Last week, we added the final (for now) video clip to the Oklahoma section of the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. The interview excerpt comes from a great conversation I had with Paula and Malcolm Milsten last summer at Tulsa’s Temple Israel. Malcolm, a Tulsa native, and Paula, who moved there before marrying Malcolm in 1959, have both served as temple president. In the clip below, Paula and Malcolm recall a 1984 flood that seriously damaged Temple Israel, as well as the outpouring of support from the entire city in the aftermath of the disaster.
Malcolm, like many people who have contributed their stories to the ISJL Oral History Project, remarks on his congregation’s positive relationship with other local synagogues as well as the general community. These themes—inclusion and cooperation—are common in our interviews. Where someone from outside the South might expect to find stories of isolation, I find, more often than not, exactly the opposite.
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?
By 2nd year Education Fellow Rachel Blume.
It’s the height of the fall season. Football is in full swing, Barack Obama was just re-elected as President of the United States, people are starting to make preparations for Thanksgiving, and, as an ISJL Education Fellow, my schedule is filled to the max with fall community visits!
This means early morning airport trips, late night drives, and not much time spent in the comfort of my own home. As a creature of habit, the hectic travel of fall can be stressful to me. In addition to that, it’s the longest stretch of the year between visits home to my family. (Being from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I have it easier than most of my co-fellows on this count). One of the wonderful things about this job, though, is that certain congregations provide that same sense of comfort and community that I get with friends and family, which more than compensates for the time on the road. In particular, Shreveport, Louisiana has become my home away from home.
Just a couple of weekends ago, I was packing my bags to make the short (at least by ISJL standards) 3 and ½ hour drive over to Shreveport. Even though I knew I had a full weekend of leading services and programs, each mile that I drove it felt less and less like a business trip and more like a trip to visit my “other family.” I don’t even need my GPS to find Helaine and Bill Braunig’s home because I now know it so well; sometimes I even get the chance to hang out with their adorable grandson Billy (see above). I don’t have to worry about getting a tour of anything, because I already know where everything is. When I go to Shreveport, the usual anxieties of a work trip melt away. I feel at home.