children's ditties, folk remedies, Purim plays, reflections on contemporary Jewish life in the region, and guided tours by local residents of sites of Jewish memory in the region.



The website is sectioned by geographical region, where you can find media recounting the “shtetl life.” Upon discovering the site, I frantically searched for anything in Sudilkov (now Sudylkiv), the shtetl from which my great grandfather left in the late 19th century. Sudilkov is just a short ride from the city of Shepetivka, which did have a selection of videos following Tsilya Bentsianovna Kleiner who was born in 1924 in Shepetivka (a year after my grandfather’s birth in Massachusetts, USA). Her Yiddish sounds remarkably like my family’s, with the low vowels and all!


Unlike videos from The Wexler Oral History project (link: https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/wexler-oral-history-project). These videos do not have subtitles and often bounce between languages (Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, etc). Each video also contains time stamps to indicate where major topics begin.


An interview with Sima (Sima Ilinichna) Moiseyevna Listengurt takes us through the town center of Odessa. She talks of her education in Siberia and the pre-war times of her youth. She continues down her neighborhood in which she has lived since 1921 where the yiddish school and tuberculosis treatment centers used to be - if only the camera would show us what she points at.


Riva Borukhovna Medved moved to Odessa in 1932 and recounts a proverb in Tatar. Imre (Yitshak) Dof sits down for his interview in Budapest with a miniature christmas tree behind him (for some reason?) while singing to us rhymes in Yiddish.


The collection is truly an incredible window into the past. Personally, I have very few stories from my Yiddish speaking families about pre-war life. These videos, now 20 years old, express a world many of us only know from pages of books or sentence long anecdotes (none of which happening on a walking tour like Medved gives us!).



If you speak Yiddish, any language of Eastern Europe, or just English, I encourage you to check out AHEYM Online Collections and sit with the voices of this generation for an hour or so.


Zay(t) Gesund!


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