November 29, 2019
This week’s parsha, Toldot (translated as ‘generations’), tells the story of the sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau. It sets in motion a biblical saga that spans many generations and ultimately leads the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel. The idea of the impact that one generation can have on another, even many decades apart, is particularly significant this month.
A signature project of the Mi Polin artists was on display in Jacob’s Lounge at the MNjcc for the month of November. Their work focused on the spaces in doorposts where mezuzot once were and captured that ‘trace’, turning it into a bronze mezuzah. This exhibit highlighted a number of towns and specific buildings where Alexander and Helena had found mezuzah traces. It told the story of the people who lived in those homes before the Holocaust, as well as their connection to modern day Poland and their living descendants, usually in North America.
In early November, our faculty and students met the artists and were moved by their work and the story that each piece told. We wanted to find a way to share this exhibit with a broader Paul Penna DJDS population and so we invited our grandparents into school to meet the curator and see the exhibit. As part of the presentation, we heard from two students and learned about the impact this exhibit had on them. Our students connected directly to the work and historically to the generations before them. It opened up conversations with grandparents about the generations that came before them and highlighted the importance of Jewish values and artifacts in their own lives.
In one student’s words: “Through this exhibit, I felt a connection to my great grandparents who were from Poland. After I saw the exhibit, my grandmother showed me a poster about Cracow and told me that my family was from there. It was cool to think back to how Jews lived in Poland a long time ago.”
As we work to enrich our students’ experiences and connect them to their past, it is important for us to find ways to open doors to interesting conversations and discussions across generations. Grandparents in our community are an asset. They can bring learning to life, amplifying the importance of family values and providing time and perspective that other members of our community can’t do. We are eager and excited to continue to get to know our grandparent community and find meaningful ways to connect them to their grandchildren, to each other and to Paul Penna DJDS.
In thinking about Toldot and the biblical narrative that will unfold over the next number of Shabbatot, I know the Torah is communicating the tremendous importance of recognizing and honouring the impact one generation can have on the next. As we put L’dor Vador into action, I hope you will continue to find ways to be a meaningful part of our story.