Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On Culture. and Language

Since CJ moved to New York it has come to my attention that I live in a world-class city, a city that I have not really been using to the fullest extent. So, on this long weekend (while CJ was away at a conference, and Harley was home) I decided to see many friends and do many things.

Things that I accomplished:
-Saw a movie with my chevrusa* (Music and Lyrics By, much cuter than I thought)
-Went to the Ikea in Elizabeth, NJ, on the free bus
-Read several books (including finishing The Master and Margarita)
-Went to the Met to see the Nan Kempner exhibit (soooo cool)
-Took my dry cleaning to the cleaners
-Brought my favorite necklace to a jeweler to be fixed

While at the Met yesterday I decided to look at their special exhibit from Papua, New Guinea. And I noticed a few things:
First of all, that there is still a "primitive wing" even if they don't call it that anymore. Also, since I slept through/skipped most of my Intro to Art History class in college, I don't really know that much about art that isn't western, modern, renaissance, important to American History, or Egyptian. I think that the Met should address this by having better labels. Specifically in those areas that are less familiar to the average, ill-educated American.

Secondly, as anyone who has read The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler knows, the Met is full of random stuff. While wandering around I found a collection of South American jewelry, and my favorite, the armored horses. You know what else I found? Lots of Israelis. As I was walking towards the horses I heard a guy trying to explain the word "elaborate" in Hebrew in a heavy American accent.

I wanted to see the exhibit Glitter and Doom, so that I could talk about it in the context of Judaism (the roommate went to see it and was struck by the number of Jews and academics shown, and the foreshadowing of the Holocaust), but it was crazy crowded. And now it is over. So instead I wandered around bumping into every Israeli. Hooray Israelis! But here is my question, and I actually run into this more often with my other foreign language: if I understand what they are saying, do I have an obligation to tell the speaker? Israelis in New York should know better, it seems like every third person in New York speaks Hebrew, but the other language that I speak is rarely spoken by Caucasians, and even less frequently by young women. So, what is my obligation?

*Chevrusa is the Ashkenazic pronounciation of the word "chevruta" or partner. It refers to two people who learn Torah or other sacred texts together

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