Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Project Idea: Family Roots Tour

Looking for an unusual summer assignment? Even better -- something special for the family to do? My heirloom presentations have proven to me how much children want to connect with their ancestors and their heritage. So why not take the next step -- a family roots trip that brings heirlooms alive; a journey that will remind the younger generation that American Jews have a rich and fascinating history. A nation within a nation, they struggled, succeeded and made their mark. Many did so while making sure to preserve their Jewish identity. That's the message we want to bring home and what better time than during a summer vacation!

I bring this up because now I can speak from experience. Meet the descendants of Fannie and Charlie Sneider -- at least most of them.
As you can see, I am part of that tribe. Since my husband and I are in the States and soon on our way back to Israel, one of my cousins suggested a family reunion. The idea quickly evolved into a family roots tour, fittingly held Memorial Day weekend. It collectively transported us from Texas, Florida, Maryland, New York and New Jersey to Asbury Park. Yes it's Bruce Springstein's hometown, but our ancestors got there first. More importantly, they laid the foundation for Jewish life in this popular seashore resort.

Of course, nothing stays the same. The original building housing the synagogue Sons of Israel, founded by our great/grandfather no longer stands. But its second location -- circa 1949 -- remains an active part of a different stripe of the city's religious life. Today it's a Haitian church. Still, the stained glass windows with Jewish symbols remain in place.

The cemetery Great/Grandpa founded is beautifully kept up. Going to the family plot and viewing the tombstones of relatives long gone gave all of us pause.

As did the house where our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles grew up.

And for those relatives who couldn't make it, but wanted to be part of this memorable family event, we Skyped them in and provided an update along with lots of laughs.

At the end of the weekend we all agreed that this was a trip well worth making. While most of the 20+ and 30+ generation couldn't  make it, a few did, including one set of young parents. A lot wiser about our family heritage, they now have the tools to pass the story down to the next generation. 
Now that's something to look forward to!

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