INTRODUCING OUR NARRATORS
We spoke to 20 individuals who are first- or second-generation Americans, born into Jewish immigrant families that settled in the Greater Boston area in the early twentieth century. As children and grandchildren of immigrants, they describe the process of acculturation into American society and a generational straddling of two worlds: between the old and the new and between the religious and the secular. Whether their families followed traditional, Orthodox Jewish practice or a more Americanized Jewish cultural observance, every narrator was profoundly shaped by their Jewish home and neighborhood life.
At the same time that they share similar experiences across the neighborhoods, each narrator has a unique voice and story to tell. Listen to their full oral histories in our Digital Library and Archives.
The Narrators of Lynn
Judith “Judy” Ellen (Zimman) Armell was born in Boston in 1944. Her parents were Helen (Pearlman), born in 1919, and Harold Owen Zimman, born in 1916. In her oral history interview, Judy discusses her childhood in Lynn, where she grew up closely with her cousin and co-narrator, Michael Zimman. Always in the background of their interview is the family business, Zimman’s. Judy remembers the impact her family had on the community—in particular, Michael’s mother and her own, and their involvement in founding the Jewish Community Center (JCC) nursery school. Judy was in the first kindergarten class at the JCC. She discusses the challenge of adjusting to her family’s move to Marblehead, and the broader trend this move represented for Jewish families, away from Lynn to other neighborhoods of the North Shore. Today, Judy lives in Brighton, Massachusetts.
Joanne "Chichi" Fox Brumberg
Joanne “Chichi” (Fox) Brumberg was born in 1944 in Lynn. Her parents, Natalie (Litvack), born 1912, and Jacob “Jack” Fox, born in 1905, were also born in Lynn. Chichi attended Smith College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Math. She married Leonard “Len” Brumberg in 1967 and moved to Long Island, where they raised their two children. Chichi now lives in Manhattan. In her interview, Chichi discusses her childhood in Lynn, where she was one of the only Jewish students in her elementary school; as she grew older, like many other Lynn narrators, much of her social life revolved around the Lynn Jewish Community Center (JCC). She reflects on the differences between the knowledge of Judaism in Lynn and that of New York City, where she resides now, and the influence of her fairly secular upbringing on her more observant life now.
Joel Sherman was born in Lynn in 1940. His parents, Sarah (Peckerman), born in 1911, and Abraham Sherman, born in 1905, were both born in Russia. After growing up in Lynn, Joel received his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College. He then graduated from New York University’s Law School in 1964 and joined the United States Army Reserve, which he served for several years. Joel went on to have a successful career as a lawyer. In his interview, Joel shares his family’s immigration story from the Russian Empire, and his father’s role in the Lynn shoe business. Joel recalls in great detail the shops, streets, and atmosphere of Lynn as he was growing up, and the major influence Rabbi Zaitchik had on his relationship with Judaism. He now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Arleen (Rosenfeld) Silverlieb was born in 1939 in Salem, Massachusetts, to mother Celia (Moskowitz), born in 1912 in Ukraine, and father Morris Rosenfeld, born 1912 in Salem. Arleen grew up in Lynn, and attended the Practical Arts and Letters Program at Boston University before receiving her Bachelor’s degree. After earning a master’s degree from Boston University, she went on to work for the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. She now lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Arleen remembers fondly her work as a teenager in a Lynn shoe factory (one of the largest and most important industries at the time) and spending much of her time at the Lynn Jewish Community Center. Her father was hugely influential in her life, as she remembers in her oral history interview.
Jack Stahl was born in 1930 in Lynn to Bessie (Porter) and Harry Stahl, both born in Poland in 1904. Jack grew up in Lynn and went to Suffolk University on a four-year basketball scholarship. He went on to co-found the Boston Traders company. Jack married his wife, Arlene, in 1962, and they had three children. After living in Swampscott for many years, Jack has returned to living in Lynn, with his daughter and granddaughter. In his interview, Jack remembers his father’s involvement in the shoe factory, as well as the impact of Camp Simcha and Camp Tevya on his life. He describes the importance of the Jewish Community Center and his involvement in Aleph Zadik Aleph, a Jewish fraternity with chapters in Lynn.
Michael Zimman was born in 1949 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Phyllis Virginia (Fisher), born in 1921, and Barry Zimman, born in 1920 in Lynn. Michael spent his early childhood in Lynn, before his family moved to Marblehead. He went to Bowdoin College in Maine, and worked as a teacher for a year after graduating. Michael grew up working in the family business, Zimman’s, a pillar of Lynn’s Jewish community both past and present—and he is now the store’s third-generation owner. In his oral history interview, he especially remembers the Lynn Jewish Community Center.
Visit the Neighborhood
Visit the Neighborhood
Learn about the Jewish history of Dorchester and Roxbury, and hear memories of the neighborhood.