After hearing various archivists, historians, and librarians rave or moan about the genealogy TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” I finally got a chance to see it for myself. This show is run by the genealogy database Ancestory.com and takes various celebrities on journeys to discover their roots in an odd blend of reality TV confessionalism and historical inquiry. This is the show that recently helped “Sex and the City’s” Sarah Jessica Parker discover a distant ancestor involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
This summer, I was lucky enough to spend six fabulous weeks as an intern at the Jewish Women’s Archive. I hail from Lancaster PA, and I’m a rising senior at Smith College, with a major in History and a minor in Archival Studies. My primary historical interests are the social and cultural history of modern Britain and Ireland. And what, you ask, is someone who studies places that aren’t exactly renowned for having a huge Jewish population doing at the Jewish Women’s Archive? The reasons are many!
When I was a little girl looking suspiciously at a new kind of food (a matzoh ball, for instance, or a slice of Jewish honey cake.) My dad would say, “Well, maybe you’ll half like it. After all, you’re half Jewish!”
Monday night as part of the JWA Summer Institute for Educators, we saw a sneak preview of a newly made documentary, The Freedom Riders, which tells the story of the group of black and white young people, who rode south on two buses to deliberately break the segregation laws.
JWA’s third Summer Institute for Educators kicked off last night with a conversation that allowed participants to share their own personal pieces of history. Everyone brought an object that symbolized the impact of a special Jewish woman on their lives. There was an incredible range of objects, old and new, from a hand-knitted yarmulke to a recycled and recyclable plastic plate, from a hundred-year-old diary to a pair of flashy earrings.
Since 2006, The Jewish Women’s Archive has been holding a bi-annual Summer Institute for Educators, a conference that allows teachers to explore ways of incorporating Jewish women’s history into their curricula. This year, the focus of the Institute is Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. Many history classes from elementary to high school emphasize the civil rights movement as an inspiring story with an importance message about tolerance and diversity.
Sarah Jones is an activist who spreads her message from the stage, portraying characters of many different ethnic backgrounds and in a monologue from each person, discussing issues of ethnicity, diversity, and social justice. Many of these characters are based on people she knew or observed while growing up in Queen’s New York.
Creating a wildly popular soap opera full of sensational family drama might be the last thing we’d expect of a nice Jewish woman in 1950’s America, but Irna Phillips proved us wrong! Fifty-eight years ago today, her soap opera Guiding Light first went on the air. The show had already been a successful radio drama since 1937, and it would run until 2009, making it the longest running TV drama in history.