Saturday, June 21, 2014

Moving to Jackson, MS

A few people have requested that I take up the Blog Formerly Known as the Prague Blague, since I am once again in a new place doing new things with with new people and will be traveling quite a bit. I can't promise that I'll be as diligent about this as I have been in the past, but I'll try, at least for a bit. And at the very least, just as a good way of saying bringing family and friends up to speed with what I'm doing now.

A few words of introduction: Exactly one month and one day ago I became a resident of Mississippi, or "The Hospitality State," as my new driver's license proudly advertises. I moved here (specifically, to Jackson) to begin a two-year fellowship with the education department of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Yes, the very same place where I interned in the summer of 2012. Essentially, the ISJL works with Jewish communities all over the south, from Texas to Virginia, to help document their histories, preserve their communities, and enhance their Jewish educational opportunities and religious experiences. As a Fellow, I'll be "attached" to 6-7 specific communities and make visits to each 3 times a year running programming, coordinating services, teaching classes, and really whatever it is I'm asked to do. Our big conference is this weekend, and shortly after I'll find out which communities I'll be assigned to for the upcoming year!

But I've gotten ahead of myself. I'll give a brief outline of what has happened in the past months since I became a Mississippi resident:

 As soon as I was done with finals, I met my dad in Jackson to set up logistics for my move. We got everything done (got a license, registered a car, got license plates, set up water for my apartment, got car insurance, and visited the state capitol!)

I flew back to campus, and a couple days later, drove up to Maine to go hiking with friends. We spent a couple days in the White Mountains (on the Maine side of the border) and a couple in Acadia National Park (in eastern Maine). Both of these photos were taken in Acadia, on one of the most beautiful hikes I've done. The colors and textures were so vibrant! It was a wonderful week, and exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing with some great people. 

I arrived back on campus the night Reunions (capital R, plural) began. The absolute highlight for me was getting to (re)introduce to each other two men who hadn't seen each other in 75 years, both of whom I interviewed for my senior thesis on the development of Jewish student life at Princeton, between 1915-1972. On the left is Henry Morgenthau III '39 (97 years old) and on the right is Joseph Schein '37 (99 years old). As a student in the 1930s, Joseph Schein led the Jewish services for the (very small) population of Jewish students on campus. I was fortunate to have the honor of walking with Henry Morgenthau in the P-Rade alumni parade, at his 75th reunion.

And then I graduated!

And a few hours later I was on my way to the airport to start the next two years of my life! Except the airport gods had other plans that involved "sleeping" overnight in the Atlanta airport. It was Shavuot (a Jewish holiday celebrating the receiving of the Torah), so I downloaded a sound file of the book of Ruth (the book traditionally read on the holiday) and celebrated that way. I finally made it to Jackson on the first flight the next morning.

There have been some incredibly beautiful sky things happening since I've been down here:
My fourth night down here there was an incredible lightning storm. It was almost midnight and I was heading to bed when I saw huge flashes coming from outside and immediately grabbed my camera and headed out to watch. 

Two nights later I was at Shabbat dinner at a friend and coworker's house (I have coworkers!) and stepped outside to grab something from my car when I looked up and saw this. The contrast is not as stark here as it was in real life, but on the right (south) side, looking west, there was a light, fluffy-looking pink cloud taking up most of the sky and the light blue strip right next door made it look like cotton candy. But to the north was an incredibly ominous dark grey rain cloud. (I also saw a rainbow that day!)
Mom called me to tell me to go outside and look at the moon, so obviously I did just that. This is what I saw from the street in front of my house. 

And now a little bit about settling in:
This is my house!
And this is my porch swing! The first few
days I ate ever single meal on the swing :)

This is my room. The postcard collection has been
in the works for a long while--one is from a high
school friend, sent to me at camp in 2007!

And these are my Mississippi Frizzies!

There have been two poignant frustrations in the past couple weeks: 1) One of my boxes never arrived! According to the tracking website, it went from New Jersey to..... California, and then to Memphis. And then disappeared. An actual quote of something I said to one of the tens of USPS employees I've spoken to by phone in the past week and a half: "I know it's probably a federal offense for you to open my package, but I can tell you exactly what's in it in case you are allowed..." (I wrote up an incredibly comprehensive list and it's currently circulating in Jackson, Memphis, and (hopefully) the package recovery warehouse in Atlanta. So what's in the box? All my thesis books and all my books on Mississippi and the Civil Rights Movement. Hopefully I'll get it back...

  2) The internet. I didn't have it until two days ago. And then when they finally sent the modem, etc., it turns out that my house is too far from the cable connection point outside, so the signal doesn't work. Probably the funniest thing about the whole mess is every time you call they tell you "you know, you can set this all up online!" Um, the whole point is that I can't, because I don't have internet, which is why I'm trying to get internet. Anyway, after too much hold music and much back-and-forth, the technician finally came out; now it's working, though they still need to tighten up the distances so it's as fast as it's supposed to be. Let me tell you, trying to move and set up all the new things one has to set up when when moves--or trying to deal with a lost package--without internet is a real pain. 

And a bit of civil rights before signing off:
Last Sunday I drove up to Philadelphia, MS for the kickoff of the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Commemoration. The ceremony--a memorial/commemoration for James Chaney, Andy Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner, three Freedom Summer volunteers murdered by the KKK in Philadelphia, MS that summer because of their work. Some of those in attendance included Bob Moses (third person from left in the chain), Dave Dennis (to Moses' right), Rita Schwerner-Bender (next to Dennis), former Governor William Winter (behind Schwerner-Bender), and Congressman John Lewis (second from right in the row).
This upcoming week is the Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference, and the ISJL is helping to coordinate some additional programs, events, and speakers. One of those is a gallery tour of the This Light of Ours photography exhibit currently up at the Mississippi Museum of Art; coincidentally, the curator (and one of the artists whose work is included) is Matt Herron, a Princeton alumnus ('53) featured on the June issue of the alumni magazine. I sent him an email to see if he might be in town for any of the conference, and it turns out he is--and invited me to attend the gallery tour he's giving on Thursday!

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