A couple of weeks ago I went to a luncheon at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership with my colleague, Lisa Kaplan. As the theme of the event was L’Dor V’Dor, from generation to generation, people were encouraged to attend with their family and bring an heirloom that reminded them of their family history. Participants even had the chance to have their portrait taken with the heirloom they brought.
In my photo, I was wearing my Great-Grandmother’s wedding ring. To me, this ring holds a great deal of sentimental value. My grandmother had given this ring to my mother and it was passed down to me. Someday I will likely give to a daughter of my own. It is the birthright of the women in our line – something that binds us all and holds our spirits together. I am so excited to send my mother a copy of that photo, and wish that she could have been there when it was taken.
During lunch, we heard from guest speakers about the importance of saving and preserving family treasures, and each of us was able to contribute the story of our heirlooms. Lisa presented her great grandmother’s elegant pocket watch on a gold chain, adorned with doves. Passed down by generations, it was a symbol, she felt, of someone looking after the family. Another heirloom was a Kiddush cup that had miraculously survived the war and made it across the ocean to America. Each piece had an amazing story and meant something special to the bearer.
I went into this luncheon not knowing what to expect beyond a nice meal and the chance to meet new people. However, after seeing everyone’s heirlooms and hearing the stories behind them I couldn’t help but feeling genuinely affected by the experience. The event truly touched me and made me think seriously about my family and my own legacy. My grandmother has been encouraging my sisters, my cousin, and I to sit down, go through pictures, and jot down our family history, but something always comes up to keep us from doing it. This year, I plan to make it a priority.
Now, as I reach a point in my life where I am starting to think about getting married and starting a family of my own, these stories and photos are more important than ever. I want to be able to tell the next generation about our history. The curator of the Spertus Museum also spoke about photos and artifacts that families no longer wanted or felt they didn’t need as well, as other cases where there weren’t any family members left to receive those precious items. It made me consider, what would happen to my family’s story or to our sentimental keepsakes in that case? Would our history be lost? Or could something from my families collection be donated to the Spertus Museum or even to Temple Sholom.
What do you know about your family’s history? Don’t wait too long to find out. Have you ever thought about how you will preserve your family’s precious heirlooms? What will your legacy be?
Carrie Rosen is the Temple Sholom new girl and joining the staff in April as the Fund Development Coordinator and Executive Assistant to Boni Fine. She is collaborating with the Development Committee to re-launch the L’Dor V’Dor program here at Temple Sholom.