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Sandy Walker

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Interviewee: Sandy Walker


Interviewee: Sandra Walker


Interviewer: Stacy Ziegenfelder
Interview Date: February 9, 2019
Location: Troy, MI
Interview No.: 02.09.19-SW (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 1 hour)
Index: Dena Scher

Themes:Jewish Identity, Doctrine, Observance, Conversion

Summary: Sandra Walker grew up and went to college in New Jersey. Her family was Orthodox and she went to Hebrew school three times/week. Her father immigrated from near Kiev to the US. Her paternal grandfather came alone to the US and after 2 years he had enough money to bring his wife and son. Her maternal grandfather came alone to the US at the age of 14—The maternal side of her family is from Austria and Romania. She has an interfaith marriage and found that the Reform congregation, Shir Tikvah, was a good fit for their family. She has lived in Milwaukee and Dallas before moving to Michigan—She compares the Jewish presence in these cities. All of the family has been to Israel and presently she continues to be part of the Saturday morning Torah study group.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:

Ziegenfelder, S. (Interviewer) & Walker, S. (Interviewee). (2019) Sandra Walker: Jewish Journeys[Interview index]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah:


  1. Born in East Orange, New Jersey; grew up in Newark. Went through high school in Newark, for college went to Douglas (woman’s college) part of Rutgers University. Just a handful of Jewish kids in my elementary school. In middle school, had friend that had met in Jewish day school. At college, was in more densely Jewish population. Grew up going to Orthodox synagogue—Father was an immigrant, live in what now is the Ukraine, about 100 miles south west of Kiev. His father came to US to make money and two years later sent money for her grandmother and her father (who was a young child). Looked for data base of Ellis Island, but couldn’t find them, turned out that they came through Castle Garden, not Ellis Island. Immigrated from Pliskof because of pograms.

00.05.04 Mother born in US, her mother’s father from Austria and came alone at 14 years old and her mother’s mother from Romania. Maternal grandfather was shot at by guards in old country. Raised going to an Orthodox synagogue, kosher (no milk with meat). Not practicing so much in the home. Buy went to Hebrew school 3 days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday). Bat Mitzah with another girl and their Bat Mitzvah was first that Orthodox rabbi performed. Never read from Torah, read HafTorah. Holidays with extended family. Walked to synagogue about a mile.

Her children have grown to having a strong Jewish identity. Grateful to husband that supported Jewish home.


00.10.30 Became aware of other branches of Judaism over time, and the big factor was Bob (not Jewish), never required him to convert. The Reform was a more comfortable place for us to land and Shir Tikvah has branches of other Judaism---made it comfortable for me and for Bob. Went to graduate school in Milwaukee, and Bob went to graduate school and he was cute, smart. Got married in Milwaukee. Bob went to work for EDS and they moved around but then settled in Texas. Living in Texas for 7 years—bought our own house, noticed that many couples were in trouble but not their marriage. We were in an inter-marriage, felt reason that they have been successful was because they have the same values…we value money the same way, we value children the same way…and we trust each other. So we had a good basis that made it possible to have a long marriage.

00.15.40 Older daughter born in Columbus and younger in Dallas. When she looked for Rabbi to perform her and Bob’s marriage and was told that no Rabbi in Milwaukee would perform an interfaith marriage. Many years later when her older daughter, Sarah, was getting ready to marry, she looked for a Rabbi to officiate at a interfaith marriage and was told again the no rabbi in Milwaukee would perform an interfaith marriage. When she was in Texas, and Sarah was five years. Sandy looked for a Reform Congregation in Dallas, a very large congregation and she enrolled both daughters. Met couple from Milwaukee and they compared congregations.

00.20.10 In Milwaukee newspapers there would always an article of interest to the Jewish community, whereas in Dallas there was nothing like that. On a bus in Milwaukee there was a sign in Hebrew, there were just little things that made me feel that I wasn’t alone in Milwaukee, but not in Dallas. For Rosh Hashanah would go to any synagogue, conservative or orthodox. Moved from Dallas to Michigan (GM bought EDS) when daughters were 5yrs and 9 yrs. Joined Congregation Shir Tikvah early in beginning of congregation.

00.25.33 Bought our house in Troy, name of synagogue was Troy Jewish Congregation, she drove by address and it was a church, so she thought she got it wrong. By happenstance, she found that the congregation met at that church, called and went to informational meeting, was put on Religious School committees. Was in charge of mock seder and got to know people. Has been on the Board and feels informed of history and workings of the synagogue. Impressed by what her girls were asked to do for Bat Mitzvah: do a service project, learn the prayers, to lead the congregation, to learn their Torah portion and Haf Torah and give thoughtful commentary in their speech. When mother in law died, her daughter, Sarah, gave a eulogy.

  1. Has considered having a Bat Mitzvah, herself. As a young adult, Sarah went on a Federation trip to Israel, Sarah was on a Kibbutz, in Nazerth, got intensive Hebrew class. Worked for an Israeli boss and could understand his Hebrew.

00.35.03 Her children raised jewishly, For most part, home was pretty neutral. One time she brought home a Christmas tree—tree was up for 5 years in the corner of the den. At Christmas, go to husband’s family---Wanted children to respect her brother who is shomer shabbas and also to respect Bob’s family.

00.40.05 Torah group every Saturday morning at synagogue, has been part of study group for a long time, about ten years, have studied the whole Torah about three times. Enjoys the intellectual endeavor. Learned songs for holidays but didn’t study the Torah as a child. At the study group, have several different translations and compare them---may have text from modern Orthodox, Reform—commentaries are different.

00.45.03 Would like people know the things she finds interesting about Torah study: intellectual endeavor, respectful of other’s opinion, contributions of others. Takes the whole year to read the Torah—but not a strict schedule---sometimes just go over one line. Also look at footnotes, which often say “Hebrew uncertain”. Has been on two trips to Israel with Rabbi Arnie’s groups. Family compared Roman ruins in other countries to those that had seen in Israel (Masada). Loves travel, was sorry that her parents couldn’t travel to Israel.

00.50.11 Memories of going to Eliat where rented snorkel equipment and went into the Red Sea to see coral and fish. Would like to visit Israel again.

Her father was an immigrant and that has continued to be important to her. She’s been told that she speaks like her father who was precise in his speech, not wanting to have an accent. He also changed his name. He had a book to learn Russian—he grew up speaking Yiddish. As a math major in college, she took a year of German and she could understand her mother and aunt speaking in Yiddish. Her father’s story of many immigrants, wanting to fit in.



[End of Recorded Material]

Mon, April 12 2021 30 Nisan 5781