Do Roots Matter?
Trip Start Jul 21, 2013
9Trip End Aug 05, 2013
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At the beginning of that journey, Jews lived mostly as second class citizens, exiled from our land for 1900 years. 2 out of 3 Jews were born in the Russian Empire, including 4 of the 5 grandparents we knew growing up.
Our grandparents were born in a society whose anti-Semitism was implemented in ways that limited their ability to go to college, join a profession, or participate in public life. Think poverty, pogroms and Fiddler on the Roof.
During our grandparents lives, World War I, World War II, The Shoah, and the Establishment of the State of Israel led to either the death or the relocation of 8 out of 10 of the world's Jews.
Our grandparents made the trek from Eastern Europe to America and started their new lives with no education, no money and no prospects. But they had deep-rooted, emotional ties to "the old country."
Their goal for their families was to live normal lives and to live out their Jewish heritage as free people in their new home, America.
Today, we find ourselves in a world our grandparents could only dream of. 9 out of 10 Jewish children are being born as free citizens of North America or Israel, where their potential is unlimited. Already, although Jews are 0.2% of the world’s population and 2% of America’s people, we are 11% of the U.S. Senate and 20% of the global Nobel Prize winners. Israel is a member the club of developed nations, the OECD, which represents 34 of the world’s leading economies who work together to address global needs.
But how much of this success relied on the ways our identities were shaped by our grandparents’ historical experience and the community’s mediation of the Jewish intellectual, spiritual and cultural tradition?
We are joining a group of 20 Jewish leaders to plumb the depths of those traditions that were forged in our struggles in Mother Russia and Poland and to derive lessons on how to incorporate those traditions and experiences into our modern institutions of Jewish life – our synagogues, camps, Jewish Day Schools, Federations, and college campuses.