The Column | Cramming Bay Area Jewish life into a time capsuleby sue fishkoff, j. staff
|Follow j. on||and|
What do you want your great-grandchildren to know about you? That’s the question one might ask before loading up a time capsule and burying it in the ground for 100 years, as the British Jewish community is about to do. In a project spearheaded by the London Jewish Chron-icle, together with the soon-to-open London Jewish Community Center (the city’s first), British Jews of all ages are being asked to write what being Jewish means to them, in 50 words or less. The essays will be collected and buried in the capsule in March on the grounds of the JCC, as part of the building’s “topping off” ceremony (I thought you could only do that with coffee and gas tanks).
Time capsules are very American, what with our being the land of dreams and all. The Jewish Chronicle, in fact, bought its capsule from a U.S. company. So when I heard the Brits were doing it, I began to think: If I were in charge of a 100-year time capsule project, what would I put in it? How would I encapsulate, as it were, the early 21st-century Bay Area Jewish experience for future generations?
First, you have to buy the capsule. I hunted around on the Web and found they’re a lot smaller — and more expensive — than I thought. An outfit called Future Packaging and Preservation offers the “City Manager,” a 14-square-inch bolted, stainless steel canister designed to withstand burial for at least 100 years. It costs $1,050 and comes with a free booklet on how to plan a successful time capsule project. Plus, it’s reusable.
Now, what to put in it? Here’s my running list, given the space limitations and my own predilections. Feel free to email me with your own ideas:
1. Berkeley’s “shul passport,” which gives the buyer access to High Holy Days services at any of the city’s Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Renewal congregations — a terrific example of interdenominational cooperation.
2. A photo of the Chanukah menorah lighting in San Francisco’s Union Square — our public, festive display of Jewish pride.
3. J.’s May 21, 2010 cover story about Jennifer Gorovitz being named the first woman to head a major North American Jewish federation.
4. A DVD of Idan Raichel’s impromptu piano concert at last April’s Yom HaAtzmaut celebration at the Palo Alto JCC. There were so many Israelis in the audience he switched to Hebrew, marveling at Silicon Valley’s “little kibbutz.”
5. A photo of the pro- and anti-Israel protesters who stand across the street from each other every Saturday outside Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater — a silent but stubborn portrait of the divisions within our Jewish community on the Israel-Palestine question.
6. As long as we’re addressing politics, j.’s coverage of the JCRC-led Jewish-Muslim coalition that defeated an anti-circumcision ballot initiative in San Francisco — we can be friends, too.
7. A DVD of last month’s 20th anniversary Kung Pao Kosher Comedy show at the New Asia restaurant — Lisa Geduldig’s paean to the holy trifecta of Jews, Christmas and Chinese food.
8. A recording from the Jewish Music Festival — probably the 2008 premiere of Frank London’s “A Night in the Old Market Place,” a musical interpretation of the 1906 Y.L. Peretz short story that U.C. Davis professor David Biale dubbed “Chagall on steroids.”
9. A program schedule from Tikkun Leil Shavuot at the Berkeley JCC, one of several all-night Jewish learning extravaganzas that have popped up recently.
10. A slide show from Wilderness Torah’s Sukkot on the Farm — a colorful, exuberant celebration of the new Jewish food movement.
11. Class photos from each of our Jewish day schools, to show the incredible diversity of our Jewish children.
12. A bottle of Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon — the best of new kosher boutique offerings.
13. A poster of the permanent photo exhibit from the Contemporary Jewish Museum, showing the smiling faces of hundreds of Bay Area Jews.
14. Finally, a year’s worth of j. — to show how we’re telling our own marvelous story, week after week. I can’t imagine we won’t still be doing it 100 years from now.