Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions in every culture. Before social media, television and radio, people told stories. It let them convey emotion and make sense of their experiences. Storytelling is a part of family life. Sharing family traditions, holidays and values are all part of raising youngsters. Whether deliberately or through osmosis, older generations pass along family history to younger generations. It develops creativity and connection between the storyteller and the listener, and that connection can be powerful and enduring. It shapes lives. Stories can be told in a formal setting like in the rabbi’s weekly sermon, or an informal settings like around the dinner table or during family activities.
Values are an integral part of storytelling. The lessons learned and the hardships faced address our value system of tzedakah, honesty, tolerance, courage, responsibility and integrity, to name a few. Storytelling reflects insights into the storyteller. Stories about family history allow youngsters to learn about the triumphs and struggles of parents and grandparents and better prepared to deal with life’s ups and downs.
One way families transmit this is through family activities. Shared experiences create lasting memories and impressions. The holiday of Passover brings family members together to participate in the reading of the haggadah reenacting our forefathers’ and mothers’ departure from Egypt and time in the desert. Some relate their family’s personal exodus from their home of origin, whether it be Russia, France or Spain in the 1970s or the late 1800s, to this exodus of our ancestors. The retelling reinforces family history.
For many, the Indianapolis Jewish Federation’s annual Adopt-a-Family event has become a family tradition. Since 2004 families have been helping other local Jewish families in need celebrate Chanukah. Families, synagogues and individuals accumulate items and gift cards for their adopted family. On Community Day (this year December 7) participants gather to shop and wrap gifts that will be distributed by the Albert and Sara Reuben Senior and Community Resource Center. It has become a family tradition for children, parents and grandparents to participate in this act of tzedakah. Hopefully the children that shopped for gifts for others will become the next generation of a caring Jewish community and tell their stories. Share your family’s stories—it is the best gift you can give them.
--Winnie Goldblatt, Endowment Director