Students mine family artifacts in search of their Jewish roots

April 05, 1993|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,Staff Writer

Everyone has a story to tell, an artifact -- a document of his roots.

Twelve-year-old Jay Snyder has his great-grandmother's German passport -- stamped by the Nazis with Jewish imprint. He has documents showing relatives named Karch, Karsh and Karsch, variations on the same name.

Daniel Glass, also 12, has 1930 footage of his Lithuanian relatives, smiling silently on the black-and-white film. It's his only record of men and women wiped out in the Holocaust.

"I don't know exactly who they are," Daniel said. "I learned about relatives I never knew."

Through an international program originating in Jerusalem, Jay, Daniel and 40 classmates at Beth Israel Religious School in Randallstown have been discovering their Jewish roots.

After interviewing relatives and unearthing documents, artifacts and photos, two dozen of Hasia Cohen's students presented their findings to one another and their parents at a family history museum night recently. They had finished a four-month research effort through an educational program called Numbers 2000.

The program, offered in the United States for the first time in Boston and Baltimore, offers information packets to guide students in a search of personal archives. Melitz, the Zionist educational foundation in Israel that started Numbers 2000, also provides teacher training, reference materials and computer-based activities.

At tables set up around the room, students told the stories of their roots, displayed photos -- some dating back five generations -- and current family albums, and pointed to passports, Bibles, census tables and family heirlooms they dug up during research.

A photographer was on hand to snap pictures of two of each student's items. They'll be made into slides and sent to the Numbers 2000 archives at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, joining items collected by students in other countries.

At a corner table, Adena Meier, 12, said she had never realized that so many people in her family, including two great-grandparents, a grandfather and a brother, were named Benjamin.

Jesse Sandler held up a photo of his decorated grandfather and described his World War II exploits.

He pointed to his grandmother's picture and said with awe that she was an expert trapshooter in her younger days.

Jesse said his first reaction to learning about his colorful roots was "Wow!"

"Now I just stare at them [his grandparents] for five minutes and say, 'You did this?' "

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