Jewish Children From Around the Globe Tell “My Family Story”

Hundreds Gather to See Four Winners Crowned in International Competition

By Dan Tadmor

When K.*, a Jewish girl from South America, lost her father and sister in a tragic car accident, she found herself unable to talk about her loss. At the suggestion of her therapist, K. signed up to participate in “My Family Story.”

This international competition, now in its 23rd year, invites Jewish children from all over the world to explore their families’ rich history and heritage, and create an artistic display based on their discoveries. A year-long educational curriculum sparks children’s creativity and curiosity, encouraging rigorous research and a personal, experiential approach to Jewish history.

Delving into her roots helped K. cope with her loss and reconnect to previous generations of her family. K.’s display was one of 58 finalists chosen from over 200 entries in the international competition, in memory of Manuel Hirsch Grosskopf. Overall, 20,000 children ages 11 to 15 from 190 different institutions in Israel and 23 other countries – spanning North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia – participated in this far-reaching, innovative initiative.

Although the stories presented in the displays differ, the project is an opportunity for Jewish children from all over the world to find common ground in their shared Jewish peoplehood. Each display is an artistic expression of one or more core concepts: historical memory, Jewish values, Israel, Hebrew and other Jewish languages, Jewish culture, and a Jewish way of life.

K. and her mother traveled to Israel to attend the awards ceremony at the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, in Tel Aviv. The awards ceremony, held at the museum’s Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood on June 8, 2018, welcomed hundreds of international attendees. An exhibition displaying the finalists’ work will be on view at Beit Hatfutsot throughout the month of June.

Elisa Cohen of San Diego received first place for North America, Australia, and South Africa. Her display, “My Family Kiddush Cup,” draws its inspiration from the Kiddush cup Elisa’s family uses every Shabbat. Wine pouring from cup to cup symbolizes how Jewish heritage and a love of Israel are passed from generation to generation.

Levy Chocrón BenGualid of Madrid took first place for Latin America and Spain with “My Family Synagogues.” The winner from Europe and Asia was Daniel Drabkin of Moscow, with “Trains of Fate,” and the first-place recipient from Israel was Amir Fishelzon of Zichron Yaakov with “Ladder of Life.”

Itamar Kremer, director of the Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood, says: “My Family Story embodies the essence of the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot. Jewish youth from all around the world explore their Jewish roots and family story, visiting Israel for the first time and meeting youth from Israel and the world. It is a unique celebration and a life-changing event for us all.”

* Name changed to protect privacy.

Dan Tadmor is the CEO of the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.