25 October 2008

New Blog: Jewish Art Monuments

Samuel Gruber writes the Jewish Art Monuments blog.

Sam is a cultural heritage consultant involved in a wide variety of documentation, research, preservation, planning, publication, exhibition and education projects. Trained as a medievalist, architectural historian and archaeologist, his expertise for two decades is in Jewish art, architecture and historic sites.

I'm happy to announce that he will be contributing his expertise to the Jewish Graveyard Rabbit. And, if you think the name is familiar, he's the brother of expert Jewish travel writer Ruth Ellen Gruber; they often work together.

Here's how Sam describes his blog:

This blog provides news and opinion articles about Jewish art, architecture and historic sties - especially those where something new is happening. Developed in connection with news gathering for the International Survey of Jewish Monuments website (www.isjm.org), this blog highlights some of the most interesting Jewish sites around the world, and the most pressing issues affecting them.

His blog, he says, "allows me to clear my email and my desk, by passing on to a broader public just some of the interesting and compelling information from projects I am working on, or am following. Feel free to contact me for more information on any of the topics posted, or if you have a project of your own you would like to discuss. Much of this material on this blog I share with the International Survey of Jewish Monuments. ISJM is always looking for volunteers!"

His blog came to my attention with this posting on the Jews of North Carolina, recounting that the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina (JHFNC) premiered its documentary film "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina" with showings in Greensboro, NC on October 11 and 19, to be followed on February 22, 2009 in Charlotte. The film is the first part of a much larger project (museum exhibit, educational resources and a book).

There's more information in this Greensboro News article.

North Carolina's only Jewish historical group, the JHFNC was established in 1996 and seeks to promote understanding of the Jewish people by educating both Jews and the general public about the history, culture, and religion of the Jewish people and by encouraging appreciation of the beauty of Jewish ritual and practice. It collects and preserves artifacts and records the history of Jewish settlement in North Carolina, presents programs on the state's Jewish experience, and connects state resources.

The exhibit, "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina" will present four centuries of Jewish life and. in 2010, will travel to the state's major history museums.

The article indicates that Sara Lee Saperstein of Greensboro, a JHFNC board member, remembered only a single sentence about Jews in her eighth-grade state history book. As an adult, she learned about metallurgist Joachim Gans of Prague who arrived in 1585 with Sir Walter Raleigh. She hadn't realized that the state's Jewish history went back that far.

JHFNC research historian Leonard Rogoff has sought project support for 10 years. and said “We heard, 'I thought we were going to be forgotten,’ a lot.”

The documentary's audience is not only Jewish, however. Prior to Ellis Island, many immigrants (including Jews) entered through coastal shipping ports, such as Wilmington and Charleston.

“The interesting thing about North Carolina is not only that the story has never been told or presented, but it’s never really been researched,” Rogoff said.

Many early Jews were peddlers who settled where their money ran out. The story begins there but continues with those same families creating successful companies employing thousands of people and how they built their communities, including Brenner Children’s Hospital (Winston-Salem), Levine Children’s Hospital (Charlotte), Moses Cone Hospital (Greensboro) and the Brody School of Medicine (East Carolina University).

In 1949, Benjamin Cone became Greensboro's first Jewish mayor when Jews were only some 500 in the city of 70,000.

A line producer of the film said that in the 19th century, according to Southern historians, many Christians who lived in the stat had a strong affiliation with the Old Testament. “These people coming in were viewed as the 'people of the book’ and they were viewed with fascination. People would come to them and have their babies blessed.”

The flip side: There were also murders, mob attacks and social discrimination.

There's much more; read the complete story at the link above.

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