Jewish geography. Essentially this term is used to describe when two or more Jews get together and discover who knows whose Jewish friends and relatives. Until this project, I was unfamiliar with the significance of this term. Boy, do I know it now! And it actually is fun.
Though my role is to ask the questions and guide the oral history interviews, I am invariably asked where my family is from. The name “Tabach”, I explain, it is rooted in Russian Jewish history; that my father-in-law was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa; that my husband also has a long history of Jewish family history in Sioux City – by that point the probing for connections usually begins.
Through the nearly forty oral histories that I have completed so far for the Jewish Heritage Project, many narrators often shared a Jewish geography story. Keep in mind that these are all pre-Twitter and Facebook. People relied on actual conversations to find meaningful connection. And whether it occurred in a spiritual or secular situation, Jews are very connected to each other and continue to be.
So here’s a Las Vegas question for you: What are the odds that when I meet a Jew for this project that we find a connection? In December, we took my mother-in-law to the Mob Museum. As we wheeled her through the first floor room where a hundred or so headshots of known mobsters are on display, she pointed at one face from Des Moines and exclaimed to my husband, “He was at your bar mitzvah!” Now, this was an Italian guy, and coincidentally a neighbor of mine who treated all of us kids to Dairy Queen cones during the hot days of summer. Hmmm. Makes you wonder about all the other connections that I am learning about through oral histories, doesn’t it?
Oh, yes, you’re going to enjoy the oral histories of the Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project as much as I am collecting them. Watch for the official website coming this summer.