One Fabric, Many ThreadsGAMBIER, Ohio (April 11, 2011)
Kenyon explores local diversity with a community conversation on "Jewish Knox County" on Thursday, April 21, at 11:10 a.m.
A panel of longtime Knox County residents who are also Jewish will discuss the history, influence and status of the Jewish community here in the Peirce Hall Lounge. The discussion, which includes those who attend the session, is part of the Visits series organized by Howard Sacks, director of the Kenyon Rural Life Center and professor of sociology.
"This is not just about one religious group within a larger community," Sacks said. "This really speaks to the issue of diversity and how diversity is an important part of community life. Diverse groups represent different resources, a different base of knowledge and different contributions that can be made."
Panel members include Fred Baumann, Kenyon professor of political science; artist Audrey Fenigstein; and Lois Hanson, a retired Mount Vernon City Schools teacher and familiar face behind the counter at Paragraphs Bookstore in Mount Vernon. Hanson has done research on Jewish life in the county in the 19th century.
Kenyon student Jazz Glastra of Stanwood, Washington, will direct the discussion. Glastra is an honors student who has studied Jewish Knox County in the decades between 1930 and 1960 for her senior thesis. Glastra believes the Jewish community reached a peak in the mid-20th century with a "pretty interesting array of people" that included a number of German immigrants who left Europe before World War II. The discussion, she said, "is going to be cool."
The Jewish community has "ebbed and flowed" since the early 1970s and is now enjoying a renewed sense of identity, Sacks said, in part because of the 2007 donation of a Torah scroll to Kenyon, the building of an ark, designed by Fenigstein, to hold the Torah, and the recent creation of the Knox County Jewish Cemetery Society, which hopes to establish a cemetery here.
Many rural communities are enriched by diversity that is not always obvious, Sacks said. "This is a community that is very thoughtful about itself," he said. "It's a community that thinks a lot about how to maintain its vitality in changing times. And diversity is important to the vitality of the community."