Lessons I Learned from My Grandma

By Justin Sakofs, Director of Empowerment for Families with School Age Children

Justin SakofsThere was one weekly ritual which never failed – a call to my grandma. From the time I left for college until she passed eight years ago, I would call her every Friday to wish her a “Good Shabbos” and discuss our weeks. While I had other family relationships, this one was incredibly special to me, fostered by the fact that she lived with my family during my teen years. From my Holocaust survivor grandma I learned so much of what it means to be Jewish and how we have to look forward, own it, and embrace new connections in order for our Judaism to remain relevant in the here and now. Grandma taught me how not to become lost in idealizing the past, what I now describe as the “unattainable nostalgia,” but rather rolling up one’s sleeves and doing – mostly while baking together. She wasn’t a professor, she was grandma, and she taught me about life in a way that is hard to describe.

Throughout my career path, I have continually drawn on the lessons I learned from my grandma. As one example, each time I would head to Israel, be it to study at Pardes, lead a youth trip, or become an entrepreneur, she would have me visit my uncle Motel, her younger brother. She’d send me with clothing and Tylenol for him, and he would tip me, probably with the $20 bill Grandma would stuff in the pockets of the pants she’d send. I’ll always connect my grandma with trips to Israel. Through these travels, I developed a stronger relationship with my Israeli cousins, all because we have a common experiential bond. In the years following her passing, I continue to maintain a relationship with the Israeli cousins and her brother because of that bond.

I am so proud, now, to be able to help other grandparents and their grandchildren establish a similar bond between one another and Israel through shared experiences. This is happening because our Federation is partnering with the Jewish Agency for Israel to bring G2 to Greater MetroWest.

G2 is a global, intergenerational initiative that brings together grandparent and grandchild (age 10 or 11) here in Greater MetroWest and in our partner community of Arad for monthly learning, communal service, and activities to foster their bond as a zug (Hebrew for pair). During these in-person interactions, grandparents are empowered to share stories of their youth and family connecting with their grandchild. Today’s grandchild has more in common with their grandparent than in previous generations: both are likely American born and thus experience similar opportunities such as schooling and summer camp. These commonalities coupled with the technological familiarity of grandparents, means they are more accessible and ready to facetime, in between the monthly meetings. At the end of nearly a year of monthly meeting, the experience continues when the zugot will journey to Israel together next December for the trip of a lifetime, where grandchild and grandparent build even deeper connections through this shared experience, and meet international counterparts who are doing the exact same thing.

I’m excited to collaborate as part of Federation on this initiative; for me, it’s bringing my personal experience to a professional level to empower families to share their experiences and give the grandchild a unique opportunity, built on their family relationship, which like myself, will last and inspire them for their entire lives.

To learn more about how you or your loved ones can participate in this unique opportunity click here or contact me at jsakofs@jfedgmw.org or 973.929.2980. Monthly meetings begin in February.



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