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Tessa's Family History Project

Modern Jewish History I 2012

Tessa Silverman

on 19 November 2012

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Transcript of Tessa's Family History Project

My family history project Tessa Silverman My great, great grandfather, Charles Vinick, was born around 1888. He came to America from Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century. He lived in Chicago, Illinois with his wife, Pauline, and children--including my Grandmother's mother, Florence. Charles and Pauline thought it was important to maintain a traditional Jewish lifestyle: they attended an orthodox shul (where Charles was president for some time), they kept strictly Kosher, and my great-great-grandfather woke his sons up every Sunday to lay tefillin. They also decided that it was not as important to give their daughters a Jewish education as it was their sons. My great-great-grandparents were still influenced by American life, though. For example, after the depression Charles had to give up his kosher bakery and work as a bread-truck driver for a secular company in order to make ends meet. Also, even though they claimed to be shomer-shabbos, Pauline used to take her grandchildren to the movies on Friday nights. These conflicting customs were confusing for the kids, especially the girls, who had very little religious education in which to ground their understanding. Florence never kept kosher, nor did she move to a heavily Jewish community. Because of the disconnect she had experienced, she and her husband, Seymore Warady, struggled to create a strictly Jewish household. 1st Generation 2nd Generation The kids went to public schools, and were integrated with non-Jewish children. They got eggs on Easter and presents on Christmas, although they didn't understand the religious significance of these holidays. My grandmother says of her parents: "they couldn't fight the battle of Christmas...it's hard for your kids to be different." 3rd Generation Partly because she was a girl, and partly because it just wasn't a priority for her parents, my grandmother received a less-than-satisfactory Jewish education. The result was that she suffered the same issue as her mother: she was confused about how to practice Judaism and had no formal knowledge to turn to as an answer for her questions. However, she had always appreciated the Jewish community. She surrounded herself with Jewish people throughout her time in school because she felt most comfortable with those who understood her. What she needed was a Jewish community that wasn't too focused on the old rituals, which were no longer a part of her life, and that would allow her to become a more educated Jew. 4th Generation My dad, Steven Silverman, was born in 1967. He grew up Reform, and was really happy and comfortable with that. Some of his best friends and memories are from his days at a Reform Jewish camp. He had a Bar Mitzvah and married a Jewish woman, and later decided to send his children to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Now that my family had found a system of Judaism that worked for us, it was easy to stay connected to our religion. 5th Generation The same goes for me; I am happy to be a Reform Jew. I love going to a Jewish Day School and camp, and I want to marry a Jewish person and raise my children Jewish, but I don't think that would be the case if my family hadn't found the Reform movement. I think that if my family hadn't found the Reform movement, our Judaism may have dwindled out entirely. 4 and 5. Since then, my family has been firmly grounded in its Judaism and eager to continue the religion in future generations. To Sum Up... 1. After coming to America, the first generation of my family tried to maintain a traditional Jewish lifestyle. But they had confusing practices at home and didn't give their daughter a sufficient Jewish education, which made it harder for her to stay connected.

2. The second generation felt a disconnect from Judaism because of her parents' Jewish behavior and her lack of education. She became less ritualistically observant, but in some areas stayed true to tradition, including not educating her daughter. These factors eventually led her daughter to experience a similar removal from Judaism to her own. Essentially: Because of a lack of education and ambiguous practices, my family suffered a disconnect from Judaism until they found the Reform Movement. my family tree My Family My great-grandmother, Florence, had very little Jewish education and grew up in a home with confusing Jewish practices, all of which made it hard for her to withstand the pressures of assimilation as an adult. After joining a Reform shul, my grandma became much more active in the Jewish community. She educated herself and had a bat mitzvah as an adult, and she also became very involved with a reform summer camp that has been a part of my family ever since then. Reform Judaism helped to tie my family back to its heritage. My grandmother, Judith Warady was born in 1939. 3. Although she didn't understand all the ritualistic parts of Judaism, this generation felt connected to the Jewish community, and sought a movement that would accommodate her situation. She found one in the Reform movement, and after joining, had a much stronger tie to her heritage. A combined lack of education among girls in my family and confusion over the level of observance that was appropriate to maintain caused a disconnect from Judiasm around the second generation, with my great-grandparents. What eventually reconnected us to our religion was becoming involved in the Reform movement, which offered solutions to both of these issues. She found this in the Reform movement. Reform said that a) every person, male or female, should be educated and b) each Jew is responsible for practicing only the rituals that are significant to him/her. This meant that my grandmother could learn about her religion and apply it to her life as it seemed fit. She could be part of a Jewish community, without having to return to the weird, unexplained combination of Orthodox ritual and American life that she had known beforehand. map of Lithuania 1930 Census kosher bakery 1940 Census Florence Vinick 1940 Census Judith Warady Reform summer camp (OSRUI) Steven Silverman's Bar Mitzvah Tessa Silverman's Bat Mitzvah Reform summer camp (OSRUI) Judith Warady and sons My family
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