Jews and the Civil War

First, hello! My name is Laura Newman Eckstein (HC ’16), and I am a Hurford Humanities Fellow researching Southern Jews pre-1865 for my senior religion thesis. I am in Cincinnati this summer at the American Jewish Archives, which has one of the best collections of information on American Jewry in the world, particularly Southern Jewry.

Special Orders No. 296  regarding Alexander Hart, Richmond, Virginia, November 9th, 1863 Courtesy the Jacob R. Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

Special Orders No. 296 regarding Alexander Hart, Richmond, Virginia, November 9th, 1863
Courtesy the Jacob R. Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives

As we speak I am combing through the file of a Jewish Confederate soldier: his medical passes, his letters home, his vouchers, and his military correspondence.

I come to this research through an interest in my own family. I have around six Jewish Confederate ancestors. I often wonder if they knew for what they were fighting. My concepts of  the Confederate position  is veiled in my own notions of history, looking back through the book of memory and time. While today the Confederate army is associated with racism and slavery, for most Jewish Confederates it had nothing to do with slavery in particular. I am finding that very few Jews, pre-Civil War, were plantation owners; they were mostly merchants. Yet they did have a vested interest in the class structure that pervaded the South before the Civil War. Amid planters and non-planters, whites and blacks, slaves and free people, the Jews were able to flourish and seemingly assimilate into their communities in a way they had been unable to do in Europe and the Caribbean. With newfound and welcome prosperity and a sense acceptance, the need to prove themselves, to fight for and demonstrate their position within the larger Southern society, was an obvious reason for their participation in Confederate Army.

Reflecting this sentiment twenty years before the War began, Gustavus Posznanski, the leader of the oldest Synagogue in the South, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Caronlina, in his speech at the dedication of the new synagogue building in 1841 said: ‘“This synagogue is our temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine, and as our fathers defended with their lives that temple and that land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city, and this land”’(Rosen, 1-2 ).

Marcus and Henrietta Feist, my great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Arkansas Rifles for the Confederate Army during the Civil War

Marcus and Henrietta Feist, my great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Arkansas Rifles for the Confederate Army during the Civil War

However, it seems ironic that a people who have historically been the oppressed were the ones on the side of oppression. Scholars note that after the Civil War there were many more anti-Semitic incidents in the Southern United States. Perhaps the Southern Jews were not as assimilated as they thought, but served disproportionately  on the Confederate side due to their insecurity about acceptance and assimilation. With turmoil and with the abolition of slavery, with the destruction of property and with the losses of war, Jews once again became targets.

The Jews of the South, particularly the Jewish Confederates, seem part of a distant and foreign past. Yet they tell the story of a group trying to survive in an unfriendly world, disregarding the intolerance of a society in order to feel accepted. I wonder whether am I so different from my Confederate ancestors. No, there isn’t slavery in the 1850′s sense, but there are other injustices pervading our world. I feel that I am an assimilated Jewish-American. Am I disregarding injustice in order to feel societal acceptance?

  •  Rosen, R. (2000). Prologue. In The Jewish Confederates. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.
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Maps and Scooter the Dog: Beginnings at Fringe

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Wow, Kensington!

Whenever I do not have a specific project at FringeArts, I draw maps. Each map is of a different neighborhood in Philadelphia and so far, I have drawn five, Old City, Kensington, South Philly, North Philly, and West Philly. These hand drawn doodles are going to be in the Festival Guide and are meant to help patrons navigate their ways around Fringe Festival. While these maps are hopefully going to be useful to festival goers in the near future, drawing them has been especially useful for me. My experience mapping each neighborhood has led to a deeper and more personal understanding of the contours and crevasses of Philadelphia.

This summer, I am the Guide Intern at FringeArts. FringeArts is an organization that ties together Philadelphia and the global world through contemporary performing arts. Every September, the organization presents Fringe Festival, an eightteen day celebration of art and performance (whoa!). During the festival, local, national, and international artists present dance performances, theater pieces, and visual art in a multitude of venues throughout the city (everyone, let’s go!). My main task for the summer is working on the festival guide, a booklet that lists basic festival information, like show times and locations, and extra pieces of writing, like blurbs about the artists and their performances.

Other than venturing to new places in Philly through my mechanical pencil and my computer paper maps, I have written blurbs, visited a wacky rehearsal for a contemporary remake of A Doll’s House for the upcoming Fringe Festival, and cuddled with Scooter, the coziest dog in the entire planet. I have also interviewed Haverford Alumna, Antonia Brown about her upcoming solo performance, One Dancer, Six Choreographers, and attended an explosive dance performance, called MashUp Body.

–Courtney Lau ’17

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Beginning with END

This summer, I am working as an Early Novels Database (END) researcher and cataloger. END is a project dedicated to deeply detailed, richly descriptive, but term controlled cataloging of 17th and 18th century novels pulled (primarily) from University of Pennsylvania’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. END aims to use the information gleaned in cataloging to better inform our understanding of the history of the novel. That is, how we came to have the genre of novel and, more broadly, fiction, and what defines them as objects and epistemes. It gets at two of my favorite philosophical and academic challenges: how do we know what we know, and how do we communicate that knowing to others?

END is also a self-reflexive project and so considers how those who describe data, like the title pages of novels, are in fact producers of data. Something as seemingly fact-driven as a library catalog record actually embodies a subjective interpretation of other pieces of knowledge. In recognition of this, we sign our initials on each catalog record we make, leaving a permanent link between the cataloger and the cataloged. I find this a pretty refreshing approach to the narrativization of knowledge and history.

There are a number of other reasons why this is a fantastic project, from its collaborative, inter-collegiate nature (Penn, Temple, and Swarthmore are all represented, and I have the pleasure of working with librarians, other undergrads, a professor, and grad students) to the way it tackles the specter of digital data analysis that sometimes seems to haunt the humanities. (Such team building and digital-tool-phobia eradication have happily been facilitated by much coffee and donuts.)

And, of course, there are the books themselves. I am currently cataloging a particularly stunning gem, The life and entertaining adventures of Mr. Cleveland, natural son of Oliver Cromwell, written by himself. Giving a particular account of his unhappiness in love, marriage, friendship, &c. and his great sufferings in Europe and America. Intermixed with reflections, describing the heart of man in all its variety of passions and disguises. Also, some curious particulars of Oliver’s history and amours, and several remarkable passages in the reign of King Charles II. (That is an abridged version of the title.)

Title page of The Life and Entertaining Adventures of Mr. Cleveland.

I will be blogging about this book later, as its approach to reality is somewhat creative. And it has one of the cheekiest prefaces I have yet come across, although I am gathering that the 1760s were, in general, a wild time for those who penned prefaces.

Until then, this serves at my preface, my record of what, thanks to the END team and the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, is looking like an incredible summer at the intersection of data analysis technology and literary scholarship.

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Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space: Alliyah Allen ’18 on Monument Lab

Patrick Montero/Haverford College

Patrick Montero/Haverford College

This semester, Alliyah Allen ’18 is working with Writing Fellow Paul Farber on Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, a massive public art and urban research project he co-curated that is taking over Philadelphia’s City Hall starting May 15th.  Through a series of art installations, public events, and community-sourced maps, the project asks a central guiding question: What is the appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?

Supported by the Hurford Center’s Tuttle Fund for the Development of Visual Culture across the Curriculum, Alliyah is one of a number of Haverford students, staff, and faculty working on the project.  Below, she shares her thoughts on Monument Lab, its timeliness within current national discourse on race, class, and the usages of public space, and how her work fits into her larger academic projects at Haverford.

HCAH: How did you become interested in monuments and involved in the project? What is your role in Monument Lab?

ALLIYAH ALLEN ’18: Last semester I took Professor Paul Farber’s Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space class for my Haverford Writing Seminar, and since then my perspective on the relationship between public art, monuments, and history has shifted drastically. I am from Newark, New Jersey and have been immersed in urban culture for the majority of my life. Prior to my work in this course and participation in the lab, I didn’t have much of an appreciation for public art or monuments. The deterioration and lack of resources had given me the impression that success was not welcomed in my community and that history could not be made there.

However, taking this course and my participation in the Monument Lab has opened my eyes to see differently. I now understand the power in how we occupy and choose to appreciate urban space through art. One monument can tell a story of a nation, war, or major event. However, that same monument can also silence another majority of people that have been affected by the same event. I’m extremely grateful to participate in this project because the Monument Lab is helping to break this silence in Philadelphia, a city rich with culture, history, and people.

As of now I am working on the technological aspects of the lab. The goal is to have people draw and take a picture of their proposed monument. Then, they should be able to send that photo to a database, developed by Haverford’s Coordinator for Digital Scholarship and Services Laurie Allen, where all can see the image on a map of Philadelphia. As we collect more data, we will we able to find more ways to represent that data and visualize it. I will also be joining discussions and engaging with people about the importance of monuments and what they think their monument should be.

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How do you see your work on Monument Lab coming from, feeding into, or otherwise connecting with your work here at Haverford?

I plan to major in Growth and Structure of Cities with a minor in Computer Science. Therefore the Monument Lab ties in perfectly with my academic interests. With one drive down Lancaster Avenue you can enter an entirely different world and have an opportunity to think and see differently. Therefore, with my experience working in the Monument Lab, I hope to find ways to incorporate Haverford within these communities. We have the resources and many creative minds that can come together and impact Philadelphia and beyond. However, that starts with breaking our HaverBubble and entering communities that many are not comfortable in, and I believe that the Monument Lab and American Rubble project were two amazing starts to doing such.

You were involved in American Rubble with Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco, right? What connections do you see between that project and Monument Lab?

I was involved in the American Rubble project. My partners and I researched two sites on Lancaster Avenue, and the results blew me away. Prior to research and critical thought about the sites of rubble, I thought that there wouldn’t be much to say or write about them. However, by going there and researching what the sites were and going to be, I was able to appreciate them, and furthermore urban space.

I learned that that protests and marches had occurred on the very street that I was walking on. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at one of our locations while he was on his Freedom Now Tour to address the issues of urban African-American communities. I loved this project because with one picture and hours of editing a postcard of 400 words, I was able to become a part of the history of this community and my thoughts and feelings about the site will contribute to the future of it.

I hope this project reaches all urban communities, even my own, because it forces you to pay attention to the small details that define a city’s present state, while understanding its history and hoping for its future. With the Monument Lab, I am confident that it will produce the same results.

One of Twelve Benches for Terry Adkins’ Prototype Monument, 2015. Courtesy of RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency), Philadelphia.

How can other Haverford students get involved with Monument Lab?

The best way to get involved is to come down and check it out! We’re open from 12-7pm Monday to Sunday! Also, feel free to visit the website and see the full schedule of talks and other events here.

Do you have an idea for a monument you’d like to see? In Philly? At Haverford? Elsewhere?

I would love to see a monument honoring the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. The protests, riots, and demonstrations against police brutality towards black/brown bodies have made American cities their home. Philadelphia is one of America’s leading cities when it comes to calling attention to social issues, particularly race. Police brutality towards Black Philadelphians is not a new issue and I think that having a monument to remember it is worthwhile in Philadelphia.

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Secret Handshakes, Dystopias, and the Hurford Center

The gloves in action

The gloves in action (but after the battery died).

Armed with coffee and bagels, fellow HCAH Office Assistant Anna Mehta ’17 and I spent Friday morning on April 17th sewing electrical circuitry to gloves. Don’t worry, enough coffee was consumed that noone was electrocuted. Anna and I were two of many participants in the Critical Making Workshop of Matt Ratto, director of the Critical Making Lab at the University of Toronto.

The general concept of the workshop as I understood it was to practice simultaneous theoretical production and physical production. Everyone in the room paired up, and Matt instructed us to each create a pair of gloves that would light up when the wearers made a particular handshake or motion, and also to come up with an imaginary world where these gloves would be necessary. The most succesful pairs were ones that created their theoretical worlds and their physical gloves simultaneously, allowing the two realms to influence each other.

L-R Miriam Hwang-Carlos '17 (me), Rachel Wolfe '18, and Anna Mehta '17. I'm pretty sure only one of those cups of coffee was mine...

L-R: Miriam Hwang-Carlos ’17 (me), Rachel Wolfe ’18, and Anna Mehta ’17. Photo by Brad Larrison.                                       I’m pretty sure only one of those cups of coffee was mine . . .

Anna and I may be college students, but 20-years-old is really not that far from the age of Harry Potter and Ender’s Game obsessions, so this project came fairly naturally to us. Many pairs of professors developped complex theories on human connection and our relationship to technology, while Anna and I mapped out a dystopic underground society where the gloves were the only source of light. All in all, we had fun while gaining an opportunity to reflect on how we make things and adapt to problems. I really appreciated the opportunity to actually make a physical object. Especially in the primarily theoretical world of college, creating something with my hands was refreshing.

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Inventions en Pointe

Rehearsals for this collaborative pointework piece with choreographer and alum Antonia Brown are winding down as we prepare for our showing of the new piece on Tuesday, May 5th at 2 p.m. in Pembroke Studio at Bryn Mawr College!

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Inventions en Pointe brings together two Haverford students and one Haverford alumna in a collaborative choreographic process that seeks to explore the physical boundaries of pointe work and create a duet in four short weeks. The centerpiece of the project involves collaborating with local artist Antonia Z Brown, Class of ’13, an Artist in Residence at Mascher Space Cooperative in Philadelphia. Antonia was a 2012 recipient of the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance Choreographic Residency and was a featured artist in the 2014 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Choreographically she is using this project to delve into the contemporary possibilities of ballet en pointe, pushing boundaries of form and motion in movement. The duet is being choreographed on two Haverford students, Aurora Jensen, Class of 2015, and Emma Cohen, Class of 2017.

Our interest in the project stemmed from our drive to take an analytical eye to the limitations of our classical ballet backgrounds and discover our originality and physical capabilities. Classical ballet, particularly en pointe, is rooted in a long tradition of strict rules that require tremendous control, strength and skill to carry out. These are the very rules we intended to challenge. For instance, ballet emphasizes balance, symmetry and posture. Instead we wondered what would happen to pointework if we introduce falling, twisting, and inversion? Another norm in ballet is to build choreography entirely out of a library of classical steps. We were interested in exploring imagery as a source of movement and inspiration. Images such as the curve of a blade of grass or the force of a gust of wind have been invaluable tools in creating new movement through improvisation and exploration.  We used ballet as a cornerstone to the piece allwoing the movement to be based on the skill and physical memory already housed within the dancers’  bodies.  The piece however uses an imaginative source of inspiration instead of predetermined steps will make it possible to invent new movement and discover a new relationship to the pointe shoe.

Check out Antonia’s instagram to preview what we are working on!

instagram.com/p/1ULThzoxM5/?taken-by=antoniadances

Aurora Jensen ’15

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Student Arts Fund Support: Voice of Witness Oral History Reading and Workshop

Cover image from Voice of Witness's Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons. Image provided by Voice of Witness.

Cover image from Voice of Witness’s Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Image provided by Voice of Witness.

Storytelling is the central theme of my academic work as a Religion major. I consider how the narratives we create give us a sense of identity, shape power dynamics, and imbue our perceived realities with meaning. On the most fundamental level, to me, narrative is a way of engaging with others. Because of my deep passion for storytelling and all of the ethical conundrums and practical challenges it entails, I was very excited to hear that oral history educator and publisher Voice of Witness (VOW) was willing to facilitate a workshop and a reading at Haverford. 

The events took place earlier this spring, (on what seemed like the coldest weekend of the year!), through the generous support of the Student Arts Fund, the CPGC, and Collection Committee. 

Despite the devastatingly frigid temperatures, a wonderful group of Tri-Co community members came to the Friday night reading.

Community members gathering for the Friday reading, with Claire, Ashley, and Luke. Photo taken by Caleb Eckert '16.

Community members gathering for the Friday reading, with Claire, Ashley, and Luke. Photo taken by Caleb Eckert ’16.

VOW Narrator Ashley Jacobs told her story, as recorded in Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons,a collection of oral histories detailing the human rights abuses women experienced in the U.S. prison system. Ashley spoke about her experience of pregnancy while incarcerated, one that included a forced C-section and shackling during labor, two practices she is working to end. Ashley, along with VOW Managing Editor Luke Gerwe and Education Program Associate Claire Kiefer, shared their thoughts about the criminal justice and prison systems, about oral history, and about hope for change during the Q&A that followed the reading. One of the most impactful moments for me was when Ashley noted that somewhere, sometime, it won’t be raining. You just have to keep going until you locate that place, find that time.

Ashley Jacobs speaking during the Q&A of the reading. Photo taken by Caleb Eckert, '16

Ashley Jacobs speaking during the Q&A of the reading. Photo taken by Caleb Eckert, ’16

The next morning, Claire, Luke, and Ashley led a hands-on workshop, where we considered how to hold space for people to share stories, how to ask open-ended questions, how to respond to others’ stories, and how to be responsible when we share those stories–skills not only for oral history collecting but for compassionate community building. Of the sort vital for a place as community value based as Haverford.

Olivia Jacocks '17, Claire Kiefer, and Angelique Spencer '17, with their story reaction sheets during the Saturday workshop. Photo provided by Claire Kiefer.

Olivia Jacocks ’17, Claire Kiefer, and Angelique Spencer ’17, with their story reaction sheets during the Saturday workshop. Photo provided by Claire Kiefer.

I was so grateful to have the opportunity to meet Ashley, Claire, and Luke, and bring them to campus–many, many thanks to the Student Arts Fund!

 

 

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American Rubble: Hushed Light Situations and Rubble Scans

As I am swept along by “the quarter that gives no quarter” (in the words of James Weissinger) I find myself nostalgic for a certain brisk winter evening first semester, where I got to eat popcorn, browse postcards, and immerse myself in Lancaster Avenue fact and lore … I am, of course, referring to the one-night-only exhibit American Rubble, organized by Stephanie Syjuco and Paul Farber. The evening of December 5, 2014 may be long gone, but we can all relive the engaging and exciting series of events that was, and is, American Rubble.

Oh, and in case your curiosity is piqued by the phrase “Rubble Scan,” watch this. For humor and hypnosis, this video beats any Buzzfeed listicle.

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Spotted in the Hurford Center

. . . in which we explore the hidden corners and shelves of the HCAH. (These are the things that happen on snowy spring days in Stokes 103.)

Bookshelf

Check out this shelf of books! If this bookshelf got all dressed up, it would definitely be wearing combat boots, fantastic lipstick, and some piece of clothing picked up at Philly’s Punk Rock Flea Market. I was curious as to where this bookshelf was going so decked out, so I did some digging in the HCAH archives and found this student seminar:

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Man, it’s times like these I wish I had a time machine. (Okay okay, before you call me super lame for using my time machine to go back to 2006, are there reeaally that many times you’d travel back to as a mixed race woman? Besides, who wouldn’t wanna go back to a time when “Fergalicious” was playing on every ipod nano?)

This student seminar studied the works of African American, Chicana, Native American, East and South Asian American, and Middle Eastern women to learn about identity politics and the contributions of women of color in Second Wave feminism. They read many of the books on our bookshelf-in-question. **Excuse me while I update my Amazon wish list. . .

Stay tuned for the announcement of next year’s student seminars!

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Summer-Sponsored by HCAH, And Now He Has a Job: Jacob Horn ’13 Tells All

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1. How did your job grow out of your internship? Who did you have to talk to?

I was an intern [Sponsored by the Hurford Center] in the Whitney’s Publications department shortly before the Editorial Assistant position opened up. Getting the job had a lot to do with the fact that I simply kept in touch with the people for whom I’d interned. It’s easy to forget that your relationship to an institution and a department doesn’t end when your internship does. Simply checking in every now and then, saying hi, asking how projects are moving along – these things show your continued interest and investment in a place, and it keeps you on the radar for when an opportunity comes along. I was very fortunate to have things work out that way for this position!

2. Are your duties and responsibilities similar or different?

My duties aren’t exactly identical to what I did as an intern, but my internship provided a good preview of much of what I’m doing now. As an intern, I helped to edit texts, undertook a few research projects, and collaborated with the in-house designers to move projects along. That’s a lot of what I’m doing now, too, but on a deeper level since I’m here for more than two months. With that broader sense of scope, I can take on more significant roles coordinating projects and be involved with a book’s progress at all phases from planning to printing.

3. How has the move to the new building [of the Whitney] affected your job?

The move to the Whitney’s new building has had a HUGE impact on my job. For most departments, it’s less that the move has impacted what we do, but rather it is what we do. We’ve been in the new offices since October, and since then, almost everything we’ve been working on is related to the building’s opening, like a new collection handbook; labels for the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See; invitations to opening events; and the visitor’s guide to the new building.

Everyone’s got plenty on their plates, but it’s an exciting moment. We’ve been thinking about this building as an abstract idea for so long. I’ve visited it when it was essentially a hole in the ground and walked through it while it was still far from finished. Now, in little more than a month, the building will be filled with art and visitors. That’s going to be very exciting to see.

4. Did you feel that Haverford prepared you well for working at the Whitney?

I can’t even begin to describe how well Haverford prepared me for the work that I’m doing. Certainly, the fact that I had to do so much writing in college was excellent preparation for doing editorial work, and a couple of Art History classes I took at Bryn Mawr and through Independent College Programs at Haverford were quite useful for working in an art museum.

But more importantly, as a Haverford student, whether you’re in class, at Plenary, discussing an Honor Council abstract, on a Customs team, and so on, you’re always being encouraged to think carefully and critically. You learn how to approach problem solving in a group, how to listen to what others are saying and engage in productive dialogues. In and out of the classroom, you’re empowered to approach challenging tasks. Outside the Haverbubble, what you’re tasked with can be very different, but the skills you developed inside remain highly valuable.

5. What was your favorite Hurford Center event during your time at Haverford?

It’s tough to choose my single favorite Hurford Center event, but I might have to go with a Conversations on Art outing during my sophomore year to a Philadelphia Film Society screening of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It took place at the Macy’s in Center City, with live accompaniment on the Wannamaker pipe organ. The film is fascinating and the music was great (and it was surreal to be watching surrounded by jewelry counters and shoe displays), but I was most struck by the conversations that took place among a group of students and faculty with diverse interests, backgrounds, and academic affiliations. It was a perfect example of the way that HCAH events can take intellectual conversations beyond the classroom, neutralize distinctions between students, faculty, and staff, and create productive collisions between disciplines.

Images from The Whitney and “Where They’re Headed: Jacob Horn ’13″

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