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Audio clip of interview with Shelley Berkley by Barbara Tabach, February 13, 2015

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Download jhp000690.mp3 (audio/mpeg; 3.89 MB)






Part of an interview with Shelley Berkley on February 13, 2015. In this clip, Berkley shares her family history and talks about her involvement within the Jewish community, and more broadly as a public servant, in all levels of government.

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Shelley Berkley oral history interview, 2015 February 13. OH-02275. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Both sides of my family were already in the United States in New York?s Lower East Side prior to World War II. My great-grandparents came with their six children; my grandmother was one of the six children. They couldn't speak English. They had no money. They had limited skills. The only thing they had when they came to this country was a dream and that dream was that their children and their children's children would have a better life here in the United States than they had where they came from. I often think of myself as my grandparents' American dream, but I am quite certain that in their wildest dreams they never could have imagined that they'd have a granddaughter who was a member of the United States Congress. This is a remarkable country. I always wanted to be in public service, to be in elected office for two reasons. One is to pay forward, give something back to this country for having taken my family in; and not only giving us a chance to survive, which we did, but to thrive, which we certainly have. The other reason is that I grew up hearing stories about what life was like where they came from and being an active member of all the Jewish youth groups, learning about the Holocaust and recognizing the horror of it; for me public service was a way of insuring that what happened to our people two generations ago could never happen again; that I would be in a position to make sure it didn't happen again. Public service was a calling that I needed to fulfill. It was very important for me to do that. Given the fact that my Jewishness is the very essence of who I am, when I take a step back and I think about it, being Jewish determined my values, my friends, my interests, my passions, my husband, the way I raised my children. It is the essence of who I am, and so I take it very seriously. I am very happy that I am Jewish and I feel a sense of responsibility to be a very vocal part of my people. For generations, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, Jews thought that if we stayed in the background and we were quiet, nobody would see where we were and would leave us alone. Our history demonstrates that it doesn't matter how quiet we are or how innocuous we are, we are found and often harmed. I [decided] that rather than being quiet and self-effacing that I would be very outspoken and wear my Jewishness on my sleeve. There is no doubt in anybody's mind what I am and who I am, and it's important for me to demonstrate that and put that forward. I don't want any misunderstandings of where I'm coming from and why.