This blog comes from our new communications assistant, Emily. We’re grateful to have her helping us and look forward to hearing more from her soon.
While contacting Israeli dance classes in the city about our exhibit Hava Nagila: A Song for the People, I came across an interesting article in the New York Times about the world champion of Irish dancing. Drew Lovejoy, the seventeen year old title-holder from rural Ohio, is probably not of the background you’d expect. He’s the son of a Jewish mother and African-American, Baptist father. Lovejoy can’t claim any Irish ancestors of his own. However, he’s developed a deep connection to a cherished aspect of Irish culture after devoting a great deal of his time to studying and mastering the iconic, lightning-paced dancing style of Ireland.
Lovejoy explained in the article that he became hooked on Irish dancing after watching one of his friends’ competitions. His mother was skeptical about her son’s new passion, explaining to him that she thought you had to be Irish-Catholic to really go far in the intimate world of competitive Irish dancing. Evidently, that wasn’t the case, as Lovejoy has now claimed the highest honor possible in this particular style of dance.
I loved reading this story, because I like hearing about people taking an active interest in other cultures. Here at the Museum, we strive to help visitors of all faiths and backgrounds foster an understanding and appreciation of Jewish heritage and it’s reaffirming to hear about this type of work being done for a different heritage. As a Catholic myself, often the first question I’m asked when I tell people where I work is, “But don’t you have to be Jewish to work there?” Of course, that is not the case. You don’t have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish heritage, nor do you need to be Irish to be interested in Irish heritage. Part of what makes this country unique is that individuals from so many different cultures meet, interact, and learn from each other.
Photo courtesy Andee Goldberg