“Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews and the Promised Land” now on exhibit at the OU Museum of Art

The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is now hosting “Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews and the Promised Land,” an exhibition that explores the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews into modern Israeli society and the integration difficulties they faced. The exhibition features 100 photographs by South African photojournalist Ilan Ossendryver, who lived in Israel for 20 years. The exhibit runs through Sunday, April 21, 2013. 

Over the past 30 years, nearly 100,000 Jews have migrated from Ethiopia to settle in Israel. In the 1970s, there were approximately 100 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and today there are more than 130,000. As many as 5,000 from this community perished during the early years of this exodus when they were forced to escape on foot and wait for months in disease-prone refugee camps. Others made the journey with assistance during several covert airlift operations, including the 1991 airlift Operation Solomon during which 14,000 Ethiopian Jews made the journey or “aliyah,” a purposeful ascent or going up to the promised land of Israel, during a 36-hour period.

This exhibition explores the mass migration and the incredible challenge of integration in modern Israeli society faced by the Ethiopian Jews, once known as Falasha but more properly called “Beta Israel,” or “House of Israel.” Most were practicing a pre-rabbinic, ancient form of Judaism in which they had no awareness of the Talmud’s existence and so knew nothing of post-biblical holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim. They lived for centuries in isolation in a Third World country and were suddenly thrust into modern life in Israel.

The following lecture and event series will be hosted at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition:

Ilan Ossendryver

Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 p.m. “The Last of the Ethiopian Jews – Reaching Their Dream of Living in the Holy Land,” a lecture by featured exhibition artist Ilan Ossendryver, photojournalist based in South Africa, Israel and Ethiopia, and photographer for the book The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land.

Wednesday, February 20, 7:00 p.m. “Refugee Resettlement in Georgia: Part of a Durable Solution to the Crisis in the Horn of Africa,” a lecture by Paedia Mixon, executive director, and Safia Jama, resettlement manager, Refugee Resettlement & Immigration Services of Atlanta. Mixon will lead the discussion which will address refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and the challenges facing refugees upon their arrival in Georgia.

Wednesday, February 27, 7:00 p.m. “Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth,” presented by The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble of the Academy Theatre. Refreshing, upbeat, musical and moving, The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble offers honest and entertaining views of living, loving and aging. A one-hour collection of short scenes and songs, Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth is thoroughly real, poignant, heartbreaking… and thoroughly hilarious.

Wednesday, March 6, 7:00 p.m. “The Arts and Peacebuilding,” a lecture by Frank Dominguez, vice president for Arts for Peace, Ltd. Mr. Dominguez has managed major economic and trade development programs in Russia and Western Europe, held a series of senior international management positions, and worked with leading and newly starting nonprofits and groups in developing high profile events, initiatives and organizations in support of social justice and peace. Arts For Peace is a nonprofit that develops new and innovative programs and events in the areas of music, visual arts, performance, dance and communications, and is committed to establishing bridges between the arts community and the work of the UN, the aims of the UN Charter and the realization of a Culture of Peace.

Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein

Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. “Knowledge, Cognition and Cultural Capital Among Non- and Semi-literate Populations,” a lecture by Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Department of Human Development and Psychology. In 1985, when she emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel, Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein did not know how to read or write. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in education, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to earn a doctorate in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein was a teaching fellow at Tel Aviv’s School of Education, Science and Technology (2002-2007); presented key Israeli educational and political issues to world leaders as Emissary for the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel (1997-2005); and served on the board of directors overseeing Israel’s Community Centers for the Ministry of Education (1994- 2000). Her field of research examines how illiterate immigrants’ adapt to modern societies, specifically Ethiopian assimilation in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein’s lecture is sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeastern United States.

Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. “The Nightmare Inside the Dream,” a lecture by Morghan Brandon, Oglethorpe University student. To mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Brandon will explore the hopes and dreams of the Civil Rights movement and the sometimes harsh realities of where we are today. Her talk accompanies her independent film/performance project. Brandon is also a founding member of OU’s first black sorority, Epsilon Iota Psi.

Author Len Lyons

Wednesday, April 3, 7:00 p.m. “The Remarkable Unfinished Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews,” a lecture by Len Lyons, author of The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land. Dr. Lyons, Ph.D. in Philosophy (Brown University), is the author of six books on a variety of subjects, including jazz (three titles published by William Morrow & Co.) and computers (two titles published by Addison-Wesley). Through hosting Ethiopian Israeli students visiting Boston in 2004, he became fascinated with the story of the Ethiopian Jews and their struggle for acceptance in the country that rescued them. He serves on the Ethiopian Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston.

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. “Found in Translation,” a lecture by Rahwa Amha, Oglethorpe University student. Amha discusses her experiences in the U.S. and abroad as an Ethiopian American. Amha, who was born in Atlanta, has also lived for an extended period of time in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia and explores the cultural shift and adjustment which has become second nature to her.

Admission: $5; free for OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. More information: museum.oglethorpe.edu. OUMA will host an open house for Oglethorpe students, faculty and staff on Thursday, February 7, 5 – 7 p.m.

Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans

Photo: David Dixon

November 11th is Veterans Day.  It is an occasion to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our country, to recognize the families who have stood by them in service, and to reflect upon all of the freedoms that these men and women have fought to preserve.

This year, Oglethorpe University, together with various campus organizations and departments, will host a series of events throughout the week to honor our veterans called “Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans.” The events are in conjunction with the OU Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which runs through December 9, 2012.

Sophomore Antonio Mántica (left) and senior Jef Palframan, president of the OU Veterans' Club, form sheet metal into large "ribbons." Photo: Krista Palframan

On November 4th, the OU Veterans’ Club launched a yellow ribbon campaign to increase awareness of the day’s significance. Club members constructed and installed 10-foot high sheet metal yellow ribbons at the front entrance of campus. They also plan to hand out 1000 personal ribbons on campus and will host a remembrance event, “Lest We Forget,” on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium. (Find out more about their efforts on their Facebook page.)

Usually closed on Mondays, the OU Museum of Art will open its doors to host a Veterans’ Open House, with free admission to all veterans on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12 noon-7:00 p.m.. Various veterans’ assistance groups will be onsite throughout the day. Plus, the OU Veterans’ Club will be accepting donations for their clothing and coat drive for homeless veterans, and a giveaway of gift items from area businesses will benefit veterans’ services.

Later that evening, veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will discuss their experiences and struggles in a panel discussion, “Transitioning to Civilian Life,” at 6:00 p.m.  Many skills learned in combat are not applicable to the workforce, and veterans are generally required to go through an arduous process of re-qualification in order to get work.  Plus, many veterans feel isolated or out of place, unaccustomed to their new lives at home. In addition, policymakers in Washington recently failed to approve a bill that would have eased veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce, and recent reports estimate that 88% of veterans will drop out of college.

“It would be wrong of me not to make people aware of this,” said Jef Palframan ’13, president of the OU Veterans’ Club and a veteran himself.  “Our military size is going to decrease… Now starts the work to take care of the guys coming home.”  Admission: $5; free for veterans, OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA, the Office of Admission and the OU Veterans’ Club.

Other events to commemorate Veterans Day include:

Open Forum/Open Mic: “Empower to Inspire Progress,” Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
What does being American mean to you? What are you doing to make your voice heard? Do you feel you have patriotic obligations? Which American alive or dead inspire you, and why? All are welcome to join this open forum and share your opinions, ideas or a story, song or poem. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA and Epsilon Iota Psi.

Lecture: “On the Downstream Biological Effects of Agent Orange,” Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
Dr. Karen Schmeichel, associate professor of biology at Oglethorpe, will present about the hotly debated and complex subject of the widespread use by American troops during the Vietnam conflict of the defoliant called “Agent Orange” and its far reaching effects. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass.

Movie Screening & Discussion: Agent Orange: 30 Years Later, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
OUMA and ECOS (Environmentally Concerned Oglethorpe Students) will co-host a screening of the award-winning 2009 film by John Trinh with open discussion to follow.  Reel Earth – Environmental Film Festival of New Zealand said, “Despite the horror, the film is at times intensely moving and beautiful, showing also the better side of human nature—qualities like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.” This event is free and open to all.

Greek Affairs Welcomes Two New Organizations

The Office of Greek Affairs is excited to announce the expansion of Oglethorpe University’s Greek community. Two new organizations (Kappa Sigma Fraternity and Epsilon Iota Psi Local Sorority) join our five existing organizations (Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority, Chi Omega Fraternity, Chi Phi Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, and Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority). Both of the endeavors to bring these organizations to campus have been supported by the Office of Greek Affairs, Department of Campus Life and the Office of the President.

Oglethorpe's Kappa Sigma Fraternity

After a year of being an active member of our fraternity community Kappa Sigma officially became our third fraternity on April 21, 2012. This endeavor was lead by 34 men who will have the honor of being known as the founding fathers of the Sigma Beta chapter of Kappa Sigma on our campus.

Oglethorpe's Epsilon Iota Psi Sorority

During the 2011-12 academic year, several women worked together to form Oglethorpe University’s first African American local sorority, Epsilon Iota Psi (Ei Psi). On April 25, 2012, 22 women became the founding sisters of this sorority. This endeavor to  create a new sorority has been a rewarding experience for these women and has allowed our sorority community to grow and continue to thrive.

If you have any questions about Oglethorpe’s vibrant Greek community or how to join any of our Greek organizations on campus, please contact me at bberris@oglethorpe.edu or at 404-364-8383.