The aim of this activity is to help the individual examine his/her own family story and place it in a wider community context.

  • The students should come to the activity having researched the story of their family’s arrival in the land where they presently live. In this activity, we will emphasize their leaving and their journey to their present home. For a minority of students, this may have happened in their own lifetime and they may be able to draw on personal memories. For others, it may have happened in their parents’ lifetime. For others again, it may have happened many generations ago, and the family memory may be very uncertain and vague. Nevertheless, all students should gather any information that is available. If possible, this should include any details about the reasons for the move; who came; how they came and where they came from. They should learn the names of the towns - or at least the regions - from which their family emigrated, and they should try to obtain information about the place both as it was when the family moved and as it is today. If there are any artifacts that are connected to the story of the journey, they should be also be included.
  • Put up a world map - as large a one as possible - on one wall of the classroom.
  • After an introduction, ask the students to tell their stories one by one. If there are students who were born in different countries, it might be a good idea to place them at the end so that their stories, which might have been difficult for them, will appear as the ‘star stories’, against a common background that will emphasize how much they have in common with others in the class. They should talk about the reasons and circumstances for the family’s move. Write on the board any new reasons that they mention.
  • In advance of the program, you should have placed pins on the map, locating as accurately as possible the places from which each family came. You should also insert a large peg of some kind, indicating the town in which the school is located. If families made significant stops on the way over from the ‘old world,’ you should also indicate these places with pins. As each student finishes their presentation, help them to connect with thread their family’s old place of residence and their current community. If this is too complicated to do in class, do it in advance and then present it to the group for examination at the end of the process.
  • When the students have all given their presentations, the group should examine the map of their collective migration process. In small groups, they should draw as many general conclusions as possible regarding collective origins, major periods of migration and reasons for various migrations.
  • Bring the group back together in order to share the conclusions. What does this exercise reflect about the Jewish community of the class? Does this reflect the larger community? You should prepare some statistics on the community as a whole in order to place the class story in a wider perspective. You should also - at least briefly - place the particular community story in the context of the whole national Jewish community (e.g. the Jews of France, Argentina or the United States).
  • Finally, explain that the move that they have been discussing is probably only one of five or six moves to different countries that their particular family has made over the course of some two thousand years. Does this say anything to them? Ask the group how they explain the fact that Jews have moved to so many different lands throughout history.




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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0