Aviva Ben-Ur

Lecture: “Identity Imperative: Ottoman Jews and the Quest for Citizenship in Interwar England”

 Wednesday December 4, 7 pm, Ringsmuth Auditorium

Aviva Ben-Ur is Associate Professor in the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Adjunct to both the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of History. She earned her Ph.D. from Brandeis University (1998) and her M.A. and M.Phil. degrees from Columbia University (1992; 1994). She is the author, with Rachel Frankel, of Remnant Stones: The Jewish Cemeteries and Synagogues of Suriname (Hebrew Union College Press, forthcoming), and A Ladino Legacy: The Judeo-Spanish Collection of Louis N. Levy (Alexander Books, 2001). Her current book projects include Sephardic Jews in the United States: Where Diasporas Met (under contract with New York University Press) and “Jewish Identity in a Slave Society: Suriname, 1660-1863,” for which she has been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship. Her articles and reviews have appeared in journals such as Journal of Southern History, American Jewish History, American Jewish Archives, Jewish History, Journal of Jewish Studies, and Studies in Bibliography and Booklore.

Lecture: “Cartography and Caring: Tracing the Lines of My Sephardic Ancestry”

Geoffrey Tabakin

Lecture: “Cartography and Caring—Tracing the Lines of My Sephardic Ancestry”

Wednesday December 11, 6 pm, Miller Center Library Ringsmuth Auditorium MC122

What I bring to this event:

Dr. Tabakin brings to this discussion a recognition that we ARE the sum total of our ancestry.  He is engaged in a search for the story of his Sephardic ancestry that is probably closer to personal mapping than tracking historical or genealogical roots.  At the same time there is recognition that the map is not the experiential terrain nor does it explain the story of survival through time.

What brings Dr. Tabakin back to this topic is an affirmation of his Sephardic / Ashkenazi lineage, born of a recent tragedy where genetic testing was done to determine the presence of Tay-Sachs.  Again one is reminded that the recognition of identity neither justifies the present nor exonerates the past –

de nobis fabula narratur (of us is the story told).

Titles and entitlement:

Professor Geoffrey Tabakin has been at St. Cloud State University for nigh on 25 years – much to everyone’s surprise including his own.  He has been variously titled, but rarely entitled, in a range of positions at St. Cloud State including Kindergarten Educator, Storyteller, Faculty Director for the Division of General Studies, and Director of the Honors Program.  Currently he serves in the Department of Academic Support, and as interim Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative organizer.  What may be most pertinent to this event is his work offering courses on genocide, his title as plaintiff in the Zmora anti-Semitism case against the University, and the oft-cited title of “troublemaker” and “challenger” to prevailing norms of discrimination including anti-Semitism.
Born, raised, and identified as persona non grata in apartheid South Africa while completing his B.A. at the University of Cape Town, he emigrated to the United States of America where he completed his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin Madison at the same time that he earned his Sho Dan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shotokan karate, and earlier a certificate as a Class B Industrial Welder from the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Film and Discussion: “Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba”

Milos Silber: Film and Discussion: “Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba

Wednesday November 13, 7 pm, MC Ringsmuth Auditorium

Milos Silber was born in Brazil. He is a graduate of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, a program that gave him the opportunity to do a semester abroad in Cuba to make the film “Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba.”  In 2010, “Jubanos” won the Be’chol Lashon film award for best documentary. An initiative of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research, Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) advocates for a global understanding of the Jewish people that reflects contemporary identity.

Today Milos Silber is one of the founders of Hayden 5 Media, a multifaceted media company that produces commercials, web content, and high-end photography. He lives in New York.

Personal Narrative: One Family’s History

Wednesday October 30, 7 pm, Ringsmuth Auditorium

Elizabeth Valencia-Borgert, adjunct professor of Languages & Cultures at SCSU, will present her personal story of how she discovered her Sephardic roots.

Elizabeth Valencia-Borgert is originally from Valencia, Venezuela.  Her family story is originally based on what she heard from the abuelos while growing up in Venezuela.  One of her brothers did more recent research, engaged in a search for the story of  their family’s Sephardic ancestry. It is the family’s wish to record oral histories as well as examine the historical roots of their Jewish ancestors.

Elizabeth is Spanish faculty in the Languages and Cultures Department at St. Cloud State University, and has been a St. Cloud resident for over 20 years.  She is an active member of the local Latino community, and part of one of the taskforces for the St. Cloud Community Priorities Initiatives.

Debriefing after Holocaust Films

On Thursday October 17th a group came together to watch Triumph of the Spirit. Films about the Holocaust often elicit strong emotional responses in viewers; those emotions can include confusion, fear, sadness, and anger.

The rain poured down outside as we watched this film. It was the fourth time that I had watched this particular movie, and one of many Holocaust movies and documentaries that I have seen in my lifetime…but it was one of the first I had actually watched on a big screen. I did not have the same “escape” from a big screen film as I would have if I watched it through a small window on my computer screen.I was sitting up front, and putting on a stoic face.

For the others in the audience, it was their first time watching this film. Students, faculty, and people from the community stopped in to watch it. Some were purposeful (they needed to watch it for their class) while others were looking for a warm dry place out of the rain. In any case, by the time the film was over, people looked shaken and wanted to go home. Granted, it was late, and no one knew when the rain would let up…but no one wanted to talk about what they had witnessed. They left the auditorium with fear and confusion in their eyes, and perhaps a sense of gratitude…but no one wanted to talk about what they had witnessed.

The ending of another Holocaust film, Fateless, showed a boy who spent a year in Auschwitz returning home to his family. His family was completely unscathed by the Holocaust, while he was obviously damaged and traumatized from his experience. The boy’s uncle waves his hand and says “It’s over now, let’s put it behind us.” His own family treats him like a stranger…or a ghost. Meanwhile, the audience knows what this boy had experienced, and is shocked and outraged.

I would like to offer a second chance to all of those who watched the film on Thursday to come together and discuss their experience. Please feel free to comment on this post if you would be interested in having a debriefing session.