“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel
Here’s an activity I do with my art students: we walk through the hallways and class rooms as I point to different things like the carpets, the windows, the computers, and so on, and I ask them if what I am pointing to is art.
I didn’t make it to any marches today. It was Shabbat and some things in my life come first. This week’s Parsha, or Torah reading, was the first section of Exodus where we learn about Moses’ life which famously starts of with the decree from Pharaoh that all Jewish baby boys are to be thrown in the Nile. Yocheved, Moses’ mother, has some other ideas about what to do with her newborn boy (as well as some of the local Jewish midwives who decide to go against Pharaoh’s wishes).
There are some places only a local can say. Nevada is pronounced Na-vah-dah, not Nuh-vah-duh. Trenton is Tren-in. If you can’t say New Orleans, just say NOLA and move on. Generally, though, unless this is a Schenectady kind of situation, minor mispronunciations due to not being in the know are fine and will get you where you need to go. A few years ago, I had a friend who wrote down her address for me so I could find her house for a New Year’s party.
If there were a pilgrimage essential to the American experience, Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Birmingham, Alabama would be it. Disney after a Superbowl is nice and all, and St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago sounds, well, however it is that sounds, but if we’re talking about places and events that define pride in place and heritage, that American optimism we all seek, if you’re looking for life in the places you only thought of as confined to history books and tearjerk-films, and if we’re going to be facing truths that are hard as the weathered faces looking out at the high school marching bands from the steps of 16th Street Baptist Church, you have to be in Birmingham.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is tomorrow. This is the first part of two pieces recapping some of the Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Era.
The history of the Jews in Alabama is one that is long, silent, and largely unrecognized. For one, the population of Jews has decreased by a large margin in the last three generations. Many left for Atlanta and Memphis, many stayed only as long as children weren’t in yeshivas (religious schools) before moving North, and many lost their Jewish identity for marriage, assimilation, the reasons go on and on. And while the journey of the Jews in the South is fascinating, I will be focusing only on the 1960s in Birmingham.
The first half of my Very Southern Snow Day has been spent gutting fish and encasing a bottle of vodka in ice for after dinner drinks with my guests. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity to really get in touch with my Russian roots. I couldn’t change my menu too much for tonight, but what I really want to make was cornbread.
Cornbread might be one of my favorite baked goods, at least to make, mostly because it doesn’t require precision. Many of you, judging by what was completely gone from the shelves at Publix, will be indulging in some chili tonight, or similar hot liquid concoction. And while that will warm your body, you need to warm your heart and your soul. That’s where the cornbread comes in. And while I put mine in the oven, if you lose power tonight, this can be done on the stove if you have a heavy lid for your skillet. I also recommend some local cornmeal, found here.
I am not Southern. I don’t, despite my frequent use of it online, say ya’ll. I
don’t have any pearls, I don’t eat swine, and I’ve only ever been in a church to vote. When people ask if I’m from Birmingham, I say I went to high school in Birmingham and came back for college. I’m a proud Jersey Girl who talks funny and that has absolutely left me bitter.
But, I’ve discovered that Birmingham grows on you and makes you crave things you never knew existed.