family tree, homework, parenting, school project, Shorashim project

Shorashim: The Roots to Matan’s Future

I can’t speak for all schools in Israel, but in our area there is a large Shorashim (family tree) project that the kids complete at the time of their bar or bat mitzvah. Matan has been in the middle of this project now for about four months, and the culminating party will be next Monday.

And boy do I need a vacation!

It’s actually been a glorious activity and a lovely assignment. The kids were tasked with interviewing their roots – their parents,grandparents and great-grandparents – and finding out about their childhoods. They had a specific list of questions that they needed to ask of the interviewees which included about a dozen different items.

From what I understand from other parents who have gone through this with their kids, it’s possible to put as much or as little effort into the project as you desire.

And boy did we go with the former!

When we first saw the criteria for the project, Josh and I looked at each other and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” For an immigrant family, creating a 50 page book of interviews in Hebrew and accompanying pictures is no small task. First, the interview questions all had to be translated into English and typed up for the family members. Then, when they sent back their answers, I had to read them over with Matan and make sure that he understood everything in English. And then, we were sitting on an English interview!

We knew it would take Matan years to translate by hand every word that the grandparents and parents had written. So, taking a big gulp, we used Google Translate. Now, we know that when you try to translate something using this tool, you’ll often find yourself asking where the orangutan eating the orange is rather than finding out where the nearest bathroom is. We warned Matan that the translations would probably not be very good and that he would need to go through every word and change things as necessary.

He did so, editing 25 pages of interview text and compiling it into stories that were interesting and readable.
(A page about Mommy)

He also asked a neighbor to look over all of the text for laugh-out-loud Google Translate errors, we had the teacher eyeball it all, and we had one of my co-workers do a final edit.

Finally, the text was ready. But this, of course, was only one part of the project. We needed pictures to go along with each person’s story. I believe that I made 8 trips to the neighborhood photo store, making copies of essential pictures that Matan desperately wanted, making more copies when some of them didn’t appear on my flash drive, and making even more copies when family members sent along great pictures from years gone by (Thanks Grandma Sue, Aunt Marilyn and Papa Rogie!).

Matan then took over the dining room table, creating a staging ground for his artistic endeavors.

He cut, he pasted, he collected leaves and twigs from the garden, and he compiled it all into a beautiful, moving collection of family history.

And then, as he neared completion, he mentioned entirely on his own that he wanted to add in tributes to the great-grandparents who had died. He also wanted sections about his uncles and their families. Beautiful. So, it was back to the drawing board for us. Fact finding missions in English, Google Translations, searching for pictures, cutting , pasting and completion!

Tribute to Grandpa Murray (Josh’s grandfather, who Matan is named for)

Tribute to Papa Jerry (Romi’s grandfather)

The Uncles and Their Families

We found out a number of great things along the way.

1. As he built the family tree, Matan discovered that he had three great-great grandmothers named Rose. What’s that about?

The Family Tree Being Made

2. Josh was a very cute kid…and someone who is about to be bar mitzvah looks a lot like him. Hmmmm…

3. Matan’s paternal grandparents took the cutest picture on one of their early dates. How cute are they here?

4. We might be related to another family in the yishuv – or at least our ancestors probably knew each other! This is a great story. Matan’s paternal great grandparents ended up in Burlington, Vermont when the entire town from somewhere in Lithuania picked up and moved together. A few weeks ago, one of Matan’s classmates was sharing a story from his project, and he mentioned that his ancestor moved from this town in Lithuania to….Burlington, Vermont! Matan was so shocked – he ran home to tell us and we called the other parents to laugh and discuss.

And on and on. The project was a great experience for Matan, if a bit of an exhausting one for his poor academically-high-strung mom. But now that it’s completed he is very proud of himself and loves knowing so much about his history. And, we figure we’ve now got most of the material for the other five boys’ Shorashim projects!

Shhhh….don’t tell the teacher.

One Proud Project-Maker

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