'Our Neighbors, the Amish'

Photo by Emily Hawk/Knoxville Journal-ExpressDianne Kramer presents the Amish life to nearly 50 attendees Monday.

Those intrigued by the Amish community were given the opportunity to learn, ask questions and taste traditional Amish treats on Monday at the Knoxville Public Library.

Don and Dianne Kramer presented the captivating lifestyle of the Amish, a community that is close to home but often unfamiliar to us. “Our Neighbors, the Amish” is a program focused on educating viewers on Amish history, key beliefs, language, marriage, schools, social gatherings, clothing and more.

“Learning about these private people isn’t always a straightforward task,” said Adult Services Librarian Heather Libby.

The Kramer’s are lifelong educators from Dyersville and neighbors of three Amish communities. Through their interaction with their neighbors and extensive research, they’ve become amateur anthropologists.

“One of our main goals is to present information that is accurate and truthful,” said Dianne Kramer.

The presentation was broken into 16 topics and included a short intermission to allow attendees to sample traditional Amish goods, which included different types of cookies and bread. The Kramer’s enjoy focusing on the Old Order Amish because of their lifestyle.

“They live today very much as they lived in the early 1900s,” said Dianne Kramer. “Some of you may be able to identify with some of their ways of living.”

One of the main goals of the program is to debunk misleading beliefs and alleviate the sense of otherness. For example, Dianne Kramer stated society often mistakes Amish women as submissive, lacking authority and power of opinion. However, Amish women do have a voice in their communities.

“Women do have input, and that’s often a misconception,” said Dianne Kramer. “Women’s voices are heard, and they’re decisions and opinions in family and school board issues are often called upon.”

Additionally, Dianne Kramer stated society tends to pass judgment on the Amish community based on their education. Youth are taught until eighth grade, but Don Kramer stated children are learning high school level arithmetic at a younger age.

“The real test of Amish schools is not how they compare to our schools,” said Dianne Kramer. “The real test is how well the schools prepare the Amish youth for success in their culture and meaningful lives in their society.”

The program was part of the library’s Lifelong Learning Series. About 46 community members were in attendance.