Working With Memory and Place in Senior Care Homes

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Hearing stories around photos brought in by a resident at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted living facility in San Francisco, CA.

Hearing stories around photos brought in by a resident at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted living facility in San Francisco, CA.

As part of Historypin’s Bay Area Jewish project Sourdough & Rye, the San Francisco team helped carry out a community pilot at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, a senior care home in the city with deep roots in the local Bay Area Jewish community. Over two two-week rounds, we worked with a handful of seniors to help them think about their lives in terms of place, while behind-the-scenes thinking about the materials we would need to get these memories from the room to Historypin. Some important places we tried to highlight were childhood homes, a first school, where a resident was married, first job, etc.

Some resources on procedure:

  • Before our first iteration, we came up with a format that includes a binder or folder with a number of worksheets. This included a consent form and a brief bio form. There were also sheets that represent info from a pin on Historypin, where we could record a resident’s memories of particular places. During this first iteration, we recruited volunteers to help us record info in small groups. Not wanting to solely rely on the internet at RGP, most of this session was done mainly offline.

Rhoda Goldman session release form | Rhoda Goldman story collecting sheet

  • After this first iteration, we came up with a format that includes a booklet that correspond to the Tour functionality on Historypin: a cover sheet which has a map and place for a participant photo, and pages which represent the info from a pin, including a map and place for an address, a place to clip a photo, date and other details. Along with this booklet we included a consent form.
August 28th, 2015: Here I am with Maxine Greenspan, a resident of Rhoda Goldman and subject of our first completed Tour (at the link below.)

August 28th, 2015: Here I am with Maxine Greenspan, a resident of Rhoda Goldman and subject of our first completed Tour (at the link below.)

  • For the second iteration, we did an introductory presentation to residents, showing them an example of a completed Tour (and pins). We really underlined this time that we’re trying to “put life stories on the map,” which is about individuals on their own journey, but also about the communities they’ve been a part of in their life. Then we set up 90-minute slots to gather content and stories (had 2-3 people on our team working with individuals), during which we used a recorder and a laptop to explore places as residents remembered them. The idea was to think through the booklet we made, and try to pull out around 5 important places that could encompass “Mapping the Story of My Life.” We are continuing to put together Historypin Tours based on these second round of interviews, many of which built upon resident interviews during the first round.

This briefly summarizes the thinking behind starting a senior care home memory pilot using Historypin. Note that the assessment of this pilot is still underway, but please field any questions you have here!

Announcing Sourdough & Rye Story Fellows

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Call for Applications

Grants of $500-$1,000
Rolling admissions
Apply by February 17, 2015

Apply here:

From January 2015 to April 2015, this inaugural round of Sourdough & Rye Story Fellows (maximum of 10) will help uncover and share some of the diverse stories around place and people of the Bay Area Jewish community. Do you have a family story you’ve been meaning to record and document? Have you discovered a hidden history that you’re looking for a way to share? Have you done research that you think everyone should know about? Now’s your chance to make it happen, but submitting your idea on this very short form.

What is a Story Fellow?
Sourdough & Rye Story Fellows are journalists, photographers, story tellers, writers, students and more. They’re people that have an interest in gathering stories, listening to people, and digging into the past of Jewish history in the Bay Area.

What do they do?
In this first short session, Fellows are doing research to find great stories and content from or about current or past Jewish residents of the Bay Area, through connections to living people. The Fellows will use digital tools to put these stories on the map as part of the Sourdough & Rye project on Historypin.

Do Story Fellows have to make something?
Stories and memories will be explored and featured on a map on the Sourdough & Rye website. The stories can be as simple as a collection of photos that can be mapped together with a written story; or could they might be video or audio snippets and interviews; or produced video shorts, art work, or any combination of things. If you’re wondering if your idea fits, just ask!

There will also be an event held in April to showcase the work of the Story Fellows and their subjects, location TBD. This can take the form of presenting the work or live interviews with story tellers and people who have shared their stories.

Story Fellows are able to choose their own licensing and copyright for their works and are free to use them for any other purpose, be it books, papers, other exhibits, etc.

If I’m awarded a fellowship, how will I be supported?
The Story Fellows will be awarded stipends and will have the option of taking one training workshop on creating digital stories. You’ll also have access to our technical and community engagement teams who will help you to upload and share your content every step of the way.

How does the money work?
The Story Fellows will earn stipends ranging from $500 to $1,000 depending on the scope and scale of their project, be it a , though some limited larger stipends will be available.

How do I apply?
Please fill out this short form that highlights what you want to do during your fellowship, who you’ll be targeting, what stories you want to gather, what media you’d like to use, etc. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until February 17, 2015.

Please contact Jon Voss,, or call 415-935-4701, if you have any questions.

On the Other Side of the Bridge: Jews, Wine, and Wine Country

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German-Jewish Winemaker Hans Kornell  in Sonoma

German-Jewish Winemaker Hans Kornell (second from left) in Sonoma, 1956.

The Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley has graciously shared some personal and archival photos from their collection with us. What’s exciting about these photos are their ability to illuminate and bring to life a relatively-little known subject — Jewish involvement in the Napa and Sonoma wine industry.

As the story goes, Jews initially moved to Napa, when it was first settled, during the middle decades of the 19th Century. Life was rough for these early settlers. As Donna Mendelsohn of the Napa Valley Jewish Historical Society explained to the JWeekly in 2012, “There were no roads, no hospitals, no services, no schools for the most part. You had to be a pioneer to be in this area. It was bucolic and beautiful but in a primitive way.”

Within a few decades, Jews became involved with the local wine industry. Why the wine industry? Wine had been an important part of the Jewish experience for centuries and Jewish newcomers to the area, like Friedrich “Fritz” Rosenbaum and Abe Lochman, had a basic understanding of wine.  Continue reading

BarBatBay: A Bar and Bat Mitzvah Crowdsourcing Project

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S&R image 2

Photo attributions from left to right: “Carl Lender’s Bar Mitzvah” (Carl Lender, Flickr);”Bar Mitzvah Boy” (Coleman Family Collection); The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life); “Carl Lender’s Bar Mitzvah” (Carl Lender, Flickr); “Happy at the Bar Mitzvah” (A. Davey, Flickr);  “Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy” (Saturday Night Live); (Julia’s Bat Mitzvah” (Rachel Zach, Flickr) “The assembled guests celebrate the bar mitzvah of Arthur Feldman” (Ira Nowinski; Stanford University Libraries); “The Bar Mitzvah Dinner” (A Davey, Flickr); “Arthur Feldman at his bar mitzvah” (Ira Nowinski; Stanford University Libraries)


From reading the Torah and dancing the Hora to uncomfortable slow dances and oversized suits, bar and bat mitzvahs are filled with an array of memories and a healthy dose nostalgia. Filled with pride, embarrassment, and excitement , these experiences help  to define what it means to “become an adult” in the Jewish tradition. Sourdough & Rye’s BarBatBay project seeks to collect and feature photos and stories from Bay Area bar and bat mitzvahs past.  Whether it was a spiritual, serious, comical, or absurd affair, Sourdough & Rye wants you to share your bar and bat mitzvah-related photos and stories with us here. And feel free to email Max with any questions.

Ngraming Bay Area Jewish History

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You  might be familiar with the Google Ngram Viewer — its an graphing tool that charts the popularity of words and phrases over time. The information/data for Ngram charts comes from the Google Books corpus and searches through over 5 million books.  For history aficionados, the Ngram Viewer is easy to use and a tremendous resource for intense historical research and a leisurely Sunday afternoon activity. 

Given our Bay Area Jewish history focus, we decided to use the Ngram Viewer to look up certain people, locations, and phrases related to Sourdough & Rye to  trace the frequency of these terms

Here are some of our favorites:


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Hebrew Free Loan: The Original Microlender

Menachem Cohen, was one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan

Menachem Cohen was one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan back in 1897

A few months ago I was invited by the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Francisco to visit their office near the San Francisco Ferry Building and check out some of their old photos.  What I found was a treasure trove of rich photographs, brochures, ledgers, bulletins, and other documents that help to shed light on the development of the San Francisco Jewish community.

The story of Hebrew Free Loan begins in 1897, when nine established Jewish San Francisco residents decided they wanted to provide recent Jewish immigrants with financial assistance and support by way of interest-free loans. Loans, they believed, would help individuals from the community become and remain self-sufficient.   Most of the early loans went to Jews living in the South of Market District who were trying to make a modest living as peddlers, tailors, and pushcarters.

What stands out about Hebrew Free Loan is its ability to address and meet and an evolving set of communal needs for over a century. Its accomplishments include extending aid to the victims of the 1906 earthquake, lending out loans during the height of the Great Depression,  providing loans for refugees from Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and assisting Russian newcomers during the 1980s and 1990s.

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Why Is This Campsite Different from All Other Campsites?: A Yosemite Passover Story

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The Harris Family in Yosemite

The Harris Family in Yosemite

Prepared or not, Passover is only two weeks away. And so, we have taken this opportunity to tell you a bit about 19th Century Passover celebrations in the Yosemite Valley. This story was told to us a few months ago by Sue Morris of Tiburon and is about her husband’s great-grandparents, Aaron and Lena Harris.

Like many other Jews in 19th Century San Francisco, Lena and Aaron Harris were born in Germany and moved to San Francisco during the middle of the century.  They married in San Francisco and eventually made their way to the gold country, where Aaron worked as shopkeeper.

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San Francisco Purim Costumes of Yesteryears

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Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 1.10.47 PM


Need an idea for a Purim costume? Check out Sourdough & Rye’s Purim-related slideshow.

With the holiday of Purim right around the corner, we figured this would be the opportune time to highlight and showcase some Purim photos and costumes we have collected these past few months.  These vintage photos come from San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom during the late 1950s and early 1960s. We should give credit to Beth Sholom’s congregants for their imaginative and well-designed costumes though our favorite is probably the classic Esther and Mordecai duo.

Please let us know if you have any additional information about these select photos; we would love to put a name to a face and a costume.   And feel free to share your own Purim related photos with us on Sourdough & Rye.

Celebrate the Sourdough & Rye Launch

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S&R Invite copy

We are excited to announce the Sourdough & Rye launch party on February 20th from 7:00-9:00 pm at the Haas-Lilienthal House in Pacific Heights. Please join us for what is sure to be a memorable evening. The event will include local storytellers, Cyrus Noble cocktails, Local Mission Market bites, and tours of the Victorian-era house.

Tickets, which are available on Eventbrite, are $10.00. And please check out our photos related to the history of Haas-Lilienthal House on Historypin.

The Life and Times of Seymour Fromer

Seymour Fromer and an Admirer

Seymour Fromer (left) and an admirer

Sourdough & Rye is teaming up with filmmaker Bill Chayes and historian Ava F. Kahn in an effort to collect photos, stories, and videos related to Seymour Fromer, the founder and former director of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

This content will be used for Chayes and Kahn’s upcoming film, The New Jewish: The Fromers, ’60s Berkeley and Beyond, which looks to document the life of Seymour Fromer and Jewish Berkeley in the wake of the 1960s. The film will tell of Fromer’s dreams, accomplishments, and the people he motivated; it will also explore how Fromer helped to reinvigorated Jewish identity in modern America.

Berkeley was a hotbed of reinvention and innovation during the 1960s with an emerging freethinking culture that stimulated new ways of understanding politics, social relationships, and the arts. According to Chayes and Kahn, “this environment gave voice to new ways of expressing Jewish identity and creativity. It was Seymour Fromer’s vision and leadership that helped drive these momentous changes in Jewish life in the 1960’s through the 1990’s.” Continue reading