Monthly Archives: December 2012

Freezing Norwegians

Freezing Norwegian child?

On November 28, 2012, National Public Radio aired a segment about this film called: Africa For Norway: Viral Video Pokes Fun At Stereotypes In Aid Efforts. Have you seen the clip referenced in the segment? If you haven’t, please check it out. It’s called Africa for Norway. You can click on the link, or view the video below.

At the end of the clip, you’re not supposed to be thinking “Oh, no! Those poor, freezing Norwegians!” Instead you’re supposed to be thinking something more like: “Oh, no! Are my attempts to advance social justice relevant? Are they based on stereotypes?”

Africa for Norway is thought provoking because it encourages us to think about how various service organizations that provide aid to people in Africa may, in fact, unintentionally introduce or reinforce existing stereotypes about people living in Africa. This brief film challenges the images we have constructed about African people. Rather than focusing on the poor and vulnerable, this film showcases the continent’s strengths and resources. It forces us to grapple with many questions, including: how would we feel if the majority of media coverage about us focused on our weaknesses?

By demonstrating how people in Africa have resources to share with a country such as Norway, we question why the notion that Africa has something that Norway lacks may or may not be consistent with our image of Africa. The sponsoring organizations posed the following question:

Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway”-video, and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?

What a good place to begin the conversation. So I now ask you the following: When we engage in service, whether the goal is to address an international, national or local need, what are some of the perceptions we may have of the people we seek to benefit? What are some ways in which we can examine these stereotypes and look beyond the financial needs of someone living in poverty?

 

Posted on December 10, 2012

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Shopping: A Southern Jewish Tradition

It’s that time of year again. Just when Southerners are celebrating football and the waning summer heat, the holiday shopping season descends upon us.  Since I’m sure all of you have been under a barrage of flashy ads for early bird deals and cyber discounts, I thought I’d give your consumerist minds a break and share a few images from a simpler shopping era.

Before big box stores or online shopping, a customer would walk into a local store and be taken care of by a member of the family that owned the business.  And if you were doing your shopping in the South, you would very likely visit a shop owned by Jews.  Shopping is a Southern Jewish tradition. Most immigrants started as peddlers and later built retail stores, establishing network of merchants across the region.  While Jewish shop keepers did not observe the religious aspects of Christmas, the season of gift-giving was something to celebrate.

Alligator Store - Alligator, MS

I envy the clients of the Alligator Store in Alligator, MS and Schwartz Store in Bay City, TX. You can tell by the looks on the owners faces their customers got great service.

Schwartz Store - Bay City, TX

Binder Store- Ruleville MS

Like today, the holidays were a big money maker, so stores were quick to cater to their clientele. Below is a shop in Laredo, Texas, decked out for Christmas.

La Perla - Laredo, TX

Before you get too nostalgic, fear not! Not all of these shops are memories of the past. La Perla in Laredo is still  run by members of the Norton Family today. So take a break from Amazon once in a while and venture out, after Black Friday of course,  into the world for a personal experience and encourage these great traditional businesses to stick around.

Where have you been shopping lately? What are some of your favorite local family businesses?

Posted on December 7, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Seminole’s Henry Katz Shares Stories with Style

Since the 1940s, the Jews of Seminole, Ada, Nowata, and Shawnee, Oklahoma, have met at the Seminole Hebrew Center for religious services and social events.  In the clip below, which is featured on our Online Encyclopedia article for Ada/Seminole, lifelong Ada resident Henry Katz talks about the origins of the Hebrew Center.

I love this excerpt for a number of reasons. Katz, who descends from German-speaking immigrants who arrived in the United States after the Civil War, alludes to the distinction between his decidedly Reform family and the newer arrivals, who were more observant. Then, as evidence of his family’s assimilation, he uses the word “phylacteries” to describe what most traditional Jews would call “tefillin.”  As a professor once told me, “no one who wears phylacteries says “phylacteries.”  

The story also illustrates the influence of economics on Jewish (and general) migration patterns. In this case, the arrival of recent immigrants to the booming towns above the Seminole oil field influenced the development of the local Jewish community.

Apparently, people used to play a lot of cards.  Bridge, canasta, all types of poker—nearly everyone I speak with reports that they or their parents participated in regular card games, inside or outside the Jewish community.  Katz attributes the men’s gambling habits to the oil business, which is a clever connection to make.  I would also point out that many of these men were also immigrants from Eastern Europe; it was a gamble, or a series of them, that had brought them to Oklahoma in the first place.

Finally, Katz has a great voice and tells his story with real style.  Reviewing his interview and putting together this clip brought back memories of a pleasant morning spent in Ada at the end of a successful research trip to Oklahoma.

I’d like to thank Henry Katz for sharing his story with us.  Credit is also due to summer oral history intern Jonayah Jackson for the quality of the video.

Posted on December 5, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy