Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Intriguing volunteer work

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall where decisions about world affairs are being discussed or the history of our community is being shared? Transcribing oral history recordings at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington can give you a taste of those experiences.

Since early February 2012, I've had the opportunity to work on the transcription of an oral history recorded in January 2011 with Ambassador Richard Schifter as part of the Society's Soviet Jewry Project.  Schifter is Jewish American lawyer living in the Washington, D.C., area, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1985 to 1992. He is currently heading the American Jewish International Relations Institute and the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe. He takes the title of Ambassador from his tenure as the Deputy United States Representative in the United Nations Security Council with the rank of Ambassador during the 1980s.

Using earphones and the Jewish Historical Society's new software – Express Scribe – is trouble-free. The software includes easily accessed commands for advancing, reversing, adjusting the speed and volume of the speech of the interviewer and interviewee. Transcribing a three-hour interview took approximately four 6-hour volunteer days at the Society's offices at 4th and G Streets, NW.

Listening to Ambassador Schifter's recounting of his early life in Vienna, Austria, his immigration the United States at the age of 15 in 1938, his army service during World War II, his law school education and his subsequent extensive service within the U.S. Government dealing with human rights issues was the fascinating part of the assignment.

More oral histories recorded by the Society are available for transcription by willing volunteers. Please contact at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org if you are interested.

Elsie Heyrman Klumpner
JHSGW Volunteer

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