WFYI Essay: “Indiana and Israel: Home and Homeland.”

Indiana and Israel: Home and Homeland
Lindsey Mintz
Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council

Did you know that when a plane touches down in Israel, people on board clap and cheer? And yes, some actually kiss the tarmac. Each time I land in Israel, tears of gratitude well in my eyes as I exhale and feel, home.

During the summer before my third grade year, my family lived and worked on a kibbutz in northern Israel, just minutes from the Sea of Galilee. We were paired with a family similar to our own, with feisty daughters, loving moms, and fathers who oozed both wit and wisdom. My dad worked as the kibbutz dentist, my older sisters picked oranges in the grove, my mom priced items in the grocery store, and I got to play in the summer camp. At the age of nine, I picked up quite a bit of Hebrew and quickly made friends. Everyone on the kibbutz had a bike, so we were given one too. Each day, members of my family would come back together to share meals in the communal dining room. And on Friday night the entire kibbutz gathered to sing the ancient prayers and songs of Shabbat – words and melodies that I knew, but was hearing for the first time sung by Israelis, whose Hebrew was like silk.

When we weren’t on the kibbutz, we travelled throughout Israel alongside our host family. Scenes from that summer are etched in my mind: clinging to the toe-path walking cautiously down Masada; feeling a cut on my skin sting in the salty waters of the Dead Sea; shivering in our car looking up at the snow-capped Mount Hermon; playing endless paddle-ball on the beach in Tel Aviv, and holding tight to my father’s hand through the bustling corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City; somehow appreciating the magnitude of touching the same stones placed by the earliest Jews nearly 3,000 years ago.

That summer was over 30 years ago, and since then I have been to Israel more than a dozen times, including a year living in Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University. After graduate school, I spent another summer living once again on that kibbutz from my childhood – this time as an adult on my own. I was issued a bike, and remembered exactly how to navigate to the small apartment home of my host family, where they were waiting to welcome me with open arms! I was home.

And yet, I love to boast that I’m a third generation Jewish Hoosier, whose great-grandparents fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe to find safety in, of all places, South Bend, Indiana. I’m proud to share that my grandfather is one of only a handful of umpires inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, and that for over 40 years my father provided dental care to Hoosier children most in need. I’m grateful to have graduated from IU and IUPUI with degrees in Jewish Studies and Public History, having focused my research on Indiana Jewish history. And I cherish the 10 summers I spent at a Jewish camp in Zionsville, the place where I would meet my future husband and where we send our children today.

When I look back now, I can see clearly how all of these experiences, and all of these people – both in Israel and in Indiana – imprinted me, shaped my identity as a Jew and as a Hoosier, and influenced the direction my life would take, both personally and professionally.

As the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, I have the privilege of conveying the interests and concerns of the Indiana Jewish community to Hoosiers throughout the state. If I do my job well, I help people understand how – and why – the Jewish community is so committed to improving and protecting the lives of people living in two places that many call home: Indiana and Israel.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

WFYI Essay: “Coming Back from War.”

Coming Back From War
Ken Barger
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, IUPUI

I came back from war, but didn’t really come home. While serving in Vietnam, a bullet once clipped my ear, and I thought, “Why are they trying to kill me? Don’t they know that I’m here to help them get freedom and democracy?” Another time in a helicopter, I looked out and saw death and destruction everywhere, and I thought, “You know, if I was a Vietnamese peasant I’d be out with the Viet Cong fighting the Americans.” I was shocked … what the hell had I just thought? Eventually I realized that they were not evil “communists,” but people fighting us foreign invaders who were destroying their lives and homes … just like we would do. I realized that this war had nothing to do with freedom and democracy. After that, it was tough to get through each day.

When I came back, I was a very different person, alone, isolated … a stranger to what had once been “home.” I had discovered that the worst of human nature could exist in me. I was angry at myself for what I had done, and at my government who had misled me. My homeland seemed strange, and for the first time I really saw racism, corporate greed, and political manipulation. Life didn’t make sense any more, and I didn’t know how to resolve the core ideals of my upbringing with the new realities I now saw.

It takes a lifetime to resolve this conflict. I cannot change the past, but I can try to change the future. I got involved with many social causes. When we were preparing to invade Iraq, I started sharing my Vietnam story. After one rally, I talked with a small group of high school students who had just enlisted, and asked them to not let what happened to me happen to them. Afterwards I was depressed, because I knew that there was nothing that could be done … it would happen anyway.

A few years ago, I went back to Vietnam. Former Viet Cong and NVA soldiers came up to me, shook my hand, said that we were friends now, and bought me a drink. Vietnam is now a thriving society, and I kept thinking that if we had just left them alone they would have reached this point many years sooner. I also thought that we are doing the same damn thing all over again in Iraq.

Today, when I hear voices of fear and hate and military force, I ask what kind of Americans will we be? Will we seek to be the best we can be as a people, and search for mutually constructive options to resolve the underlying causes of conflicts? Will we question who really benefits from our policies, and who really pays the costs? It is my hope that Americans will live up to the core values which we hold for ourselves and all human beings … the home that would never send us off to a meaningless war.

 

 

 

WFYI Essay: “Making a Place into a Home.”

Making a Place into a Home
Jim Walker
CEO of Big Car Collaborative

Placemaking is a relatively new term — even a buzzword — and one more and more people are using, sometimes incorrectly. As an artist who works to help make places for people, I was searching for a good metaphor that helps explain what placemaking really is. I found it thanks to David Engwicht, an Australian artist, writer, and placemaker. In his book, Street Reclaiming, David explains that placemaking is like homemaking — but for public places.

We understand the difference between a house and a home. An empty house— maybe abandoned or just between residents — isn’t anybody’s home. Once people are in the building, once they begin bringing in beds, sofa, lamps, kitchen table, desk, knickknacks for the shelves, art for the walls, it starts feeling like a home.

But the house isn’t there yet. Homemaking takes more than stuff. Home only happens when people are there in the kitchen eating breakfast, reading a book on the porch, talking with each other over dinner, dancing to music in the living room during a party. Home is a place where people share affection, where we feel connected with each other. Home is where we — hopefully — feel welcome and safe, where we play and have fun, where we feel comfortable putting our feet up and staying a while. Home is a place we’re in no hurry to leave.

In thinking about it this way, placemaking is really about bringing these warm, safe, and social feelings into public places. And, just as we know a house isn’t made a home without people, places aren’t made by nicely designed landscapes with plopped-in public art and shiny stone benches. The key ingredient to a made place is people being there. This takes amenities and activities — often associated with home — that invite us to stay, to linger and connect with each other. These might be comfortable seats for taking a break, tables and for eating lunch, games to play with new friends, music to enjoy, opportunities for conversations and for people of all ages to get creative.

Today, our society struggles with people living in isolation, with families and real-life social networks frayed as we spend more time with technology than each other. Too often, we’re in such a hurry — imagined or otherwise — that we rarely spend time on neighborhood sidewalks or in our public places where we might mingle and spontaneously connect with our fellow citizens. And that’s why making and sustaining places that bring people together is so important. We all need and deserve that feeling of home, of knowing we’re in a place where we belong.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

WFYI Essay: “The Joy of Many Homes.”

The Joy of Many Homes
James H. Madison
Emeritus Professor of History at Indiana University     

As we crossed the state line at Richmond, coming back from visiting their grandparents, I always made my kids sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

Since those long-ago trips, a pessimist might say, home has withered away. We have no home in our mobile and, oh, so global society. I don’t sit on the front porch on Sunday waiting for family coming home. My kids and grandkids live in other states and come home only a few times a year.

Home is not gone, but it has changed, from one particular place to many. The place of my childhood is gone but survives in memory. So do the places I’ve lived in over the decades. My many homes are a blessing.

Two of my favorite homes are overseas, one in England, the other in Japan. I lived a year in Whitstable and another in Saijo. Sometimes I was a homesick foreigner. Watching “Breaking Away” on TV that year in Japan I nearly cried over scenes of my Indiana hometown. But in both places I was welcomed by people who became friends. They taught me to like warm beer and sushi. Those two towns became hometowns and remain so in my memory.

I even have homes in places I’ve never lived. I’m lucky to have met people from all over. In the 1970s two hipsters from Berkeley joined our cooking group. They brought recipes for Mexican dishes when I barely knew a taco. I’ve been to Berkeley only once, but these close friends cause me still to imagine I know that California town.

For three years I mentored a young Muslim student studying at Indiana University. She cooked her country’s food for us, showed us pictures, talked about the beauty of the seaside. I now own Indiana’s major collection of swag from Azerbaijan. I’ve not yet been to her hometown of Baku, but I can imagine it.

That’s the key. To know and imagine a place and its people, from Berkeley to Baku, from Whitstable to Saijo. Food and swag help, but it’s the people. Hoosiers, Californians, Japanese, English—-folks, so different, yet with doors to their homes. We must knock and wait for the greeting “whose ‘er.” We must connect. And we remember, if we’re lucky, there is always an Indiana home to return to.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

WFYI Essay: “Fostering Home”

 

fullsizerender-4Fostering Home
By Elizabeth Friedland
Foster mother and Director of Communications at Appirio

As a single, childless woman, my home is a shrine to myself, built and designed around no one’s interests or tastes or preferences but mine. Or at least it was until recently when I decided to voluntarily launch myself into single parenthood and become a foster mother.

In the blink of an eye – or more specifically, the phone call of a caseworker – my space was forever and instantly changed. On that fateful afternoon in May, my immaculate and quiet retreat was suddenly filled with the cries of a two-month-old baby girl in desperate need of safe and stable home.

We’re a little ad hoc family, this tiny beautiful girl and I. There are no guarantees with a foster child. No firm timeline that outlines how long we might get to stay together, or when or if she might return to her biological family. While our home together may be temporary, our bond is surely permanent. Though she may not ever remember the home of her infancy – the cream rugs now splattered with applesauce and the hallway that smells of baby lotion – we’ve forever shaped each other. She is my daughter and I am her mother until she is no longer my daughter and I am no longer her mother.

As time passes, our hearts will continue to grow and swell with our strengthening bond, while the physical space around us becomes smaller and more cramped. Those applesauce-stained rugs will be imprinted with her first steps. The baby lotion scented hallway will become a runway for her to toddle down.

A small part of me will breathe a sigh of relief when my home returns to the way it was before a newborn first took over – when the living room looked more like a museum than a daycare. And yet I will be crushed when my home is no longer hers. When her giggles and coos and lopsided, one-dimpled smiles become ghosts that linger inside these walls.

I used to measure the completeness of my home by how closely it resembled my Pinterest inspiration boards or the West Elm catalogue. Now when I glance around the space at the end of the day, it isn’t the beauty of a new sofa or a prized art print that makes me feel satisfied. It’s knowing that, at least for one more day, Baby Girl and I are a family together in this perfectly imperfect yet totally priceless home.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

WFYI Essay: “HOME” by Carla Salle, spoken-word artist

I have moved 48 times in my life. That is more times than years I have been alive.

I have been homeless 5 times in my life.That is five times more than anyone should ever bear.

I have lived home free once. For those of you who don’t know what that is; we’ll get to that later.

Webster defines home as:

  1. The place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives
  2. A family living together in one building, house, etc.
  3. A place where something normally or naturally lives or is located

If home is a location then I must’ve died 6 times so far because I existed nowhere.

If home is a family living together in one building then all the times I was separated from my mother as a child or all the years I lived alone as an adult must’ve meant I didn’t exist for much of my lifetime.

If home is a place where one lives that must mean I have 48 identities wrapped up into just one word.

Words are powerful aren’t they? Like, when I say homeless … Do I look like the ideal of that word in your mind? What do you see? It doesn’t look pretty does it? Your image might be unclean, unkempt, begging, annoying, smelly, a nuisance or a myriad of other adjectives that don’t add up to being human.

But, what happens when I say an individual who doesn’t have a place to live right now…? It kinda changes things, doesn’t it?

The first time I was homeless was when I was 11 years old. My mother just left an abusive relationship and we moved from shelter to shelter and ate from dumpsters in between. We found that Dunkin Donuts bagged all their day old donuts separately from their other trash so that became a regular meal. We lived in Florida at the time so showering was easy. You just had to walk to a lawn that was being watered. The only trick was to make sure chemicals weren’t being added through the sprinkler system.

Most of the time we got kicked out of shelters because my stepdad somehow found us and it posed a threat to the other families. Once we got kicked out because I cried. Not just a little cry, but a for the first time in 6 years type of cry because I wasn’t going to let my abuser see me cry type of cry that wasn’t done until it was done type of cry that was considered unstable and a nuisance.

Before that, my mother worked three jobs and rode her bike to every one of them. You just can’t do that when you have nowhere for your child to be while you’re doing it.

There were nights like the first one on the streets when someone stole our shoes while we were sleeping that I swear my mother looked at me with resentment for showing the social worker my bruises.

Then, there were others, like Charlie. He was a sweet old man who taught us things like how to use your shoes as pillows so they won’t get stolen and the places to stay away from because they snatch children for the market round there and you’ll lose more than your shoes if you’re not careful.

Eventually we found an address back to where our roots began in Indiana.

Then, when I was sixteen I found my dad. It’s funny how as a kid you think that your father, however absent he may be, will be the hero of your life story. When I found him he was home free. He chose to live on the streets comfortably. It is where he felt most safe.

When he was a kid, home was with his mother, but the state didn’t see it that way. Every foster home they put him in was a chance for him to escape and find her.

When he came back into our lives he was more concerned with my mother than me. They got back together and moved my grandmother in and consequently, me out on the streets.

And you can’t rent a car or sign a lease at 17 so having a job wasn’t as much of a safety net as you might think. So here I was sleeping at the drive-in, living in my car, taking $5 showers at the nearest truck stop and life was hard.

Now mind you the weather was turning cold and I wasn’t quite yet eighteen years old. And I still didn’t have a roof over my head. That was, at least, until this man asked me to marry him. Now I asked God to turn a deaf ear as I said I do because I was marrying a man that I barely knew. And this man turned out to be as crazy as the man my momma married before. For that man beat me senseless and kept me under a locked door.

And just when I thought I couldn’t get out of this mess that man went to jail overnight and I fled. And for the first time in my life found myself home-free. As it turned out having an address wasn’t worth the price it cost me. The streets are sometimes safer and more comfortable than staring at a ceiling at night. Sometimes the elements are less abrasive to your health than your family.

But no matter how angry I was at my dad, during that time, I felt more connected to him than ever before. Suddenly and abruptly, I understood him.

I felt more at home disconnected from all that was supposed to support me than I did anywhere in the world. I found on the streets that home is not an address, but a state of mind. It is a connection to who you are. It is knowing what you will deal with and what you are willing to give up to walk away from places you thought were home in order to keep your sanity.

Home is the place you see inside your mind when you meditate.

When I was a little girl before I ever questioned what home was, when my stepdad used to hurt me, I would drift off in my mind to safety.

There was a big tree in the middle of a green field full of purple flowers and dandelions where a tiny white dog would pull on my lacy white dress and we would run and play until we couldn’t breathe anymore. We would seek refuge under that tree as the sun would begin to set and peek through its branches. It was there that I knew I was with God. It was under that tree where I would fall to peaceful slumber every night and through every fight and every physical pain, every element my body has weathered. Through 5 losses of existence, one stint being home free, and 48 identity crises.

Home has always been just like old man Charlie said – What you make it.

When my son asks me what home was like when I little I will tell him of the adventures of a little girl playing in a field with her little white dog until the sun set through her favorite tree.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

Meet the “Award of Awesomeness” nominees

Home Logo Vertical

2016 is Indiana’s Bicentennial year – the perfect time for Hoosiers to celebrate, explore, and consider the different meanings and dimensions of “home.” To honor this, the 2016 Spirit & Place Festival presents HOME as a place, a space, and an idea through 40 events November 4-13.

Nine of those events have been recognized this year for exemplifying the values that make the Spirit & Place Festival special. The winning “Award of Awesomeness” event will receive a $1,000 award at the conclusion of the festival that will be announced at the Public Conversation on November 13. Learn more about each of these events below!

SPIRIT & PLACE FESTIVAL 2016 – AWARD OF AWESOMENESS NOMINEES

Moving Stories 

**Bold & Daring “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 5 — Sunday, Nov. 13 (times vary based on bus schedule)

IndyGo busses & Julia M. Carson Transit Center

$1.75 per ride

A “moving” exhibit—literally!—devoted to the stories and images of what makes Indy home for our community. Presented by Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, Writing Futures at Marian University, CityWrite, IndyGo Transit Ambassadors, and Indianapolis Arts Council. Fare can be purchased online at buy.indygo.net, on a bus, by calling 317-635-3344, or at the Transit Center during retail hours.

I Am Home: Muslim Hoosiers

**Inclusive & Open-Minded “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10 a.m. to Friday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.

Center for Interfaith Cooperation (1100 W. 42nd St., Ste. 125, Indianapolis, IN)

Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m. — 7 p.m.

University of Indianapolis, Schwitzer Student Center (1400 E. Hanna Ave, Indianapolis, IN)

Photo and audio gallery experience of Muslim Hoosiers sharing what makes Indiana their home. Presented by Muslim Alliance of Indiana and the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. 317-306-1998 or aliya.amin@indianamuslims.org.

Riverside Speaks! Past, Present, and Future

**Rooted in Place “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 5, 9 a.m. — 4 p.m.

Ebenezer Baptist Church & Rock ‘n Riverside House (1901 N Harding St)

FREE

Riverside Speaks! celebrates a community with a “pop-up museum,” historic recreations and performances, and a church and home tour. Presented by Ebenezer Baptist Church, Indiana Historical Society, Riverside Reunion, Indiana Humanities, Kenyetta Dance Company, and Insight Development Corp. 317-631-5946 or cb212be@gmail.com.

Finding Home: Indiana at 200

**Collaboration “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 5, 4 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 6, 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12, 5 p.m. & 9 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 2 p.m.

Indiana Repertory Theatre, Upperstage (140 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN)

Tickets start at $25. Order at irtlive.com or by calling 317-635-5252

Multifaceted look at Indiana’s life and times mixes music and history, comedy and drama, fact and fable. Presented by Indiana Repertory Theatre and Indiana Historical Society.

Closing in on the Homestretch: A Community Dialogue on Youth Homelessness

**Socially Meaningful “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Sat., Nov. 6, 1 p.m. — 4:30 p.m.

Central Library (40 E St Clair St, Indianapolis, IN)

FREE

Film screening and dynamic community dialogue on youth homelessness with the filmmakers of “The Homestretch.”

Presented by Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), Spargel Productions, Homeless Youth Taskforce, Outreach, Inc., and Stopover, Inc. 317-472-7636 or zalexander@chipindy.org.

Homing the Houseless

**Spiritually Meaningful “Award of Awesomeness” nominee
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m. — 9 p.m.
Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation (6501 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN)

FREE

Watch the “Road to Eden” and reflect with filmmaker Doug Passon on the connection between homelessness, spirituality, and holiday of Sukkot. Presented by Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, 317-255-6647 or info@ihcindy.org.

Homes Before Highways: Communities Under the Exit Ramps

**Build Community “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. — 9 p.m.

Concord Neighborhood Center (1310 S Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN)

FREE

Share stories and see photos of homes and businesses destroyed on Indianapolis’ south and west sides by the interstate construction of the 1960s and ‘70s. Presented by IUPUI Department of Anthropology and Concord Neighborhood Center.317-278-4548 or suhyatt@iupui.edu.

Spirited Chase: Something to Write Home About

**Fun “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 12, 9 a.m. — 3 p.m.

5 Mystery Venues

$9 Per Person, RSVP by Wednesday, Nov. 9 at wfyi.org
This on-the-go program offers the chance to visit five mystery locations to learn what “home” means to the people and places of Indianapolis. Must provide own transportation. Presented by WFYI and its community partners. 317-636-2020 or cweidman@wfyi.org.

The Things They Brought Home: Military Tattoos

**Most Thought-Provoking “Award of Awesomeness” nominee

Saturday, Nov. 12, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.

Indianapolis Art Center (820 E 67th St, Indianapolis, IN)

FREE

This interactive art exhibition explores the veteran experience, tattoos, and the concept of the “body as home” through photography, writing, and panel discussion. Presented by Indianapolis Art Center, Veterans in Industries and Arts, and Indiana Writers Center. 255-2464 or awalbridge@indplsartcenter.org.

A full listing of events is available at spiritandplace.org.