Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, will culminate in two service projects and a collaborative documentary film about civic engagement. In this post the vice president of the Latvian Society of Philadelphia describes a workshop conducted with students on October 13.
How much do you know about Latvia? Take this quiz (answers below):
1. Which is the largest ethnic minority in Latvia?
2. What is the capital of Latvia?
3. When did Latvia gain independence from the Soviet Union?
How'd you do? Read on to find out more about how the Latvian Society of Philadelphia is helping the At the Table students bone up on all their Latvia knowledge, too!
The Philadelphia Society of Free Letts (or just, “The Latvian Society”) is the oldest continuously active and operating Latvian members’ society in the world. Founded in 1892 by seven men escaping from Czarist Russia, the Latvian Society has been an unseen fixture in Philadelphia. Over the years, the society has been a hub of activity for Latvian immigrants and their descendants to gather and support one another and maintain their Latvian identity.
When we heard that students from Philadelphia and Riga, Latvia, were going to be involved in the cultural exchange project At the Table: Connecting Conversation, Culture and Service in Latvia and the U.S., it seemed only fitting that we be involved in any way that we could, so we agreed to conduct a Latvia 101 workshop for the students.
Ilze Berzins (my mom, by the way) put together an hour-long presentation that covered topics such as history, language, culture, and food. She raced through the topics at breakneck speed to provide a wide range of information that would hopefully help the Philadelphia students get a better understanding of the culture and people that they would be interacting with over the course of this project.
This project gives us an opportunity to become a more visible part of the city of Philadelphia and to be a resource for all things Latvian. We are proud to support the larger civic mission of this project as well, because as everyone knows these are difficult times for many people, and Philadelphia and Riga (as well as the rest of Latvia) are no exception. We hope that by being a part of this project we can make an impact in the lives of the youth involved in this project and, in turn, help the dual communities that many of us at the Latvian Society call home.
QUIZ ANSWERS: 1-A, 2-C, 3-DAdams Berzins is the Vice President of the Latvian Society of Philadelphia.