A Language Everyone Understands

By Yelena Gerovich
New American Acculturation Coordinator

On Feb. 8, the great movie maestro John Williams celebrated his 85th birthday. “John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives. Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies,” said Howard Stringer.

Williams has composed music for more than 150 movies and television shows, including a 40 year collaboration with director Steven Spielberg. He won Oscars for his scores to “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “ET” and “Schindler’s List.” His fifth Academy Award was for the adaptation and original song score to the 1971 film “Fiddler on the Roof.” When Spielberg asked Williams to compose the score for “Schindler’s List,” Williams was amazed and felt it would be too challenging. He said to Spielberg, “You need a better composer than I am for this film.” Spielberg responded, “I know. But they’re all dead!”

The violin theme in “Schindler’s List,” performed by Itzhak Perlman, made many of those watching cry. This is because, no matter the differences between people (13.1 percent of the U.S. population is foreign, according to 2013 Pew Research) everyone can understand the language of music. But it’s not always so easy for everyone to understand each other. Differences in the ways in which people live and relate to each other can create stress. Even the simplest daily tasks, such as shopping for food or asking for directions, can become challenging when there is a language barrier, as well as the potential for cultural misunderstandings.

Working with diverse refugee groups, educators need to be aware of and sensitive to the migration, acculturation, and stress that many learners experience. We are very grateful to all our educators and volunteers. A variety of approaches, methods, techniques and technologies are used in the teaching and learning process. The New American Acculturation Program has recently offered educational programs for all groups of immigrants including citizenship classes, “Shabbat Together,” and “Yad Ezra Foundation Today,” presented by Svetlana Kriger, the first director of the Yad Ezra Foundation in Moscow, Russia, and Irina Polyakova. Thanks to the financial support of the State of Connecticut Department of Social Services, Women of Vision Society of the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, which has made this possible.

As John Williams said: “So much of what we do is ephemeral and quickly forgotten, even by ourselves, so it’s gratifying to have something you have done linger in people’s memories.”

For more information about the New American Acculturation Program, including sponsorships of specific programs, please contact Yelena Gerovich at (203) 387-2424 x321, or email ygerovich@jewishnewhaven.org.


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