While we aren’t still wandering the wilderness of Maob, or navigating the hard working conditions of the lower east side, we must not forget what it means to be a newcomer to a foreign land. And we must take alongside us the reminder that we are the links to our past and our future. We serve as the reminder to not take for granted our ability to be both freely Jewish and American at the same time and to empathize with the conditions new Americans face today. For just as we were slaves in Egypt, so too were our families the ones who paved the path for great opportunity.
This year, I can’t help but color my pride with a slight bit of ambivalence as a result of the failure of Senator Patrick Leahy’s amendment to the current Immigration bill, which would have recognized same-sex bi-national couples, affording them the same rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples obtain during the immigration process.
In 1968, the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Council for Jewish Women embarked on an oral history project to record the experiences of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, who came to the U.S. between 1890 and 1924. In 1973, the project was expanded to collect the stories of Pittsburgh Jewish men and women who made contributions on local, national, and international levels. Today, this project is the longest running and largest oral Jewish history project known to exist in the world. Now the 500 plus interviews have been digitized and made accessible to the world, creating a "treasure trove" of primary source materials.
Friday is StoryCorps' National Day of Listening. Since you can order your Making Trouble DVDs conveniently online at www.makingtrouble.com, there is no need to go shopping on Black Friday. Instead, join Storycorps and sit down with a loved one and record their story. Ellen wrote about the National Day of Listening last year, and explained why the tradition of listening is so important to Jews, especially in the context of Thanksgiving, a holiday important to many Americans with immigration histories.
On November 6th, the Museum of Jewish Heritage will open the Keeping History Center, providing an interactive experience for New York visitors that allows them to record and add their own stories to the historical record. This project is near and dear to us at the Jewish Women's Archive, since we have worked since our start 13 years ago to record the untold and unheard stories of American Jewish women -- stories like the one shared in this podcast.
While many Americans are still relishing in a renewed surge of hope (myself among them), I thought I'd give a shout-out to Emma Lazarus. Her memory became forever associated with her powerful vision of America as a symbol of hope and possibility for the down-trodden. Today marks the 121st anniversary of Emma's untimely death, at the age of 38.
It’s the story of an immigrant struggling to survive economically in the big city, a woman running for president, a crusade against pornography and birth control, a decades-long debate on how to achieve political equality for women.