At the end of each year, I always take great interest in watching one thing on TV – the memorial tributes by the networks and awards shows honoring the many great people who passed away that year. Yes, it sounds a bit gruesome, but to me, it provides me with a moment to reflect on 1) the great contributions made by these people to society and 2) the effect many of them had on my life. Whether I enjoyed watching them in a favorite TV show or a funny movie or cheered them on as they won the Masters or made history blasting into space, almost all invoked some special time in my life that I will always remember.
I also take time at the end of the year to remember those who may not have been as rich or as famous as those people mentioned above. These may be personal friends, work colleagues, shul friends, and on occasion family members. These people knew me, my family and I knew them and their family. If they were Jewish, I went to their funeral or attended a shiva minyan. Since I grew up in Dallas, I probably knew them for decades, attended high school or was in BBYO with their kids, or they were friends with my parents. Many of them were leaders in local businesses or the Jewish community. Some were just transplants from the eastern US or even from another country.
If the people who died the past year were famous, they were professionally memorized through their profession (movies, TV, sports) or professional biographers. If I wanted to share a memory, I would only need to rent one of their movies or pull up a speech on YouTube. If they were not as famous, it is a bit tougher, unless I asked a friend or family member for a video tape of a wedding or bar mitzvah.
Fortunately, if you are part of the Jewish community in Dallas, there is a way to share the memory of a loved one forever – get an oral history from the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. It takes no more than a couple of hours and is done at the JCC by an experienced interviewer. Hundreds of famous and not-so-famous Dallas Jews have already been videotaped. Most of the interviewees are still with us. Unfortunately, many are not. But thanks to the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, their memories will be with us forever. We will always have the opportunity 24/7 to view a person we remember being with or give a student of history an opportunity to see someone they only heard about from their parent or whose name they read on a memorial plaque.
If you know someone, famous or not, whose spirit you would like to keep alive forever, encourage them to contact the Dallas Jewish Historical Society at 214 -239-7120 and ask to get on the schedule for an Oral History interview. Don’t wait until it is too late. Make it a New Year’s Resolution.
If you’ve never been to the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, visit us next time you are at the JCC. We are in the hallway to the left of the Zale Auditorium. You’ll meet great people and learn a lot of Dallas history.
On behalf of the DJHS, we hope you and your families have a happy and healthy 2017.
Dallas Jewish Historical Society