“Why do the stories of the individual matter to the history of an entire city.” This was the question that framed our jam-packed day. Some of us woke up early, jogged to Tulane University and pretended to be college students, while the more sensible members of the group gathered at 9am to begin our day.
We started our day at Ashe Cultural Arts Center in Central City. This gem of an institution is dedicated to preserving African culture and empowering the culture bearers of the city. Through music and dance we heard about a variety of sub groups within New Orleanian culture. We also spent time listening to the ways in which African culture is passed down from generation to generation. The speakers shared the envy they have for the Jewish communities' knowledge of their own past and the ways in which they are trying to “relearn” their own African cultural history. One interesting ritual shared was Maafa, a commemoration of the African exodus which sounds an awful lot like our Passover Seder, except with an inverse narrative. We ended our time with Ashe by sharing a piece of ourselves and teaching the folks at Ashe “oseh shalom” a popular JCHS anthem that evolved into a mashup of African music and Jewish singing led by our incredible trip leader and talented music director, Natan Kuchar.
After some free time on Magazine Street, we went back to APEX where we volunteered yesterday to hang out with the students who drop in at the center after school. Some very competitive games of basketball took place. Evelyn, Ben and Mr. Kuchar broke in the brand new recording studio with some youth from APEX. Others lounged around the center and talked about the things that are similar and different about growing up in the Bay Area and New Orleans.
What we experienced today was a cacophony of voices and stories that painted a really vibrant picture of New Orleans life. Cities don’t have one story. We learn about a city by hearing the multiple narratives and experiences that come together and bring a city to life.
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace their Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.