This post is from archivist and curator Bonnie Gurewitsch, who recently returned from a trip to Florida where she spoke to an audience of hundreds about Jewish refugee scholars teaching at black colleges.
I was invited to be part of the Diversity Initiative event that is sponsored by Dan and Litten Boxser at Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota, Florida. The event was planned in connection with our traveling exhibition, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, which recently opened at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. The diversity event was designed to create interest in the exhibition, and to give those who could not get to the Museum a chance to learn the story and be inspired by it.
In my presentation, I told the outline of the story and illustrated it with images from the exhibition as well as the films created by Pacific Street Films for the exhibition. I told some specific stories that added context to the images, such as why Lore Rasmussen took her students on a field trip to pick cotton, or why John Biggers chose to paint "The Gleaners" in Viktor Lowenfeld's class. The audience, featuring people of all ages and backgrounds, was rapt, totally engrossed in the story. Most people had never heard of the refugee scholars and their roles at the black colleges.
Musical renditions by the synagogue's cantor and the Gulf Coast Community Choir, a diverse group, were pleasant and entertaining, adding to the ambience of diversity and community. The program was very well received, and people stayed long afterwards, enjoying refreshments together.
Photo of Joyce Ladner and Bonnie Gurewitsch