Sunday, November 30, 2008

Israel/New Orleans/ The American Dream

Young Israelis tell us about their immigration process. They have similar problems with new immigrants learning the language, the culture and the history while at the same time feeling resentment from the immigrants before them.

The people of Israel are fascinated by New Orleans. While I was there, they never asked, "why are you rebuilding the city?" The questions always was, "how is it coming along?" I tried to give a presentation at the Kol Dor Conference about building coalitions across diverse populations, but they were more interested in hearing about the series of events after the levees failed.

Immediately stepping off the plane, I gave a presentation at the Words and Music Festival with Shantrelle Lewis and Nolan Marshall. The theme for our presentation was The Great Gatsby and the American Dream and what it meant to the young professional today. To prepare for my presentation, I read the required reading, The Great Gatsby.

An interesting theme came to mind when thinking about the book in the context of post-Katrina New Orleans. Many of the characters in the book are not from the New York area, they are mostly from the mid-west, and they all seem lost in their new home. They are aimlesslesly searching around to find some meaning in their life, but can't find it. The big city is a giant that they do not connect with, and their downtown finance jobs do not allow to make any type of connection with the city. They could be anywhere, and that is what is different about New Orleans right now. People who came from other places got involved immediately with the city's people. They learned about the injustices that occurred and felt the perseverance of New Orleanians. It was addictive and as many of our peers live in big cities they do not connect with, young people in New Orleans feel very much a part of the city they live in.

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