“It’s Important to hear a Human Voice,” Jews under COVID-19: An Oral History Project

Sharon Livne, Margalit Bejarano

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article presents research notes on an oral history project on the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on Jews over the age of 65 years. During the first stage of the project, we conducted nearly 80 interviews in eight cities worldwide: Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Milan, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and St. Petersburg, and in Israel. The interviews were conducted in the spring of 2020 and reflect the atmosphere and perception of interviewees at the end of the first lockdown. Based on an analysis of the interviews, the findings are divided into three spheres: (1) the personal experience during the pandemic, including personal difficulties and the impact of the lockdown on family and social contacts; (2) Jewish communal life, manifested in changed functions and emergence of new needs, as well as religious rituals during the pandemic; and (3) perceived relations between the Jewish community and wider society, including relations with state authorities and civil society, attitudes of and towards official media, and the possible impact of COVID-19 on antisemitism. Together, these spheres shed light on how elderly Jews experience their current situation under COVID-19—as individuals and as part of a community. COVID-19 taught interviewees to reappraise what was important to them. They felt their family relations became stronger under the pandemic, and that their Jewish community was more meaningful than they had thought. They understood that online communication will continue to be present in all three spheres, but concluded that human contact cannot be substituted by technical devices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-206
    Number of pages22
    JournalContemporary Jewry
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


    • Age risk
    • COVID-19
    • Jewish communities
    • Oral history
    • Rituals
    • Solidarity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Anthropology
    • Religious studies
    • History


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