Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turn the Summer Vacation Into A Jewish Genealogy Celebration

Meet Gavi Kaplan. Better yet, let me explain to you how I just met Gavi Kaplan.
He’s the grandson of a long lost relative of mine. Gavi participated in my June 1st author appearance at Yeshiva Central Queens (YCQ). Ironically, this time my presentation revolved around my Jewish Heirloom Stories series, which is designed to connect the generations. Staying at other cousins the night before my appearance, I received a phone call from Gavi’s mother, explaining that the minute she saw my name on the school flyer promoting the event, she knew she had to track me down and clarify the blood connection. And yes, I remembered her grandmother. She was part of my childhood, but somehow the family contact got lost through the passing of generations over the decades.

This got me thinking. Since I’ve done some minor genealogy hunting of my own, I know that an annual international Jewish genealogy conference is held every summer in a different venue (BTW – this August it will be held in Philadelphia). I also know that other than Tisha B’Av, there are no Jewish holidays during the sultry summer months to write customs about. So I started to jell an idea that I want to throw out to you. Why not make the summer months a Jewish Genealogy celebration? Give your students something fun and interesting to work on over the summer – an opportunity to be family detectives and trace their roots. Give them some help by providing a reading list:
Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-line
Genealogy for Kids
by Ira Wolfman
The Kid’s Family Tree Book by Caroline Leavitt
Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller
The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are by Lila Perl Yerkow

I have done several interactive presentations revolving around my Heirloom Stories, asking kids to bring in family heirlooms and tell the tales behind them. What I’ve seen is an enthusiastic involvement on the part of both kids and parents. For instance, what did Gavi bring in? Photos of the needlepoint made by his great-great-grandmother showing the story of “The Judgment of Solomon”. He proudly explained the story and how this needlepoint has been handed down from generation to generation. Telling stories like this is another wonderful way to trace family roots. Visit my website to find out more about my Jewish Heirloom Stories: Mayer Aaron Levi and His Lemon Tree, and Lotty’s Lace Tablecloth. Each has a separate section at the end where the reader can write his/her own heirloom story.

“Holiday” is the British term for vacation. How appropriate. Now is the time to turn the upcoming summer vacation into a Jewish genealogy holiday.
May your students have an interesting and happy “holiday.”