You can see Harry Maziar recall the wonder of Erwin Zaban, a man who was slight in stature but was “a giant among giants” in Atlanta’s Jewish and secular communities.
You can see Sherry Frank reveal not only that her inspiration has always come from Atlanta’s synagogues, but that “in a different world I probably would have been a rabbi.”
You can see 13-year-old Josh Dwoskin, who created a special-needs basketball camp for his bar mitzvah project, express his hope to pass Judaism on to future generations “so that there are more Jews not just in Atlanta, but in the whole world.”
And, the men behind the Moments in Time project hope, at some point while enjoying the stories and wisdom of those three and 27 other people considered pillars of Jewish Atlanta, you’ll be inspired to stop watching and start acting to contribute your piece of the community’s saga.
“We don’t know where this is going to end up, but we feel like it’s a great launching pad for people to learn about their family history, about the community history — really become more activated and interested,” said Justin Milrad, who started Moments in Time with Isaac Frank and Temple Sinai Rabbi Brad Levenberg and is credited by his partners with being the Marcus Foundation-funded project’s driving force.
Moments in Time is a two-phase effort to create a continually growing oral community history.
The first phase, launching now through Facebook and a dedicated page on the video-sharing site Vimeo, is a collection of curated conversations with those 30 community pillars, representing three generations of Jewish Atlantans.
Many of them are people you know because their names are on buildings or they have led community institutions, such as Maziar, Lois Frank, Bernie Marcus, Cherie Aviv and Eliot Arnovitz. Others are part of a younger generation of community leaders, such as Seth Cohen, Dov Wilker, Staci Brill and Avery Kastin. And some are people you might not know but should because they have played important behind-the-scenes roles, are contributors on the rise or embody elements of the community.
One of the keys to the first phase is the curation of the video interviews.
The project doesn’t ask you to watch 30-minute videos in the hope of finding moments that are meaningful to you. Instead, the edited videos are broken into snippets, most of which run about two minutes. Each is categorized by a theme, such as Judaism, mentors, legacy, culture and words of wisdom, so you can choose clips based on who is talking or what the person is talking about.
Isaac Frank said Moments in Time aims to match this moment in culture, when attention spans are short but sharing can make any video go viral.
“Two minutes is about all people can take at a time. We have to meet them where they are,” he said, adding that such outreach must apply to the ways we do Judaism as well as the ways we consume information.
Rabbi Levenberg said he’s excited by the idea of the snippets as conversation starters. Those discussions could take place informally in comments posted with the videos or in formal group settings in which recorded thoughts on the same topic from different people are shown together to provide contrasting perspectives.
“It validates people’s passion for the Atlanta community, their passion as community Jews, their willingness to spend their time and their dollars in growing the community,” Milrad said.
The Vimeo site has more than 200 clips already, and not all 30 interviews have been processed and posted. But the project doesn’t end with that archive, no matter how important or representative of Jewish Atlanta as whole.
In Phase 2, which should launch in early 2017 and include a dedicated website, everyone in Jewish Atlanta with a smartphone becomes a potential part of what Rabbi Levenberg called an “active archive of the Jewish experience.”
Moments in Time will provide a guide to creating family history videos, including a set of questions to get the conversation started between, say, an eighth-grader and his grandmother. The Moments in Time team will edit those homemade videos and add the results to the community archive, although families will have the option to keep them private.
Each person inspired to, as the logo says, capture, preserve and share their moments will receive edited and raw footage for family use.
And if it works here, Milrad said, they hope other Jewish communities will pick up the idea.
“If you ask anybody, ‘Is it a good idea?’ they’ll say yes,” Milrad said about recording family stories for transmittal through the generations. “Some people get it done, but many do not. We’re hoping we can accelerate that.”