Alef Betty: Modern Hebrew Arts

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The Stories We Tell

Pictured: Henia Pines, right and Malca Pines, left. Best friends, later sisters in-law.

I grew up on stories. My family has lived on 5 continents over the course of 3 generations, and story is the thread that ties us all together. Some are funny, some are harrowing, and some are wise. Much of what I have learned about life I learned first through a story, and then through my own experience–the story itself served as anecdotal evidence of something larger and true.

My family

My father’s parents lived under British rule more than 3,000 miles apart and met in Cairo. My mother’s parents met in a German refugee camp before getting visas to Israel. I grew up hearing about my father playing hooky from school in Bulawayo and my mother getting all the neighborhood gossip in Ramat Gan. I feel connected to the people in these stories–some of whom I know well, and others whom I only know from the oral history.

When I married my husband, I inherited his family stories, as well. His family is from all over Europe. Some have been in the States for several generations. Their New York experiences were entirely different from mine, but I absorbed them, and now I share in their history.

This is not unique, by any means. It’s a microcosm of the human story, of immigration, of the world in which we live. It’s the story of the Jews, of the Israelis, of the Americans–all of which I am–and of everyone else, as well.

Storytelling connects us

Oral history and storytelling are powerful and humanizing–they connect us to each other. My favorite books and movies explore this personal terrain, and I return to them again and again. I love Goodfellas as much as the next girl, but what I love even more is Martin Scorsese’s parents talking about their family. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve watched Radio Days. This is the good stuff.

I believe that we recognize our own humanity in the specificity of another’s stories. I want to share my stories with you here.

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