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Question Sets

There are lots of different questions you can ask your narrator. Choose from the sets below, or pick some questions from each group and make your own set! Click here for guidelines on how to write your own questions.

About Family

  • Which of your family members settled in the United States? Who came first? Where did they come from? Why did they emigrate?
  • List and describe your family members (siblings, parents, grandparents). What was your relationship with them? What influence did they have on your life?
  • Where did you grow up? Describe your house and your neighborhood. Who lived in your household?
  • Did you have any special or interesting family traditions (e.g., food, birthdays, holidays, etc.)?
  • Which Jewish holidays did your family celebrate? Which were the most important to you? Why?
  • Did anyone in your family serve as your role model? Who? Why?
  • Were girls and boys treated differently in your family? What were your family’s expectations about education, marriage, work, Jewish identity, and religious observance?

For Grandparents

  • How many grandchildren do you have? What are their ages?
  • What were your expectations about becoming a grandparent?
  • Was your own mother or father (or someone else) a role model for you as a grandparent? Why and how?
  • What name did you want to be called as a grandparent? Why? What associations does this name have for you?
  • Describe your experience of being a grandparent. What have been your roles and responsibilities? Greatest rewards or challenges?
  • What do you want your grandchildren to know/remember about you?

About School

  • Where did you go to school?
  • What subjects did you enjoy most? What did you enjoy least? Why?
  • What extracurricular activities were you involved in and what drew you to them?
  • If you are Jewish, how did that aspect of your identity affect you at school?
  • Were girls treated differently than boys? Explain. How did you feel about that?
  • Describe what you and your friends did together for fun. What did “hanging out” look like when you were young?
  • Did you have any particular role models, male or female, in school, such as teachers, coaches, or advisors? Describe your relationship with them and their impact on your life.
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? Why? If you are Jewish, were there careers that you did not feel were open to you as a Jew?
  • What were the important events or milestones in your youth (e.g., bar or bat mitzvah, learning how to drive, graduation, etc.)?

About Judaism/Jewish Identity (Note: Ask these questions if the person you are interviewing is Jewish.)

  • What aspects of Jewish identity are most important to you (e.g., religious beliefs and observance, affiliation with a particular religious movement, relationship to Israel, secular Jewish culture, Yiddish culture, Sephardic culture, Jewish foods and culinary traditions)? How is this expressed in your life?
  • Have your feelings about being Jewish changed over time? How?
  • How has your gender affected your experience as a Jew?
  • Did you raise your children with a religious orientation different than the one in which you grew up? How and why?
  • Did you have a bat mitzvah? As a child? As an adult? Describe the experience and its meaning for you.
  • Can you recall any milestones or turning points in your religious life?
  • If you are a Jew by choice, describe the experience of conversion.
  • If you (or members of your family) are married to a non-Jew, how has the experience of intermarriage affected you?
  • Have you or your family experienced or been aware of antisemitism? How has it affected you?

About Social Life and Leisure

  • Where would family and friends get together during your childhood and teenage years? Were there special gathering places? What would you do?
  • Did you have any hobbies or special interests? Describe.
  • Who did you tend to socialize with? Were your friends mainly drawn from within the Jewish community or from outside it?
  • Did you have favorite radio programs, television programs, or movies that you listened to or watched regularly? Describe.
  • How important was reading in your life? What were some of your favorite books and authors?
  • Who are/were your favorite movie stars, singers, authors, etc.? What did/do you like about them?

About Work

  • As a young woman, what expectations did you have regarding your working life? If you chose to work or not to work in paying jobs, what factors influenced your decision?
  • What factors influenced your choice of profession or particular jobs? What responsibilities did you have in your various jobs?
  • What were your goals and aspirations regarding your work life?
  • What were your expectations around earning money? In your first jobs? In later jobs?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest achievements in your field of work? What are you most proud of?

About Activism/Volunteerism

  • Have you served as a volunteer for any community or civic projects (e.g., synagogue or other Jewish groups; alumni associations; cultural, artistic or political organizations)?
  • Which organizations have been most important to you? Why? Describe your involvement.
  • What were your motivations for doing volunteer work? What did you hope to accomplish?
  • Do you think of yourself as a leader? As an activist?
  • Do you associate particular Jewish values, such as tzedakah or tikkun olam, with the work you did/do?
  • What were your satisfactions and rewards from this community service?
  • What political and social movements or causes have you been involved in? What were your motivations? Describe your experience.
  • Have you had important role models or mentors? How have they inspired and/or influenced you?

About the World Today

  • How do you feel about the world today compared to the world in which you grew up?
  • What trends or changes in the world are surprising or disturbing to you? Why?
  • What words of wisdom would you offer to the generations that came after you? Do you have a philosophy of life or particular values that are important for you to share with younger people?
  • What are your greatest hopes for the future?

Next: Say Thank You

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