by Rachel Rothstein
|Photo Credit: Rachel Rothstein|
If someone were to tell me five years ago that I would ever
be writing an article about how wonderful Cincinnati is, I’d have to tell them they were crazy. Crazy because at that time, other than Clifton and Hyde Park, I barely branched out of my own neighborhood in search of entertaining things to do in Cincinnati; I rarely sought out resources, events and places to go to on my own. Until I came back from college, I subconsciously operated under the warped mindset that all of the city’s treasures were supposed to automatically make themselves available to me without ever having to seek them out.
Under this narrow lens, it is easy to view Cincinnati as lacking in activity. If I can’t see it in front of me, then if must not be happening, right? This mindset is completely irrational in retrospect. It wasn’t that I was lazy, but it was that I never realized that if I gave an ounce of effort to the city, there was an endless return in the form of interesting, creative and exciting happenings going on in Cincinnati. This city has also given me something else that I believe is invaluable to its development and proliferation: a sense of pride.
After living in the homogeneous desert of Oxford, Ohio, I realized that a large part of what makes Cincinnati great is the communities and neighborhoods that make it up and the communal pride that exists within each of these areas. The communities lend character and personality to our city and are what truly make it distinct. I remember in third grade Social Studies learning about Porkopolis, Procter and Gamble, and the importance of being located right on the Ohio River. I also vaguely remember numerous field trips and history classes throughout elementary and high school where I stashed bits of knowledge away in the gray areas of my brain for safe keeping only to quickly spit them out once I was done using them.
Each passing year zoomed by, knowledge was gained, knowledge was lost, but somehow bits of knowledge here and there got stuck somewhere in between being gained and lost. Throughout this constant flux, I was never able to take a step back and think about what all information and history meant within the context of my own life. I was stuck in the process of regurgitating information without reflecting on it.
|Photo Credit: Rachel Rothstein|
A week ago I attended Access’ History of the JQC (Jewish Queen City) 101 at the American Jewish Archives with Dr. Gary Zola as part of Jewish American Heritage Month. Access
, an initiative of The Mayerson Foundation for Jewish young professionals, 21-35 sponsored this event to teach young professionals about Cincinnati’s rich Jewish history. While Cincinnati does have a proud legacy of Jewry and contributions made by Jewish people (which I never before knew about), I realized that it wasn’t only the contributions of these Jews that made (and make) Cincinnati a great city, but it’s the pride felt by the community who learns about these contributions as well.
For all of the things that draw people to a city, whether to visit or to move (businesses, geography, history, landmarks, museums, neighborhoods, etc.), a strong sense of pride is the best binding agent to string them all together. Pride also binds the past to the present and makes everything relevant in the eyes of those communities. A community that doesn’t recognize what it has, doesn’t champion its own treasures and doesn’t know its history has little chance of surviving in my opinion.
Last Monday, I sat in a room with my peers, individuals who are building their lives in Cincinnati and becoming part of the fabric of our Jewish community. I watched as they internalized the information presented to them. I saw them consciously stowing it, not in their gray areas, but in their hearts because there was a definitive feeling of pride pervading the room. It is this very same pride which lends strength to the pulse of the Cincinnati Jewish community and to the city of Cincinnati.
Go to Over the Rhine and I know you’ll find residents of that neighborhood who are proud to call that community their own. They cherish their historic assets like Findlay Market and Music Hall and there’s also so much new development taking place as well. In Northside, you’ll meet people who love going to the farmer’s market on the weekends, hanging out at Shake It Records, The July 4th Festival and better yet, their parade. Hyde Park, Eden Park, Walnut Hills, Oakley, Mount Lookout, Norwood— each one of these places has something unique to offer and dozens of stories to tell. Watch and listen to how people talk about their neighborhoods. You’ll hear their voices go up and down, resonating with an excitement that is unparalleled. That’s the connection that I missed years ago when I thought all that was important about Cincinnati were facts that could memorized and discarded. What’s important though is a connection that can’t be seen, it has to be felt. It’s a connection that ties our history to the present, making it relevant, and inspiring pride to continue and communities to prosper.