I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in what is now notoriously known as the ninth ward the hardest hit area by the storm. I was scheduled to teach at the University of New Orleans two weeks after the storm hit, but Katrina changed all of that.
I grew up in New Orleans but left right after I finished my M.A. and moved to Israel. I had always been active in Jewish youth groups and knew I was destined to go to Israel to live and the war in Vietnam was nipping at my heels. I figured that if I had to go to war, I might as well fight for something I really believed in. I got to Israel just before the outbreak of The Six Day War in 1967 and stayed for many years. I never thought I would return to America but a serious offer came my way and I decided to come back for two years in 2005. No sooner had I arrived than I was hit by the storm and my life changed completely. Knowing I would be here for a while, I brought everything with me and all was lost. I actually was evacuated by the National Guard and flown to Arkansas. I spend a couple of months living at the Red Cross shelter in Pine Bluff and then came on to Little Rock which I now call home. Let me say this to you all, you cannot imagine what it is like to suddenly realize that you have nothing.Things that we take for granted like band aids,scotch tape, a screwdriver suddenly become luxuries. It is a rude awakening to realize that the books and the movies you love, your favorite shirt, your diplomas and your credentials have been lost forever. To be yanked away from your memories, from your material possessions and from everything you know and to be brought to a strange place and have to start all over again is not easy. I must say that the people of Arkansas have been wonderful and after a year of not really knowing who I am, I finally feel at home. I do not know how long I will stay here? My ultimate goal is to go back to Israel, but I figure I will be here for at least two more years.
I have always been somewhat of an activist. Marching for civil rights, integrating the New Orleans public school faculties by being the first white teacher in a black school, speaking up for what I believe in have always been a part of me. Having come out when teaching at a rich boy’s private school way back when was a decision I made and when I did, I left the closet far behind. I cannot look at intolerance and stand by quietly. This does not mean that I’m not discrete. I do not believe in throwing ideas or issues in the face of people but, on the other hand, I will not allow intolerance to be part of my life. In Israel, I was a founder of the Society for the Protection of Personal Privilege which eventually became the gay liberation movement of the country and we sued El AL Airlines for domestic partnership rights and won. This was the breakthrough and Israel has gone on to be the most tolerant place in the Middle East for gays and lesbians. There is a brand new gay community center in Tel Aviv and I suppose we are directly responsible for the change of the government’s policies on gay life. In fact, Israel is on her way to becoming the center of European gay life. All of the noise about World Pride and the religious issues are really not what they seem. The American media has a way of distorting things, as we all know.
I have also always been an academic. My fields are gay studies and existential philosophy and I am currently working on two projects: one is an existential view on the raising of gay consciousness and the other is a book on growing up gay and Jewish in the South.
Let me thank all of you for reading my posts. Now I have reviews to write so I had better get back to work.
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