Never Again HC

Dear Haverford Community,

We were made aware of a very offensive and antisemitic Yik Yak conversation that took place among Haverford students on the night of Wednesday, May 4, 2016, the night of Holocaust Remembrance Day. We find the statements you will read dangerous and hateful. They do not reflect the values of trust, concern, and respect that the Haverford community supposedly holds dear. As Jews, we feel targeted and deeply hurt. Below you will find the full conversation.


Laura Newman Eckstein ’16

Daniel Konstantinovsky ’16

Michelle Parris ’16

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~Martin Niemöller (source)

When there’s no “undo” or no “reset”

René Magritte
The False Mirror
Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928, Credit MOMA

Today, at least in my world, technology is a bodily appendage. Today, as the stitching between technology appendages and people seems to only strengthen, I think it can be easy to forget that the features technology offer don’t necessarily seep into the body. For instance there is no “undo,” and “reset” option.

René Magritte The False Mirror Le Perreux-sur-Marne, 1928, Credit MOMA
The False Mirror, Le Perreux-sur-Marne
By René Magritte, 1928, Credit MoMA

Approximately six weeks after I began taking medication daily for acne, I began losing my vision; day by day, hour by hour. After EXTREME healthcare measures and a wonderful support system, over the next months, my eyesight has returned; though not to its full capacity. My eyes are in pain after a day of schoolwork; I can no longer pick up a book anytime I want to read. My symptoms are always changing, but some days I see floaters, black dots in my line of sight, other times I see auras and hazes, and sometimes a film colors my entire visual field. I write this NOT asking for pity or sympathy, but because I am crying out for an “undo” button or even a “reset” option. But this cry is futile, because humans are not technology.

My psyche, over these last few months, is slowly resetting  adapting. In order to survive I must acknowledge there is no “reset,” no “undo,” no “buying a new body.” Instead I embrace what eyesight I do have, treasuring the miracle of the human body’s “humanness;” its ability to cope with the blind spots that are the most natural parts of life. Perhaps, in some sick and beautiful way, my vision is better than ever before.

An Almost Wordless Wednesday

Good Morning! It has been a while. Here’s an almost wordless Wednesday. Here are photos of different aspects of Southern Jewish Life I have been exploring: plantations, trade, transportation, and ritual.

Farm Cultivation, ca. 1900, Norman Studio, Natchez, Mississippi (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)
Steamship Jno. A. Scudder fully laden with cotton bales moored just off the river bank, ca. 1890, Natchez, Mississippi, Norman Studio (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)
Synagogue, ca. 1880, Natchez, Mississippi, Norman Studio (Courtesy Louisiana State University Digital Collections)

Don’t blame me!

I promise, I really was going to write a blog post yesterday, but the power went off at 11:30 and didn’t go back on until 4:30. I went in search of a bookstore with a coffee shop that would have power, but I didn’t find one. Everything was closed due to the lack of power which was a result of a fire at the substation (whatever that means). I ended up at a coffee shop on Ludlow (don’t I sound like a local), which seemed to be the only place with power in a 2 mile radius from HUC. It reminded me a bit of Tea Chai Té, a place I frequently haunt in Portland. It had a  tea menu, slow service, and community journals to write in. It made me miss my friends (shout out to Adrienne, Alan, and Ceara <3).

I have been thinking a lot about the plantation database I am building. I am really shocked by some of the plantations that still exist today and their website designs. They seem nostalgic for a time when slavery was though of as acceptable (let’s move on people! not acceptable!). It is also hard because I have never learned my tech skills in a formal setting, I learn by myself, on the go, or with the librarians from Haverford, Laurie Allen and Mike Zarafonetis. I am still having trouble thinking about how to create the front-end for a database, which program to us,  ensuring that the aesthetics are pleasing, and that it is user friendly. I leave you with a few photos from this morning, the first day that the sun has shone in the morning.

Reading Room
Reading Room
Though almost everything is in an online catalog, there is about 10% of the archive that one can only find through the card catalog
Though almost everything is in an online catalog, there is about 10% of the archive that one can only find through the card catalog
Where I work everyday
Where I work everyday
The desk where you sign in and request archives.


Good Morning

Its my second day here and I am invigorated… well sort of. I woke up, got up to quickly, became dizzy, and hit my head on the floor while trying to reach the wall… not a great way to start my day. But my head ache has dissipated and I am sitting in the archives as we speak. Yesterday I didn’t spend a long time here because I had to get groceries and shampoo, but today I am here 9-5pm, like I hope to be every Monday – Thursday, (Friday 9-3pm, because of Shabbat). The archives are pretty amazing. Yesterday, I pulled three collections. The first was a set of photographs of my great grandfather Louis Israel Newman, a prominent Rabbi of Rodeph Sholom in New York City. I was just curious to see what they had, it wasn’t anything new, but it was still neat to see them. I haven’t pulled his sermons or his correspondence yet, perhaps later this summer.

I also pulled to collections relating to my research. One dealt with the Hyams family, related to Judah Benjamin, the secretary of state (among other titles) for the Confederacy. They were a prominent South Carolina family and it was particularly interesting to read their obituaries. They reminded me of my great-great uncles’ obituaries from Wilmington, North Carolina that had almost overly- assimilated tones. This may be something to explore further, examining the obituaries of Jews in the Delta region?

I also examined a collection from the Blantonia Plantation in Mississippi. This plantation became the site of Greenville, Mississippi, a large Jewish community on the Mississippi after the River destroyed the original site of  Greenville.

Many more collections and interesting folders of materials today…will update soon.

My workspace for the next 2 months #americanjewishhistory #jewishhistory #southernjews #reformjews #hebrewunioncollege

A photo posted by Laura Newman Eckstein (@lauraneckstein) on



From the Terminal

In the Philadelphia airport waiting for my flight:

So far a 50 ish year old Israeli man flirted with me and asked me to have a smoke with him

A woman, I don’t know if she’s on my flight; mumbled something at me and when I said “what?” She just smiled knowingly.

Then when I was washing my hands in the bathroom a woman identified me as a hiker and asked for tips on hiking in the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been there

It’s only been 50 minutes in the terminal…

New Plans

I am pleased to announce that this summer I am a John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center Summer Research Fellow.

A little bit more about the fellowship in general:

“These competitive grants are designed to support thesis-related or otherwise substantive research projects, enabling students to spend the summer visiting archives, learning a language necessary to scholarship, or dedicating their time to a focused program of reading.” Click here to learn more about the center and my fellowship.


I am excited to say the least. This is nerd, history-lover, religion major, anthropologist heaven. I am being PAID to research a topic of my choice to enhance my thesis*! Yes, it’s pretty great! I am very excited.

The not so exciting part were my housing issues and impediments. Originally, I had planned to stay at Haverford and work in the library on my research. But after housing shenanigans (I was 20th on the waitlist for an apartment, what!?) , I quickly (meaning, I stayed up all night researching possible options because I was so stressed) found a different option (drum roll). I will be living in Cincinnati in the Sisterhood Dorm at  Hebrew Union College. I will spend my days at the American Jewish Archives, literally across the parking lot from where I’m staying. Perfect, right?!

Why the American Jewish Archives (AJA)?

As you’ll read below, my thesis is VERY broadly about Jewish identity in the Southern United States.

“Today the AJA houses over ten million pages of documentation. It contains nearly 8,000 linear feet of archives, manuscripts, nearprint materials, photographs, audio and video tape, microfilm, and genealogical materials. The AJA exists to preserve the continuity of Jewish life and learning for future generations and aspires to serve scholars, educators, students, and researchers of all backgrounds and beliefs.” (See more here)

More specifically, the AJA has one of the finest collections of Southern Jewish archives in the world.

Now what exactly is my thesis about?  To answer the first question, I leave you with my proposal that I used to apply for the fellowship. (Also know that I was answering specific questions and had a limited word count, so if you’re confused that should be the reason).

So, those are my new plans. I am very excited and feel very fortunate to have this unique opportunity. I will spend May 31-Aug 1 in Cincinnati. In the meantime, I have 1 full week of classes left, finals, and then I leave for Israel on May 13 for my cousin’s wedding. I plan on posting regularly this summer. So its go, go, go. Life is exciting, I cannot complain.

*Every Haverford student is required to write a thesis as part of their graduation requirement. The thesis counts as a class and is usually structured as a year long seminar within your major. At Haverford, its a big deal and people take thesis writing seriously.



Government Dealings

Things have been pretty interesting around here. Last week I tried calling the Postal Service Historian. Turns out, there’s no number for that person, so I called the general USPS number. Needless to say, the many people I talked to on the phone told me that even if I went up through the totem poll, I’d never get to the historian. Also, they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Postal Service Historian. I also tried the call the National Archives with no luck, though they did tweet back at my complaint and told me to email or write them. I am still waiting for a response to my email. Today however, I called the Library of Congress’ maps division with a question regarding a postal map from 1850 I’m working with. The legend is one of the clearest I have seen. It clearly distinguishes the postal roads from the rail roads, canals, and telegraphs. However, when all three are present on the map at the same time I cannot tell when one stops or when only two are present. The other confusing thing is that the topographer outlined, as he did with the canals, some sections of railroad combined with another tr4ansportation route in brown. I can’t figure out why this is or the purpose. Neither could the woman I spoke to at the Library of Congress, but at least I was able to talk to a human. She also said she would talk to some other people and get back to me. Here’s to hoping.


Update: The Library of Congress did call me back. The reason some lines are brown is simplistic, the topographer didn’t finish coloring the map.

Disturnell’s new map of the United States and Canada by Henry A. Burr, Topographer to the Postal Service 1850, (Source: Library of Congress)