It covers the early 20th century through the mid-60s, with more than 150 accounts by people who grew up in the neighborhood.
The "North End" neighborhood was defined by the residents, and the boundaries included synagogues, Weaver High School and Keney Park.
Society executive director Estelle Kafer had heard many stories about the area since becoming director in 2004.
"Most of our members grew up in the Hartford area, and many of them would talk about the North End," she says. "They had wonderful stories and memories which needed to be documented."In 2007, a committee discussed possible oral history projects and it was suggested they focus on the old neighborhood and record the stories before it was too late.
Focus groups were organized by birth decade and participants discussed schools, North End entertainment, shopping, and Jewish experiences. People born in the '20s and '30s were interviewed, as wel as those who grew up in the '50s and '60s. By 1969, barely a Jewish person was left in the area following riots and a population change.
As news spread, more people sent in stories. The society organized oral interviews, and historical photos were uncovered. Funding came from the Jewish Community Foundation and the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the society itself.
Journalist and communications instructor Joan Walden did the editing, taking the written stories and transcribed oral histories and making it into a book.
"It was really a challenge," she says. For one thing, some of the answers submitted on the society's questionnaire were not long enough to use as stand-alone accounts. Nonetheless, Walden says that she tried hard to includeNearly everyone had warm feelings for the neighborhood and said it was a safe, comfortable place to live.
"Anybody's parents, if you were playing in front of their house, took responsibility for the children. The majority of the participants said that they were poor but didn't know it."The book is organized by decade of births; the oldest is Sooky (Sara) Greenberg, born 1910. a section at the end of the book includes submissions and interviews too brief for regular stories, as well as a Yiddish glossary of terms used.
The society will post all the stories on its website eventually and to encourage more participation and recordig of memories.
"Even if you didn't contribute to the book, if you lived in the North End, we want someone to sit you down and get your story," she says.The book will be launched at a free multi-media event at 7pm, Monday, June 29 at Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford. The book will be available that night at a special price.
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