What is the role of a Jewish museum? What does “Jewish” even mean; is it a culture or a religion, and can/should those things be looked at separately? What is a mezuzah? What holidays do Jews celebrate?
These questions, big and small, are just a sampling of the ones I’ve asked myself and my coworkers since coming to work for the Mizel Museum in August 2013. As someone who is new to Colorado and new to learning about Jewish culture, I have found myself constantly asking people for their opinions, taking classes and workshops and Googling like it’s nobody’s business. There’s so much to learn, and it’s all so interesting! So, I present to you “Goy From Illinois,” a new column on our blog, and I invite you to come with me on a journey, to discover alongside me what Jewish culture is all about.
This will be a fun journey, I think – for me and for you, the readers. My Jewish friends and colleagues have told me that many of my questions will have several different answers, various interpretations of one answer or even no answers at all. One of my coworkers expressed this to me with, from what I have gathered, is a pretty well-known saying: “Ask two Jews, get three opinions.” And that’s okay – even exciting – to me, because it’s the discussion that matters. I think my relative unfamiliarity with Jewish culture is shared by many non-Jews, and it seems that Jewish people themselves are asking these questions. So, let’s find out more together. And if we come away with many different answers, or no answers at all, at least we will have given these topics the consideration they deserve.
While I can’t promise you clear-cut answers to some of the bigger questions we discuss here, I can promise you a few things:
- I will post regularly. My goal is to write a new post once a week, to keep a lively discussion going and to not fall into what I like to call a laziness spiral.
- I will write honestly and without assertion. I’m not Jewish. I’m not a scholar of Jewish history, culture or religion. I’m simply someone who stumbled into a marketing position with a Jewish museum; is lucky enough to now be surrounded every day by incredible, thoughtful, brilliant and supportive people (5/8 of whom are Jewish); and wants to soak up as much knowledge as possible – and share it with you. My posts will be written from my perspective, and I will ask a lot of questions and rely on my colleagues in the Jewish professional community (and the powers of Google) to provide answers, counterpoints, and further explanation and exploration – which, hopefully, will lead to deeper understanding (or, in some cases, deeper confusion).
- I will keep things fun and light hearted, but that won’t keep me from delving into important, or even controversial, topics. A lot of what I have learned during my time at the Museum and in conversations with my Jewish colleagues, has been about holidays, dress, language and history. However, when you’re talking about Jewish culture, you can’t leave out the heavy topics and issues, like the Holocaust and Middle East conflict. So, I won’t.
- I will invite you to chime in. A lot. You can (and should) leave comments right here on the Museum’s blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. We will make it as easy as possible for you to get involved in what I’m sure will be lively and fun discussions. And you can always send me a private message or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can subscribe to the blog itself (there’s a link on the right-hand side), “like” the Museum on Facebook (facebook.com/mizelmuseum) or follow us on Twitter @mizelmuseum (and/or @lisarimmMIZEL). Also, if you’re so inclined, you can find out more about me here. Let’s roll!