This week Leslie is in Princeton speaking about Jewish identity and I thought I’d toss the same question to our readers that I posed to Leslie when she shared her talk with me. What role do you think your grandparents played in helping to shape your Jewish identity?
Before Rosh HaShana many Jews go to the cemetery to visit the graves of family members. For Leslie and me, the cemetery where our four grandparents are buried is too far for a Sunday afternoon drive but we can evoke our grandparents through stories and reflections.
Aside from entering the season of remembrance, there are other forces that lead me to think more and more about my grandparents. I feel that I was strongly influenced by my grandmothers and my great-grandmother and I’ve spent a lot of time following some of the threads of my life back to my grandmothers. You can see, for example, my paternal grandmother’s culinary influence on our web page, http://www.morejewishluck.com/extended-version/recipes-from-baubies and our initial attempt to include the grandmothers in Jewish Luck, http://www.morejewishluck.com/extended-version/deleted-chapters/baubie-chapters. Now that I am a grandmother, I feel myself changing as I spend time with my two young grandchildren. I also wonder what impact I have on them. As a parent I was a bit too busy to think about these important questions, and I assumed just because I was a mom, I influenced my children.
Jewish Luck is replete with stories about Alisa and her grandmother, Rosa, and Vera and her grandmother, Baba Lyuba. Both were central figures in the girls’ early lives and their presence lingers as Vera and Alisa revisit their grandmothers through their memories. Rosa provided Alisa with a strong connection to her Jewish past and Baba Lyuba was a pillar of strength for Vera. In Vera’s case, there is more to discover about Baba Lyuba. When we sat with Vera and her brother and he began to share his trove of memories, Vera’s portrait of her grandmother shifted.
Leslie and I have spent much time talking about own grandparents and we, too, continue to learn more as we share memories and our cousins add their memories. Our grandparents continue to evolve in our minds as we age and as we add more nuance to their characters. What remains immutable is their influence.
Leslie and I invite you to join our conversation! If you have an anecdote or memory about your relationship with a grandparent, share with us and let us know if we can, in turn, share with others. We view our book as a beginning point for conversation not just about lives of Soviet Jews like Vera and Alisa or about women’s friendships, but about ourselves and how we became ourselves and continue to change.