Saranit Goes to Washington

NEAJL

Sara with Jim Rosenbloom of Brandeis’ Goldfarb Library. Part of NEAJL chapter represented at the conference

The 2015 conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries was number 50 for the organization, and I was happy to be a part of it! Our sessions included lectures by unique authors and children’s illustrators, subject experts from research institutions, and workshops on unique topics.

Dr. Monika Schreiber from the Judaica Library at the University of Vienna spoke on a panel about a special reparations project she is working on. She and her colleagues at the library have been performing autopsies on thousands of books that are suspected to have been looted by the Nazis in World War II, searching for clues to the identity of the rightful owners.

Panel Members

Left to right: Moderator Lyudmila Sholokhova, Olga Potap, Dr. Monika Schreiber, and Ellen Cassedy

Through this program, they have successfully found many such victims and their descendants, reuniting them with their families’ stolen collections.

I also enjoyed learning about the projects protecting the history of Jewish communities in previously settled areas of South Africa, Cape Verde, and Sudan, as well as the library programs helping the Jewish population of Argentina thrive today.

Library of Congress

Sara stretching the limits of the young readers section, Library of Congress

We explored Washington DC in the context of library and information science, thanks to our gracious hosts at the Library of Congress and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was able to speak with a rare book curator at the museum to get some ideas for preserving and cataloging older items in our new special collection at Temple Israel. They have an amazing collection of literature, archives, and reference material that together tell the stories of genocide victims worldwide.

I am thrilled to finally put faces to some of the librarians I have been communicating with online. I shared stories with librarians of many backgrounds, who are accomplishing amazing things in their everyday work lives. This conference was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to participating next year for 51.

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Summer @ the library

Library Committee with Rabbi and Wife

Library Committee and Special Guests; Left to Right: Al Spaien, Elissa Senter, Rabbi Senter, Allison, Meryl Wein, Sara Lesley Arnold

We had great feedback from some of the attendees of the Book Thief screening and discussion with Rabbi David Senter that took place on July 17th. Some members of the group had either read the book or seen the movie previously, so the discussion included valuable input from many perspectives. The consensus seemed to be that even though the general idea of Death as a narrator is morbid, that element lets the viewer take the role of a similarly helpless onlooker, seeing as objectively as possible the characters build relationships and come of age.

With an audience comprised mostly of Jews, we discussed the generalities commonly associated with holocaust survivors, bridging those experiences to those of the main character of Liesel Meminger, a non-Jewish German girl who experiences her own horrific tragedies.

Viewers agreed that although the film depicts such a tragic time in world history, it provides a reminder of the humanity that can shine through a blanket of darkness.

I must say, it was wonderful to watch the film in a room of engaged viewers, after watching it on my own the first time. Geoffrey Rush and the other actors give amazing performances; the filmmakers really do a tremendous job transmitting the biblio-centric world of the novel into a new medium, allowing the audience to take part in the story and fall in love with the literature.

We have a few thoughts about additional programming this coming year and will keep you informed as events are scheduled. We are currently planning new religious school programs and will have our annual book sale going on in the Schmooze beginning September 7th for the start of school.

 

Hedy Lamarr’s on the Line!

Hedy Lamarr fled Nazi-occupied Austria and invented cell phone technology in the 1940s?? Sort of, yes!

As with many amazing things I discover, I heard this story on PRX Remix and couldn’t stop thinking about it all night.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr Publicity Photo


The story in short: Thought to be the most beautiful woman in the world, acclaimed Hollywood actress and brilliant inventor Lamarr was first the wife of Fritz Mandl, an arms manufacturer and socialite in Vienna. Mandl lived a life of greed, wheeling and dealing weapons and entertaining bigwigs like Mussolini and Hitler despite his Jewish heritage.

Lamarr escaped from this life, eventually making it to California, where she began to show clear patriotism, enraged by Nazi violence against innocent children and perhaps spurred by a desire to make up for her ex-husband’s disregard for humanity. Consumed by the idea of new communication methods between U.S. naval ships and their torpedoes, she devised a method of frequency switching that was undetectable by enemy ships.

When she finally partnered with composer George Antheil (who used a similar technology to synch 9 player pianos for live performance), Lamarr was able to put her thoughts into action. Together, they patented frequency-switching, a technology that was WAY ahead of its time.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s that modern military equipment could harness this technology, and the U.S. Military made good use of it. Was this the culmination of Hedy Lamarr’s brainchild? You didn’t forget about the cell phone, did you?

CDMA Diagram

CDMA

The technology described in the patent filed by Lamarr and Antheil in the 1940s forms the basis of CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), the technology on which modern day cell phones were developed. Sure, some will tell you it was the Russians who first harnessed this phenomenon… but me? I’m proud of the heart and accomplishments of my Jewish American sister.

Remembering Artist Elliot Offner

ARPhotographs: Smith College &emdash; Lyman In winter, Heron

Great Blue Heron at Lymon Conservatory, Smith College

I was delighted this week to learn about the life and work of Elliot Offner, a Jewish American sculptor who taught at Smith College while I attended there. Although I never had the pleasure of knowing him personally, I befriended the great blue heron he created– for the 18-year-old me there was no more peaceful a place on Earth than in that botanical garden.

Since Offner passed in 2010, his family set up a website to showcase his work. There I learned that my feathered friend has a sister who has become a local legend in the courtyard outside the Darien Public Library in Connecticut.

Auschwitz Study 4

Auschwitz Study 4

Also, the Holocaust memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York and the Hirschhorn Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington each house a piece from Offner’s work on Holocaust studies and Auschwitz. The sculpture pictured above is featured on his website.

Time for a road trip I believe…