Ashkenaz: Self-Guided Audio Tour
Ashkenaz does an excellent job of sharing cultural diversity through a variety of experiences, but slightly hidden behind the main focus is the heritage of Ashkenaz itself, which lies in its inception and legacy. Although it is spilling over with symbols of this, the meaning may not be apparent to all. This tour allows people to experience the richness of the place in addition to the culture it encourages. The focus incorporates music, but showcases the other themes of education, community and history of political activism.
Beginning the tour outside shows how the building was remodeled based on synagogues in Europe so the founder, David Nadel, could show his connection to his Jewish ancestry. The name “Ashkenaz” has the same origin and visitors are able to read David’s handwritten notes about this as they enter the building.
Moving into the venue guests experience the energy and passion behind the political activism in Berkeley during the 1970s, following David’s journey promoting peace and human rights. The original protest posters covering the walls recall many events, including his tireless presence in People’s Park advocating for the homeless. These actions in the name of peace resulted in multiple arrests and a lawsuit filed against him by the University of California. But they also resulted in great honors; David was gifted a flag from Cesar Chavez’s coffin and later the Cesar Chavez Legacy Award. Including background noise from protests, jail doors slamming shut, or hammering of judges’ gavels all help visitors grasp the power of these moments.
Throughout the tour, references showcasing impact on the community are present in the memorabilia, including documents dedicating Ashkenaz an official landmark, designating David Nadel Week and multiple magazine covers awarding Ashkenaz. Adding audio excerpts from dance classes and musicians intensify personal feelings and augment the community involvement that has always occurred here.
Beyond the main room, visitors may enter the band room if it is open to explore photographs and personal marks left by countless musicians. As they loop back, guests learn the dance floor is made of discarded pencils from a local lumber company and multiple gifts from artists show sentiments from the community. Heading towards the exit, the café provides food and drinks. The menu is always vegetarian, but everyone should be warned the culturally diverse homemade cuisine changes frequently.
Caution is advised in mentioning David’s death; visitors must be assured safety but also informed of this important moment. Overall, an interactive self-guided audio tour enhances experiences by educating history, political activism, and community involvement through our five senses. Additional visitation to the café will increase income as will the purchase of the tour, likely paying for itself at a download cost of one dollar. It affords Ashkenaz a wider audience, offering a multi-sensorial experience to those who may not want to dance and appealing to those intrigued by history. Finally, this tour should be offered as a simple audio file, requiring no specific device, making it more appealing to audiences not savvy with technology.
Take a look at our other proposed interpretive projects: