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UNI professor to premiere documentary film

October 25, 2012

Francesca Soans, associate professor, UNI Department of Communication Studies,

Stacey Christensen, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa will premiere professor Francesca Soans' documentary film, "Sons of Jacob Synagogue," at 4 p.m., on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

The pioneering documentary explores the histories and experiences of the Jewish community in Waterloo, from the early immigrants seeking new opportunities and freedom from persecution to the present day. Weaving together archival footage, interviews, photographs and texts, the documentary creates a complex picture of the identity of a community and its connection to place.

The film is the first in a five-part documentary series, "Waterloo: A History of Place," produced and directed by Soans and Robert Neymeyer. The series aims to examine the history of Waterloo through community memories of different places. In addition to the synagogue, future episodes will look at a department store, a neighborhood, a factory and a movie theatre.

"Dr. Neymeyer and I picked these everyday places because these are the spaces in which we exist," said Soans. "It is our memory of these places that help shape our sense of who we are and that provide us with a sense of history. Most people are unaware of the role the Jewish community played in Waterloo's history or even that there is a significant Jewish community in the Midwest. Their stories reflect the experiences of many--the desire for a better life that prompted early migrations, the struggles and successes of different generations, the meaning of religion in a changing world, and the loss of the younger generation to outward migration from Iowa."

An original score was composed for the film by Rebecca Burkhardt, professor in the School of Music, and performed by School of Music faculty. Students from communication studies/electronic media also worked on the project.

The documentary received funding from a Humanities Iowa major grant and grants from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Soans at