Event Joins Native American, Jewish Cultures

“We are walking on the blood of Native Americans everywhere we go in the western United States,” says Rabbi Jonathan Seidel, a religion instructor at Lane Community College. “We need to be conscious of that.” 

On May 15, the Oregon Jewish Culture Project will sponsor a Jewish and Native American storytelling and discussion event at LCC’s Longhouse. 

One might question what connects the two cultures. Seidel explains that both Jews and Native Americans share the value of storytelling and experiences with social injustice. 

“We really wanted to create a dialogue between Native Americans and Jews who share a lot of things in common. Number one is displacement and diaspora, homelessness, exile, struggle, genocide, oppression by the majority culture,” Seidel says.

Seidel has invited several storytellers to share fictional stories, folklore and autobiographical tales. Some of these speakers include James Florendo, who is the director of Native American studies at LCC, Jaeci Hall, who will discuss reviving Indian language, Debra Zaslow, Ahavah Oblack, who helped organize the event, and Brian Rohr.

Seidel explains that storytelling is central to both cultures, because “folklore is impactful for building community. People lose their story, they lose their identity,” he says. 

The hope for this event, Seidel says, is that it will first and foremost be a fun experience for audience members. He adds that it might also create a desire for understanding, openness and perhaps spark ideas for new programming around social justice, such as poverty and homelessness.

Seidel says that the speakers are balanced in gender and that he wanted women’s voices to be prominent. 

The event runs 1 pm to 6:30 pm Sunday, May 15 at the Lane Community College Longhouse, 4000 E. 30th Avenue. It is free, but donations are encouraged and will go towards Native American Studies at LCC and the Oregon Jewish Culture Project. For more information, contact Seidel at rabbiseidel@gmail.com.