postcard highlights

Here a few selections from my postcard collection, which is mainly comprised of the category I refer to as “religious scenes.” Their subjects are varied but they all date from roughly 1950-1980. The first shows a passion play production in South Dakota (a performance that moves to Florida in the summer). The second postcard (one of my favorites) shows a small boy drinking from the La Source Miraculous (The Miraculous Spring) in Sainte Anne de Beaupré, Quebec. The third selected postcard is of a Billy Graham revival meeting at Madison Square Garden, with a pre-generated and signed message from Graham on the reverse side.

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See more here.

nobody, like you

Today I attended services at RiverRock, a Pentecostal church in Buffalo, NY. Together with the BMICF (Buffalo Myanmar Indigenous Christian Fellowship), RiverRock is now housed in a former Catholic church in the Black Rock neighborhood.  It is also home to services provided by Jericho Road’s Vive Shelter.


Many of those at the service were refugees from Burundi but now live in Michigan. They graciously offered a wonderful performance for the congregation (see below for video).


The head pastor, Rev. Dr. Robert Rice, a member of the Seneca Nation, permits another pastor from the Congo to give the sermon each week. He is, naturally, French-speaking and owing to this another man must translate into English–no small feat. In addition to this, there are services in Swahili, Kurundi, and other languages as the community needs. In a city with a large refugee population, this flexibility and accommodation has become standard.

It was a pleasure to join this community. I want to thank my good friend and fellow historian Rebekah for the invitation. If you are part of a religious organization, ask a friend along. It’s always easier to go to a new worship service if you are accompanied by a member who can show you around and introduce you to community members.

Before I end, I also want to mention that Rebekah is doing great work aiding formerly- incarcerated men, fighting to decrease the maximum days New York state prisoners can legally spend in solitary confinement, and also teaching and mentoring refugees and returned citizens at Houghton College Buffalo. <– Check these organizations out.

peach kugel

Last Sunday, Beth Tephlilah Synagogue in Troy, NY hosted an open house during the city’s annual Victorian Stroll event. They served vegetarian matzoh ball soup and peach noodle kugel (my first!) before giving tours of their historic synagogue. For many years I lived and worked right near the synagogue, and was curious about the one building that remained, somewhat miraculously, in a sea of parking lots.  Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 11.06.38 AM

I was told the synagogue was an exact replica of one in Poland, although the details of how this came to be have since been forgotten. What remains, however, is the story of a man, newly-settled in Troy, who passed out upon first walking into the synagogue. When he went back the next day, he passed out again. Turns out the synagogue it was modeled after was the one from his home town. He, along with thousands of Jews, had fled Europe due to the  anti-Jewish pogroms, leaving behind family members, familiar places, and dear sacred spaces.



Due to a problem with their furnace, and the small size of their community (around 50 people), services are generally held in a small basement synagogue. Visitors were told they could touch the Torah scrolls, sit on the perfectly-crafted benches, and linger as long as they desired without supervision. This was a welcome instruction, as its often unclear what one should or shouldn’t touch or do when in a sacred place.



The area surrounding the synagogue was the old Jewish neighborhood of Troy, which during its peak in the late 19th century was home to the highest population of Jews outside New York City. The streets were filled with busy kosher butchers and bakeries. Many of the Jewish families there were newly-settled refugees who escaped pogroms in the Russian Empire. I was told the synagogue was their sanctuary in many ways socially and spiritually. Whenever any threats arose it was the walls of the synagogue that many sought security within.

One noted threat was the neighboring Irish community, members of which repeatedly broke the synagogue’s windows. (Guests were reassured that not all the Irish were bad people, of course). Apparently the Jewish men retaliated and a skirmish ensued.  Even though no more windows were broken after that, other anti-Semitic attacks and threats occurred. One particularly fearful event was when a Nazi rally was held at the since-closed Germania Hall only a few miles north.

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If you’re interested in visiting the synagogue, they are hosting a Hanukkah party with “exotic latkes” on December 17 and everyone is welcome. There is also a reform congregation right around the corner you can visit, Berith Shalom–the oldest continuously used synagogue in New York, dating from 1868.

earliest virgin

This 16th century codex, now on display at the Library of Congress, is thought to be the earliest image of the Madonna and Child created by Indians in the New World. Prepared by native artists in 1531, this image served as part of a lawsuit brought by indigenous people of Huejotzingo, Mexico on behalf of Hernan Cortes. Cortes sued the judges of the Mexico City court for demanding excessive tribute payment from the Indians under their jurisdiction. In the end, they won. It  was an unprecedented victory.  How did the Madonna and Child factor into this dispute? That part of the story I did not learn. Not yet.

life on the ark

Talmudic considerations of the biblical flood to ponder as the rain continues:

On the ark, precious stones as bright as the noon sun provided light. The sun rose in the west and set in the east. The water of the flood was as hot and thick as semen. Noah was engaged day and night feeding and caring for the animals and did not sleep for an entire year. The raven created problems–refusing to leave the ark when Noah sent it forth, accusing the patriarch of wishing to destroy its race and desiring its mate. Noah dismissed the accusation, pointing out that he hadn’t even slept with his own [human] wife. The lion caught a fever and lost its appetite for several months. The phoenix didn’t ask for food for fear of bothering Noah. Male ravens spit semen into the females’ mouths.

(Derived from Sanhedrin 108-Babylonian Talmud)



New journal article out here on the history of (what I argue is) the first eugenics experiment in the U.S–stirpiculture at the Oneida Community. Many scholars, and those otherwise interested, often frame utopias such as the Oneida Community (OC) as “failed experiments.” I think this is a myopic analysis, especially in the case of the OC. The community lasted four decades–that’s a long time to live communally in dedication to principles never before carried out in history. It’s a long time to not have claims to any personal money, possessions, or even blood relatives. And it’s a long time to carry out a novel vision of a new American spiritual society. There were struggles–of course. But what my examination of stirpiculture signals to me is a dedication and follow-through on principles which radically reimagined the definitions many of us take for granted today. Marriage, property, childrearing, conception, reproduction, contraception, non-monogamous relationships–these are just some of the many concepts which were drastically rewritten by the OC and its leader John Humphrey Noyes.







the Falls will transform into the lake of fire


Niagara Falls, New York

Second Coming House of Prophet Isaiah


these are the seals– 7, this is the ark of the covenant , 7 point star represents God, God is  a wheel, Jesus Christ at the bottom of the falls, last chance. the judgement seat of Jesus Christ is on Goat Island–where he will separate goats from the sheep. the Falls will transform into the lake of fire. we are scared China and Russia will use nuclear weapons. United States are protected by God. a black person in the White House? –reason why Barack Obama is in the White House is that he’s the last president. there will be no more presidents.”