We Spoke Jewish explores the three waves of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the 20th century. Through artwork and oral history it tells the stories of the Jews of early immigrant communities the Holocaust survivors who came post-war and the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came in the latter part of the century.
What does it mean to "speak Jewish?" The phrase "speaking Jewish" is often used to describe the Yiddish language and in the community of Eastern European Jews of the early part of the century virtually everyone spoke Jewish. Many of the subsequent immigrants also spoke Jewish in different ways. Survivors spoke the Jewish of remembrance carrying with them the memory of once thriving Jewish communities and the people who populated them. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union could not openly practice Judaism but they spoke the Jewish of culture carrying their heritage forward through song food and of course story. We Spoke Jewish explores how these three groups spoke Jewish through language memory and culture forming an important part of Jewish identity.
This book grew out of a series of oral histories with Jewish elders and their families. Susan Weinberg an artist as well as a writer explores the emotional responses and visual elements that accompany these stories. Out of this process she creates artwork exploring their words through image and creating a multi-layered storytelling experience.
Susan Weinberg is a writer and artist with a deep interest in family history. She weaves these skills together in an exploration of Jewish heritage through the lens of both artwork and story. She believes it is through story that we understand our common connections and through image that we deepen our understanding.
With story as her creative engine she captures the emotional responses and visual elements that accompany it exploring words through image as she enriches stories through a layered retelling.
For the past ten years Susan Weinberg has been involved in an exploration of Jewish heritage that has taken her throughout Eastern Europe inspiring artwork on the Holocaust history of Lithuania and taking her on an artistic journey into a former Polish Jewish community. Closer to home she began the Jewish Identity and Legacy Project an oral history project which ultimately unfolded into the artwork and story that comprise We Spoke Jewish: A Legacy of Stories. wespokejewish.com
"A lovely and lavishly illustrated book. . .The book refers to its interview subjects and the larger community of Jewish immigrants as "a living archive " and seeks to understand their legacy. We Spoke Jewish explores an older generation of Jewish immigrants who wrestle with the modern Jewish community . . .In the end the books settles on Yiddishkeit as a concept that could unify the older and younger generations. . . [that] can create a bond between the Old World and the new." -Max Sparber The American Jewish World
"A moving story that captures much of the fabric of Jewish life in the early 20th century in Minnesota a sensitive rendering of the accounts of the Holocaust survivors a compelling narrative of the most recent wave of Jewish immigrants from what was the U.S.S.R. &hellipcompelling and insightful...a touching and important contribution..." -Annette Atkins renowned historian author of Creating Minnesota: A History From the Inside Out
"The paintings allow the viewer to feel the heartbeat of the subject and their testimonies open the doorways to create an emotional connection to historical moments." -Meryll Levine Page co-author of Jewish Luck