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Samuel Heilman Oral History

Identifier: QMP-0011

Scope and Contents

In this interview, which took place on April 13, 2020, Samuel Heilman discussed his Jewish heritage and family history post-World War II; his research interests and career as a Queens College professor; New Rochelle, New York as his hometown and center of his orthodox Jewish community.

The majority of the interview relates Heilman’s lived experience in the epicenter of the first major American outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19, as he is a longtime member of the synagogue that was one of the first traced locations of a “superspreader event.” He relates, chronologically, the events right before the outbreak and its aftermath; his experiences watching friends and neighbors become infected with the virus; his and his wife’s own adaptations to life and grandparenting under quarantine; celebrating Passover virtually and the emotional reaction to a community dispersed during what should have been a time of unity.


  • 2020-04-13



This oral history is open for research. Published clips are available through the Queens Memory Project on Aviary: For more information contact

Conditions Governing Use

Interview shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Users are free to share or adapt the material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they meet the terms of the license. See license details at

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Heilman was born May 26, 1946, in West Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1950 with his family, where they settled in Brookline, Massachusetts. He attended Brandeis University, the New School for Social Research, and earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Heilman has been a professor of sociology at Queens College, CUNY, since 1973, and excepting visiting fellowships has spent his entire career at CUNY. He holds the Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology, is the editor of the journal Contemporary Jewry, has written 11 books, and received the Marshall Sklare Memorial Award from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry for “a lifetime of scholarship.”


1 Digital Files ; 00:47:59

Language of Materials



This oral history was an interview of Samuel Heilman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College, by Obden Mondesir in April, 2020. In it, Professor Heilman talks about the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in his personal life and his primarily Jewish Orthodox community of New Rochelle, New York, the site of the first major American outbreak of the disease.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to Queens College and Queens Public Library by Samuel Heilman and Obden Mondesir in April, 2020.

Processing Information

Oral history conducted as part of the Queens Memory Project (, a collaborative program of the Queens Public Library and Queens College to collect stories, images, and other evidence of life in the borough of Queens. This interview was specifically collected for the COVID-19 Project, an effort to document life under pandemic in Queens and at the college.


Samuel Heilman Oral History
Caitlin Waldron
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Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us