Project Keepsake - Hebrew Home Records Residents' Family Histories

Project Keepsake - Hebrew Home Records Residents' Family Histories


Press release - keepsake


News Release
Contact: Marilyn Feldman, Public Relations

Project Keepsake - Hebrew Home Records Residents' Family Histories

"It's really special to have this," said Mark Lobel as he flipped through the neatly-scribed book. His grandmother's history filled the pages. "I didn't know she was married at her home. I didn't know that. It was 1927. If my grandfather were still alive, they would be married 76 years. Everything she remembers now is from so long ago." His grandmother, Sarah Hyman, a resident of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, neatly dressed in a deep purple sweater, had dedicated the book to him, and she beamed as he read her words.

On September 17, about 20 families gathered at the Hebrew Home in Rockville to receive beautifully written books detailing their residents' family histories. The books are called For My Grandchild, A Keepsake of Experiences and Thoughts to Share and Treasure, and were completed by volunteers who interviewed the residents and then entered their responses neatly into the books. Each 32-page book is dedicated to a particular grandchild.

"The process took hours of interviewing, 10 to 20 hours for each resident. The sessions stopped when the interviewer got tired; it was never the resident who got tired," said Sydell Rappaport, who spearheaded the volunteer effort. "Even after the interviews were finished, residents kept coming up to me saying 'I forgot this,' or 'we need to put in about that.'" When Sydell addressed the families, she told them, "This book is just the beginning, not the end. Go over the answers with your resident, fill in the blanks; this is a working book."

"Oh, I like to buy candy - she did, too!" said Mildred Abelson's granddaughter Adrienne. A recent bride, Adrienne said, "This is wonderful. This is something we can pass along when we have a family." She was at the event with her father, Harvey Abelson, her husband, Bradley Cohen, and her grandmother Mildred Abelson.

A four-generation family took front-row seats for the program: Resident Bernice Levine, her son Jerry and daughter-in-law Paula Levine, granddaughter Phyllis Levine, and great-grandson Braden Wilt, three months. "This is sweet," Phyllis said, as the family took turns holding the book and the baby.

One family especially pleased to receive the book was the Schlesinger family, whose mother Bea passed away shortly after being interviewed.

Hedy Peyser and Linda Cohen, who direct volunteer services at the Hebrew Home, purchased the blank books through a grant from the Jewish Federation Youth Philanthropy Fund. Volunteers Sydell Rappaport, Everett Mattlin and teenagers Kalpana Gopalswamy and Batya Carl took notes on copies of the pages from the book as they interviewed the residents, and then a second team of volunteers transcribed the answers into the books in an elegant script, creating keepsakes that families were delighted to receive.



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