Tag Archives: archive

Vinyl for Hipsters vs. Vinyl for High Holy Days: Or, “Old School Columbia Records”

This blog post was written by Anna Stusser, a summer intern currently working in the Museum Department at the ISJL.

record1Vinyl records capture the imagination. In my hometown of Olympia, Washington, independent craft artists fashion bowls to and household items out of vinyl, appealing to the local indie market. In Brooklyn, the hipster set has revived an interest in vinyl records. I, too, have always seen the charm in the shape and vintage appeal of record players – which is why I became so excited when, in my first few days interning at the ISJL, I found some vintage LP records in the ISJL collection.

It is hard to imagine that modern day hipster twentysomethings, smoking cigarettes on a Brooklyn stoop, have anything in common with a small early-twentieth Southern Jewish congregation. (Other than maybe being Jewish – apparently, Jewish hipsters are their own subculture, and they’re into vinyl!)

But here they were, vintage vinyl records that would be prized today in Brooklyn, donated to the ISJL’s museum collection by a congregation in Columbia, Tennessee. Why were these vinyl records important to the daily life of their congregation? Why would Jews have vinyl records that they would consider important enough to donate to a museum that dedicates itself to Southern Jewish ethnography?

record coverAfter discussing it with my supervisor and reviewing the titles of such records (some example: Kol Nidre and Eili, Eili), I began to understand that these vinyl records had been something less trendy, and more functional. More meaningful.

To listen to Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky Singing Aneinu, as featured on one of the records, you can play this recording on YouTube (unfortunately not available as an embedded video, but worth a listen!).

Jews worshiping in Columbia, Tennessee, in the first half of the twentieth century, had no full time rabbi to guide them. Many of the Jewish people living in the area commuted into Nashville for their spiritual needs. However, in the early part of the 1900s, a group of people started the Khal Kadosh Congregation, a name which means “Holy Community.” Bilingual services were held in Hebrew and English for a congregation of 16, just barely above the size of a minyan, took place on the second floor of community member Isaac Wolf’s store. Although they had no permanent location, the small congregation acquired an Ark and a Torah. The records from Columbia very likely supplemented the services provided. Unfortunately, Khal Kadosh did not survive past 1926, so we do not know for sure.

But it’s a likely conclusion that the Jewish people living in Columbia utilized vinyl records out of necessity, because that was the technology that was available at the time. Back then, vinyl wasn’t vintage. It was cutting edge.

Small congregations like the one once found in Columbia, TN, still exist today. In the South, many of them are served by the ISJL’s rabbinic department, led by Rabbi Marshal Klaven. From Skype B’nai Mitzvah lessons to sending out his Taste of Torah weekly emails, today’s virtual resources have replaced those found on vinyl. 

Do you remember vinyl – or as a young adult, are you discovering it for the first time? We’d love to hear your vinyl stories, especially if you’ve ever listened to recordings of Jewish music!

Posted on June 26, 2013

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

From the Collection: I See / I Think / I Wonder

Weisman_Pine-Bluff1

The image above comes from a collection of photographs and papers that belonged to Adele Marcus of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. According to the narrative sent by her cousin, Adele was the daughter of Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, and lived in Pine Bluff her entire life, from 1914-2000. We have a dozen of her papers from religious school, an Arkansas Jewish Assembly program in Hot Springs and her high school diploma.  Like most of our collections, we also inherited a handful of unmarked photographs.

Investigating and interpreting unlabeled photographs is both a challenge and a pleasure for museum professionals and other scholars. This one in particular (M. Wiesman? Hanging bananas? Feather head dress!?) , inspired me to use it as a teaching example on how to think critically about historical images. I like to engage students in “Be the Historian!” activities that incorporate artifacts, photos and documents to uncover stories from the past.

A favorite resource I use is called Artful Thinking and comes from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They have developed teaching methods to help teachers use works of visual art and music in their curricula in ways that strengthen student thinking and learning. While these techniques were developed for young students to think critically about art, I’ve found that the same “thinking routines” can be adapted for studying historical photographs.

Used on a regular basis, a routine like the one below not only teaches critical thinking but also encourages students to make a habit of it.

I SEE / I THINK / I WONDER
Use the following series of questions to help explore this photo.
What do you see?
What do you think?
What do you wonder?

This set of questions helps guide students towards an understanding of what they are looking at. They can make make careful observations, thoughtful interpretations and stimulate curiosity for future learning.

Others I like to use are THINK / PUZZLE / EXPLORE and LOOKING: TEN TIMES TWO

So now great internet community of learners, it’s your turn! Try it out!

Click on the image to make it larger, stare into those Jewish merchants’ faces and be a part of the discussion here by answering the three questions. With enough seeing, thinking and wondering we will be able to better understand who these people were, what their community was like and how their experiences might relate to our own lives.

Posted on March 15, 2013

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

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