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The Abstracts | Abstracting Considerations | Index Terms | Glossary

The data that serves as the basis for searching the oral history interviews was extracted from the original guide created by the NCJW called Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community. The guide, which was updated in 2002, contains abstracts and indices – geographical, personal name, and subject – to each interview and abstract. As such, the abstracts offer the most significant means of learning about the content of each interview. Now that the abstracts are searchable online, a researcher is directed to the entire taped interview.

Note: When searching the abstracts, it is best to use keywords and not phrases; the search engine looks for exact matches.

The Abstracts

After carefully listening to each taped interview, an NCJW volunteer prepared an abstract of the contents of each interview based on extracts. The abstractor utilized the extracts prepared by other volunteers listing significant information, names, and places contained in five minute segments of each interview. The extracts served as the basis for compilation of the geographical, name, and subject indices.

Abstracting Considerations

NCJW initially developed an abstracting methodology to use language consistently and descriptively after sampling forty interviews. Verbs were utilized to convey the comparative length and detail of the interview. The criteria of extensiveness and uniqueness of information served as the principle factors in writing the abstracts.

The abstracts seek to serve as locating devices for the information in the interview and as a guide to content. The topics included serve as reference points between more extensive information. Note that the designation within the abstracts of clues such as [T1S1] or [T1S2] mean the abstracted content can be found on Tape 1 Side 1 or Tape 1 Side 2. When the tapes were digitized, these designations now coincide with each MP3 file (tape sides) within a play list (interview).

The physical guide (Pittsburgh and Beyond) was originally constructed to represent the compilation of interviews conducted in two phases. The initial oral history project focused narrowly on the Jewish immigrant experience – life in Europe, the journey to America, and settlement in Pittsburgh. The immigrant Oral History Project was conducted between 1968 and 1972. These abstracts are distinguishable by a more linear format in the header before the abstract. The consistent use of standardized phrases from these interviews reflects the series of questions asked of all respondents.

The second phase of this oral history project, conducted between 1974 and 2001, collected information regarding the respondent’s family life, occupation, activities, and views of a changing society and Pittsburgh. Inclusion of the year the interview was conducted in each entry distinguishes the interviews in phase two from those in phase one.

In some instances discrepancies arose regarding the respondent’s date of birth or year of emigration. The dates listed are those provided by the respondent. The spellings of the immigrants’ hometowns were determined by consulting Where Once We Walked. The names of regions or provinces, when provided, are enclosed with parentheses. The country of origin refers to the political jurisdiction of the time. Residences and workplaces are qualified by city and state when outside of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Abstracts of contributors to the community contain topic sentences that summarize the interviewee’s professional and social lives.

The approximate length of the interview appears (if known).

Index Terms

The terms used in the original indices (geographical, personal name, and subject) reflect the prominent and noteworthy topics of each interview. The content of each interview determined the subject headings assigned and did not limit the number of subject headings allotted to each abstract. Originally, this work employed the Manual of the American Jewish Archives classification and Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in determining subject headings. In preparation for mounting the interviews online and reviewing the subject headings, an effort was made to revise the list of terms so that all the terms conform to LCSH.

NCJW created idiosyncratic subject headings as needed to identify local organizations or other entities/events. NCJW also created a separate geographical index to benefit those not familiar with Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The personal name index lists individuals of local, national, and international prominence that the respondents mentioned.


cheder Hebrew school
daven to pray
dayan Judge in the court of Jewish Law
gabbai a lay assistant in synagogue services
Kashruth Observance of Jewish dietary laws
landsman/landsleit someone from the same town or region in Europe as you (literally, “man from the land”)
melamed Hebrew teacher
mikvah ritual bath
minyan a group of ten men required for a religious service
pogrom series of violent attacks on Jews in Europe during the late 19th century
pushke donation box
Shabbos goy a non-Jew who does chores for a Jewish household or synagogue which are not permitted for observant Jews to do because of the Sabbath
shochet a ritual, kosher slaughterer
show money money immigrants were required to possess in order to enter into the United States
Shtetl Small Jewish community in Eastern Europe
shul synagogue
tefillin phylactery
trefah not kosher
Yeshiva Jewish Institute for higher learning
Yiddish spoken language of the Jewish people