Midterms are upon us and with them, a barrage of dates, facts, lab reports and other exercises that place a premium on processing information.
I thought I'd buck that trend by having the students in my Jewish Geography course, which explores the relationship of the modern Jewish experience to the American landscape, do something a tad more creative: to imagine themselves as newcomers, as immigrants, to the New World and to do so through a venue of their own choosing – or devising.
Drawing on the kit and caboodle of ideas, sounds, impressions (and misimpressions) that constitute their cultural baggage – on family stories passed down from generation to generation as well as on old, sepia-toned photographs - the students were encouraged to think – really think – about what immigration, transplantation and dislocation actually entailed.
I'm delighted to report that they acquitted themselves admirably. Some took to paper, others to song and still others to YouTube, giving voice to diary entries, reminiscences, short stories, recipes and mini-documentaries. A couple of students even created a performance piece.
Several women imagined themselves as men, while a handful of men imagined themselves as women. Some inhabited a world of their own making, creating fictional characters. Others built on the foundational stories of their ancestors. And still others found a congenial, real life historical personality and imagined what it must have been like to have been him or her.
A whole lot of conjuring going on…
One can only wonder what the man in Luis Sanguino's "The Immigrants" is wondering. Creative commons Flickr content by Wally Gobetz.