Bringing the lessons I learned from Grandma to local grandchildren

From NJJN - New Jersey Jewish News

By SPECIAL TO NJJN January 24, 2018, 12:00 am  

There was one weekly ritual I never failed to carry out — a call to Grandma. From the time I left for college in 2001 until she passed away eight years ago, I would call her every Friday to wish her a “Good Shabbos” and discuss our week. While I had other family relationships, this one was incredibly special to me, fostered by the fact that she lived with my family during my teen years. 

From my Holocaust survivor grandmother I learned so much of what it means to be Jewish and how we have to look forward, own the future, and embrace new connections in order for our Judaism to remain relevant in the here and now. Grandma taught me how not to become lost in idealizing the past — what I now describe as the “unattainable nostalgia” — but rather to roll up one’s sleeves and do, mostly while baking together. She wasn’t a professor — she was Grandma, and she taught me about life in a way that is hard to describe.

Throughout my career path, I have continually drawn on the lessons I learned from her. As one example, each time I headed to Israel, whether to study at Pardes, lead a youth trip, or become an entrepreneur, she would make sure I agreed to visit my uncle Motel, her younger brother. She’d send me with clothing and Tylenol for him, and he would tip me, probably with the $20 bill Grandma had stuffed in the pocket of the pants she had sent him. I’ll always connect Grandma with trips to Israel. Through these travels, I developed a stronger relationship with my Israeli cousins, all because we have a common experiential bond. In the years following her passing, I continue to maintain a relationship with her brother and the Israeli cousins because of that bond. 

I am so proud now to be able to help other grandparents and their grandchildren establish a similar connection between one another and with Israel through shared experiences. This is happening because the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is partnering with the Jewish Agency for Israel to bring G2 — Global Intergenerational Initiative — to our region.

G2 brings together grandparents and grandchildren (age 10 or 11) here in the Greater MetroWest area and in our partner community of Arad for monthly learning, communal service, and activities to foster their bond as a “zug” (Hebrew for “pair”). During these in-person interactions, grandparents are empowered to share stories of their youth and family to connect with their grandchildren. Today’s youngsters have more in common with their grandparents than in previous generations: Both are likely American-born and thus have experienced similar opportunities, such as schooling and summer camp. These commonalities coupled with grandparents’ familiarity with technology means they are more accessible and ready to FaceTime in between the monthly meetings. At the end of nearly a year of these meetings, the experience will continue next December when the “zugot” together will take the trip of a lifetime, a journey to Israel, where members of both generations will build even deeper connections through this shared experience and meet international counterparts who are doing the same thing. 

As part of federation, I’m excited to collaborate on this initiative; it allows me to bring my personal experience to a professional level to empower families to share their experiences. The program will give grandchildren an exceptional opportunity, built on their family relationship, that like my own will last and inspire them for their entire lives.

To learn more how to participate in this enriching opportunity, contact me at jsakofs@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-2980. Monthly meetings begin in February.

Kim Goldberg