Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Interesting facts about my hometown...

So, I'm reading this book "Haven" by Ruth Gruber that tells the story of the only authorized rescue of the Jews during World War II by the US Government and how they were brought to my hometown of Oswego, NY. Interestingly enough, if you Google "Oswego, NY" you can go through 6 pages of results (and I'm sure more but I quit there) without a single mention of it. I Googled "oswego, ny's involvement in WWII" and got ZERO results, and then lastly I searched "jewish refugees in oswego, ny" and got the info you'll see if you click the title of this post, which includes one sentence referring to the fact. However, it does include some interesting (3rd use of that word - looks like somebody needs a thesaurus! Birthday idea! NOT.) demographical data which I will refer to below.

Now, in case you don't know anything about Oswego, NY, (and if you do we must be related) there are no Jews there. (Okay, maybe 3 or 4, but that's not even a percent of a percent of the population.) I mean, I remember finding out that Aaron Gordon was Jewish in high school because his mother wouldn't let him sing the lyrics to Silent Night in chorus. But my chorus teacher was so cool, he let us sing a Jewish song, too! "Shalom, haverim!" I love that song. Anyway... Oswegonians are basically a bunch of pleasantly plump Polish, Italian, German and Irish Catholics. (The Irish ones aren't so much "plump" as they are "drunk.") My point is: How come none of the Jewish refugees decided to stay in town? Is Oswego so boring that 1,000 people were like, "Um, thanks for the freedom and everything, but, this town blows... get some black people, would ya?" Oh, yeah. Oswego doesn't really have any black people either. Now how are you gonna have high quality entertainment without any Blacks or Jews? You're not. That's why I've always felt like a Black Jewish Lesbian trapped in a White Catholic Straight girl's body. (I was the president of the drama club, you know.)

Oswego is 95% white. And the per capita income is $16,500 a year. You know what that makes us Oswegonians? P.W.T. (Don't make me spell it, people.) Let's just say we all have something in common with Britney Spears.
Except she's rich.
Of course, according to the US Government, you should be able to take care of 3 people on Oswego's per capita income, and as a single person you're not poor unless you make $8,900 a year. I think you'd be hard pressed to live on that kind of money, even in the smallest most forgotten town.
Not that Oswego has been forgotten, per se, but it is certainly not receiving the historical recognition it deserves.

My point is this: Oswego played a huge role in a huge war and no one really knows about it. We also played a huge role in the Underground Railroad. Thanks to Rosemary Nesbitt, people actually know a bit about that. (Rosemary is also part of the Safe Haven movement and I should say that there is an exhibit about it at Fort Ontario, but who actually goes to Fort Ontario?)

That's the point. It's kinda like people who were born and raised in New York never going to Ellis Island. Except everyone in the world knows about Ellis Island.

Now, my mother is going to tell me that people do know about the Safe Haven and that everyone knows that Eleanor Roosevelt came to Oswego and blah blah blah. And maybe that's true. But I feel like it should be more important, especially to the people who live there. Here's a quote from a refugee that speaks to that:

"I'm very grateful. I know my parents were very grateful to the people in town, because they were very good to us. It's too bad that this was the only camp of its kind in the United States of America. When you think of how many millions were killed, and how many could have been saved! So it's really a historic place, and I think it should get a lot of praise and a lot of attention. So that it doesn't happen to anyone else, to be forgotten like most of our people were forgotten."
-EVA KAUFMAN DYE

So, anyway - long story short, I had an idea to do a one woman show about the whole thing and to premiere it in Oswego. It's a bit of a pipe dream, so who knows... but I will certainly let you know, my faithful readers. (Don't worry, Ellen, there is totally a part for you in it.)

I know this post is a little all over the place, but so was Team America and it got three stars. (From me, but still...) You wouldn't be here if you didn't want me raw to the (Black Jewish Lesbian) core.

So now, on a final note, I bid you farewell.
I am so hungry from that office lunchtime smell!
Burger King here, cheese pizza there,
(now you know why my midrif is not bare.)
Wish me luck on my quest to get lunch,
and thank you for reading, oh, yes, thanks a bunch!