Earlier this month, Callie Fey and Maya Taylor headed to Israel to see their My Family Story contest-winning artwork be featured at the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv.
Fey and Taylor were among the 50 international winners of the museum’s 23rd annual My Family Story contest, which encourages the exploration of students’ Jewish family stories and genealogy through art. Students at Jewish day schools ages 11-15 may participate and the schools submit their artwork to the competition.
Locally, the contest is sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland. More than 90 students from area schools participated this year.
Callie is a fifth grader at Stoneleigh Elementary School and attends Hebrew school at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. She created a quilt that tells the story of her great-grandfather Bernie, a former textile engineer known for his original designs. He worked at Maidenform, where he also met his wife. The quilt contains pictures of Callie’s ancestors sewn in among fabric patches.
“Learning about my family made me feel more Jewish in a way,” she said. “I felt more connected to my Jewish heritage. Now I understand my family’s history.”
Maya is an eighth grader at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. Her project, “1801 Mosher Street,” focuses on her great-grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. Maya’s great-grandmother is a big inspiration of hers and she refers to her as “the center of my Jewish Heritage.”
“My great-grandmother was separated from her family and had to come to America because her family told her that Israel was too dangerous,” Maya said. “Because of this, she came to America with her husband and son all alone. They had to make a living out of nothing which is a reason that they started the grocery store.”
The miniature model depicts the inside of the grocery store: a refrigerator to symbolize the freezing weather of the camps; shelves filled with only bread and crackers, the only foods Jews were allowed to eat in the camps; and six different foods to represent the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust, as well as the numerous different stories of Holocaust survivors. But the closest connection for Maya was the floor tiles.
“They resemble the silver dollars that my great-grandparents earned from working at the store,” she said. “They saved those dollars and my great-grandmother gives them to me and my brother each time we lost a tooth.”
On their trips to the Jewish state, Callie was accompanied by her mother Stephanie, while Maya was accompanied by her father Marty.
The winners’ artwork will be on display at the museum for a month. To see the full display of My Family Story projects, visit bh.org.il/ family-story-catalog-2018.
Shoshana Goloskov is an intern at the Baltimore Jewish Times.