A Focused Study on American Jewish Volunteers Salud y Shalom: American Jews in the Spanish Civil War

October 6, 2020
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The University of Washington’s Stroum Center for Jewish Studies added part of Dr. Joseph Butwin’s oral history project to its Digital Jewish Studies online collection in 2018.  Butwin noted that “initiative” for the project came the “Vets themselves.” The web pages discuss the project’s history and offers individual pages on five veterans: George Watt, Bill Susman, Abe Osheroff, Celia Seborer and Sana Goldblatt. Each of the individual pages includes biographical information, photographs, brief clips of the interview and partial transcripts.

Butwin, a professor of Jewish Studies, traveled across the United States between 1992 and 1994 conducting a total of thirty-nine interviews. Veterans George Watt, Bill Susman, and Abe Osheroff, were among the vets who encouraged the project and helped identify additional volunteers to interview.

Butwin typically opened the interview by asking something along the lines of “Why did you volunteer, and did your decision have anything to do with being Jewish?” This line of questioning provided the volunteers the opportunity to discuss the relevance or lack thereof of their identity as Jewish American to their decision to volunteer. This direction of questions provided a unique opportunity as Butwin noted:

Fifty-five years after the fact, few were likely to revise the rationale for going to Spain, but given the chance to talk about their entire lives, many were ready, as one of the organizers explained, to ‘come out of the closet’ —  as Jews.

Butwin’s interviews, interview transcripts and correspondence with veterans related to the project are housed in the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library. Butwin plans to edit and publish a book “under the title, Salud y Shalom” at some point in the future.

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