Nowadays we consider time a commodity – we save time, spend time, buy time, lose time, waste time, etc. Time can be static or fluid. In addition, we consider time to be a line stretching from the past to the present, as in the timelines we saw in our history textbooks.
Religious time, on the other hand, is cyclic time – Passover and Purim come every spring, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come every fall, Hanukkah comes every winter, and so forth.
For the past three years, I have been president of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association, and now I am handing over that duty to Mel Topf. My time in office has been marked by “saving time” – that is, the lessons of the past – by reorganizing our holdings and digitizing many documents.
Time is static when it comes to the past, yet fluid when it comes to the future; the future is what we plan for, with goals of more digitizing, checking over our holdings to make sure they are in good condition and working toward our mission of providing a record of the life of Jews in Rhode Island.
I have also dealt with religious time: we are asked for pictures about holidays and we see the cycle of life in back-to-school articles and in obituaries.
I have been making up an index of The Jewish Voice articles (working backward – another interesting use of time) and am currently in 2012; as soon as we start receiving PDFs of our oldest Heralds/Voices (going back to the 1930s), I will continue to work forward, too. (These indices are a fascinating view of life in Rhode Island, but unfortunately, the same issues keep coming up – anti-Semitism, political confusion and fear.)
That’s just one of the wonderful things we have spent time on over the past three years – all of them free for everyone to enjoy. We have also:
• Developed history packets about Jewish life in Rhode Island for undergraduates; contact us if you would like to use them.
• Put our collection of over 400 oral history tapes onto CDs, which are available for listening to at our office.
• Digitized the Providence Passover Journal and put it on our website, www.rijha.org (which has been updated).
• Posted an abbreviated Index of The Jewish Voice (currently 2013-2017) on our website.
• Moved into new, beautiful quarters, which we would love to show you!
Please call us if you’d like a tour or want to do research (401-331-1360).
• Posted copies of our Notes on the website. Our library holdings are in a catalog on the website, so if there is a book you want to look at, you can come in and see it at the office.
This is the past and present – what about the future? The digitizing will continue; there is a great deal of work yet to be done on our collections, especially the photographs. If you would like to help with our future, please contact us at the office by phone or email (email@example.com) and you can be part of an exciting journey through time: past, present and future!
RUTH BREINDEL is a past president of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association, and its new secretary.