Ask the Elders – Investigating the Past to Preserve the Future


Senior people pass away every day without leaving information about their families and experiences. They did not tell their story for thousands of reasons and nobody insisted that they do. In Ask Thy Elders young Jews interview older Israelis, recording their recollections and creating electronic family archives with family trees and history. In turn, the archive helps generations of the same family to start dialogue.


As part of the program, high-school students and young adults reach out to seniors to conduct a series of interviews of 1-2 hours/week in which seniors will share their life stories, some of which they have never told before. The program lasts for months and through storytelling allows them to develop a true connection with senior citizens. The young students hear first-hand stories of what Jews encountered in the 20th century, record them and record the family history of the interviewee. The records are  then transformed into the format of family trees with maximal historical information on each person in the tree. Profile information includes stories, photos and documents as available. The seniors receive social attention and are encouraged to do their own family history study which helps them to maintain sharp minds which is especially significant during times of isolation. They are helped in digitizing their family documents, including letters and old pictures. The project’s results are then made accessible on the online Jewish genealogical site of the Israeli Institute for Jewish Family History Am haZikaron (People of Memory). These results then become the starting point for inter-generational dialogue.


With the encouragements & the support of the Matanel Foundation

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