A collage of thumbnail images from the Collecting These Times collection.
Culture

Help Document Jewish Life during the Pandemic

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the Council of American Jewish Museums have joined forces with a number of institutions to create CollectingTheseTimes.org, a web portal that connects a variety of projects collecting mages, videos, audio recordings, documents, and oral histories about Jewish life during COVID-19, making it easy for the general public to both browse and contribute. Full press release with links below.

Collecting These Times: American Jewish Experiences of the Pandemic
Invites Communities to Contribute to Collections Documenting Jewish Life During Pandemic
Collecting Projects Led by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the Council of American Jewish Museums Are Accessible to All

Washington, DC — A new web portal connects American Jews to Jewish institutions and collecting projects that are gathering and preserving materials related to Jewish life during the pandemic. The interactive website, Collecting These Times: American Jewish Experiences of the Pandemic (CollectingTheseTimes.org), was developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University in partnership with the Council of American Jewish Museums, the Breman Museum, the Capital Jewish MuseumHebrew Theological College, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.

This new website offers an easy way for people to find collecting projects and contribute images, videos, audio recordings, documents, and oral histories to institutions in different parts of the U.S. Users can also browse curated contributions from different Jewish communities, covering everything from Jewish ritual practices to schools,  summer camps, businesses, and many other aspects of Jewish life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Collecting These Times is accessible to anyone who wants to share their experiences or better understand how Jewish life in the U.S. has changed over the past year,” says Jessica Mack of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.  “We have much to learn about how individuals, families, and communities have used creativity and tenacity to reimagine so many Jewish experiences during the pandemic, and we hope that the site will be an educational resource both now and in the future. The collections will continue to grow as more people contribute content and tell their stories.”

“The website represents an extraordinary confluence of interest and determination by everyone involved,” says Zev Eleff, chief academic officer of Hebrew Theological College. “Our shared aim is to democratize our knowledge and wisdom of the current pandemic to deepen learning and scholarship on contemporary Jewish life.”

Collecting These Times currently connects users to over 70 collecting projects, including American Jewish Life, a digital collection developed last year by RRCHNM in collaboration with six Jewish partner organizations. To find a collection and contribute your own materials, visit collectingthesetimes.org and click Find a Collecting Project. The list of collections will continue to expand as the project aims to connect to and host additional collecting projects from different Jewish communities and institutions. Libraries, archives, researchers, educators, students, and others can access all content at no cost and share content with each other. Funding for the project comes from a group of Jewish funders, the Chronicling Funder Collaborative, that are supporting efforts to document diverse Jewish experiences of the pandemic. The Collaborative also awarded a grant to the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), enabling it to partner with 18 member institutions to lead a broad-based oral history collecting initiative.

The Funder Collaborative is composed of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, Jim Joseph Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and The Russell Berrie Foundation.

Efforts to elevate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are integral to both the web portal and oral history collecting campaign. Both entities seek to engage populations that are rarely included in this type of collecting and interpretation, lending valuable insights into a diverse range of Jewish pandemic experiences. Both projects will be working with DEI consultants and an advisory board in approaching this work with an inclusive lens and strategy.

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 Since 1994, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has created websites and other digital media with the goal of democratizing history for scholarly, public, and educational audiences. RRCHNM brings together scholars, web developers and designers, and graduate and undergraduate students to accomplish that mission. In addition to democratizing history for the over two million people who visit its websites each year, RRCHNM is passionate about enabling the work of other institutions, especially through its ability to develop websites and software, host technical infrastructure, and manage projects and grants. RRCHNM is a research center at George Mason University, the largest public research university in Virginia and one of the most diverse universities in the United States.

 The Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) is an association of institutions and individuals committed to enriching American and Jewish culture and enhancing the value of Jewish museums to their communities. It offers programs, networking, and learning opportunities to the Jewish-museum field, and highlights issues pertaining to the presentation and preservation of Jewish culture. It is the leading forum for Jewish museums in North America. 

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