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Chat on migration opens Jewish History Museum season

Scott Warren listens to a question from the audience at the Jewish History Museum gallery chat, Sept. 6. (Debe Campbell)

Tucson’s Jewish History Museum marked its reopening for the 2019-2020 season with a gallery chat by Scott Warren, Ph.D., a humanitarian aid worker and academic geographer. Focusing on the topographies of migration, Warren addressed the geographic sense of landscape and place and how memory and erasure can affect them.

About 40 students from Tucson’s downtown Paulo Freire Freedom School were among the standing-room-only crowd. A simultaneous videocast reached an overflow audience in the museum’s Holocaust History Center. Jodie Shapiro, the museum’s Zuckerman Fellow, emceed the event.

“Migration is a central part of shaping this place and part of how our place looks and feels,” Warren said of the borderlands region. “The forces are new but old. The more things change, the more they stay the same as we normalize them.”

Warren described landscape as an accumulation of natural and human factors that make a place, yet can be disembodied from place. “Place is the more experiential relationship we have with where we live and visit,” he explained. Calling the two ideas near and dear to his heart, Warren said landscape reflects culture. “You can read a landscape to understand it, but it conceals as much as it reveals.”

During a reception following the chat, a new mural by JJ Dardano was on view. It depicts a quote by Elie Wiesel from his speech at a sanctuary symposium in Tucson on Jan. 22, 1985: “We must be with those who have suffered, and we must be with those who have tried to prevent others from suffering.”

Warren was arrested in 2018 and faced federal charges of harboring and conspiracy to harbor two Central American immigrants outside Ajo, Arizona; the trial ended in a hung jury in June. He will be retried again for harboring on Nov. 14 in Tucson. He notes that he is one of many volunteers rendering humanitarian aid in the desert, “and for whatever reason, I was arrested for giving food, water, clean clothes, and beds,” when many others are doing the same.

The next gallery chat is Friday, Sept. 27 with Ellen Melamed, founding member of Jewish Lesbian Daughters of Holocaust Survivors. The museum is at 564 S. Stone Ave. For more information go to www.jewishhistorymuseum.org or call 670-9073.