Soans-Neymeyer Film Awarded by State Historical Society of Iowa
The State Historical Society of Iowa selected Sons of Jacob Synagogue, a documentary directed by Francesca Soans and Robert Neymeyer, for the 2014 Loren Horton Community History Award. Governor Terry E. Branstad honored the award winners at a ceremony at the State Capitol on May 14.
The Sons of Jacob Synagogue (2013) is an hour-long documentary and part of a larger documentary project: Waterloo: A History of Place, co-directed by Soans and Neymeyer. The documentary uses the synagogue as a focal point for telling the history of a place and a people: the Jewish community of the Waterloo, Iowa area. It documents the history and struggles of this minority community using interviews, newspaper stories, maps, artifacts, and striking imagery. The story told in the documentary traces the synagogue as a spiritual center and a symbol of the community, exploring connections between memory, place, and identity.
"Quite simply, the care taken with the entire production – the interviews, the videography, the research, the editing, the music – makes clear that local history matters, that it is worthy of our time and care, that it is worth doing the work to remember," wrote Communication Studies professor Catherine Palczewski in her letter of nomination. "By telling the story of the struggles and survival of a minority community, it enables appreciation of the diverse histories that populate an area that people often assume to be homogenous."
The Loren Horton Community History Award is named in honor of Loren Horton, who represented the State Historical Society of Iowa in many capacities from 1973 until his retirement in 1996. As the Society’s field services coordinator and senior historian, Horton’s work brought him in close contact with many local historical organizations. In keeping with that legacy, this award recognizes the best project that increases awareness and participation in Iowa history on a local level. The award recognizes an individual, group, or organization whose outstanding local history project was completed during the previous calendar year.
Sons of Jacob Synagogue was funded by grants from Humanities Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guernsey Foundation.