Being Jewish in Olympia

 Inside Evergreen is pleased to feature a project created for spring quarter’s Documentary Photography class by senior
Josh Roth

It weighs in at just over twelve minutes.  Think of it as 12 One Minute Evergreens!

When I first moved to Olympia, Washington to attend The Evergreen State College, I knew little about the city itself and seemingly knew even less of who I was.  I was only 22 and it was the first time I lived away from home. At first It did not dawn on me how much intuitively I knew that aspects of my life personally were going to change but I did not have any idea how or why. 

Over the years I spent in Olympia, I became sensitive about my cultural heritage, which in a single event culminated in a very difficult experience. The memory is still very clear in my mind. My brother and I were driving back to our house, located near the Evergreen campus, wanting to explore, we decided to take a path that we hadn’t before.  Right as we were about to make back to Evergreen Parkway, coming around a bend in the road, we saw it flying high in front of what looked like a broken down home. It was a Neo-Nazi flag which is composed with the confederate flag as the background and the swastika perfectly centered. That moment instilled a fear and connectedness I never have felt about being Jewish.

The intentions behind Reflections on Identity: Jewish People of Olympia, was to create a dialogue about a vastly complicated subject. Topics from what its like to be Jewish in Olympia to the effects of the middle east conflicts define our people, our heritage and in a town where such few jewish people live made for a perfect conversation to have. Each interview covers varies topics and is intended to simply highlight a small aspect of what it means to be Jewish in Olympia. Given the timing of this project, I was able to make connections with the Olympia Jewish community Both at The Evergreen State College and the greater Olympia area.

In making this documentary, I have realized that there is not one mode of thought about Jewish though there are similarities in all of our stories, linking us to our lineage.  The isolation of the Olympia Jew brings us closer to our roots, friends and family because we do not have the distractions of a larger community, providing us the ability to create what we want to see and be. I have learned to be proud to be a part of this community, to be proud to be Jewish in Olympia in 2013.  –Josh Roth, spring 2013

visit Josh’s blog

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