Preserving Jewish Memory: A Family Education Program

Just as we pass the Torah from one generation to the next at bar and bat mitzvahs, so do we pass family stories dor l’dor (from generation to generation). Stories connect us to our history, our traditions, and who we are.

That’s why Centropa, a Jewish historical institute in Vienna, Austria, collected the stories of over 1200 elderly Jews in Central and Eastern Europe – and rather than using video we asked these survivors to tell us their entire life stories spanning the 20th century as they showed us their old family photographs. In other words, we preserved Jewish memory so it can be passed on dor l’dor.

This approach – using photographs to tell stories – not only preserves the images of 20th century Jewish life, but we can use it to tell our own stories, as well. That means that Centropa is a valuable resource for guiding families in preserving their memories. In this program, families will watch and discuss several short films based on Centropa interviews, discuss how to find family stories, identify the stories they want to pass on to future generations, and talk about how they will collect them.

Whether families have done a lot of research or none at all on their family histories, each family will benefit and learn from this program:

Ÿ  Starting a family history project – those interested in starting a family history project going back to the first immigrants to America, or even before, will lay out an action plan for who they need to speak with, what questions they want to ask, etc.

Ÿ  Stories of our immediate family – those interested in making sure the stories from their immediate family do not get lost will identify and outline the stories and photographs they want to collect, as well as any photograph, artifacts, etc.

Ÿ  Making a family history film – those who have done a lot of research on their family history and want to explore telling those stories through film will create a storyboard for the film, using photographs and writing the narrative.

Ÿ  Interviewing each other – those less interested in working on a family history will interview each other using the photographs they brought, as well as questions taken from Storycorps.

Educators interested in extending this program so that families can work on collecting and telling their family stories – either through albums, family trees or videos – are invited to contact us so we can offer assistance in designing the subsequent sessions.

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