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Connecting through Life Stories

by User Not Found | May 06, 2019

IMG_5308How do you summarize 70 plus years into a few pages of a book? It is not necessarily an easy feat, but it can make for an interesting experience. This is what eleven High School students accomplished after meeting with their Handmaker resident partners for the last six months, as part of the Tracing Roots Inter-generational program, a partnership between Tucson Hebrew High and Handmaker, and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Participating teens and residents met each other initially as a group at Handmaker during a round of speed dating, and then partnered up at a Shabbat meal at Handmaker last November. Teen and resident partners met individually with each other between December and March, getting to know one another, and putting the residents’ stories down on paper. The end result was a book filled with their life stories, and eleven new friendships.

Putting together this book was in part just a vehicle to build connections between two individuals from two different generations, a way to get to know one another. But for some it became a lot more. For some it was a pleasant trip down memory lane, sharing stories of their childhood, how they met their spouses, or first job experiences. For others it was an opportunity to impart some life lessons learned from a long and full life to someone who was just getting started on theirs. And for a few it was not easy to recount their life journey, which may have included some challenging relationships, and some difficult times. It was a challenge for them to summarize a life full of accomplishments and some of life’s sorrows into a few pages of a book. The process was a journey unto itself for some. And whatever path each Tracing Roots partnership took, each one created a connection between two individuals that was not there before, and an experience that all participants will not easily forget.

As Erika Spivack, a teen participant in the Tracing Roots program for all three years, put it, she has “truly seen the effects the program has had in people’s lives. Personally, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from my elders and see that while our age may vary, we really are not that different. This program has not only taught me about interacting with the elderly, but I learned a lot about myself in the process.” Resident participant, Dottie Rivers, remarked on what great kids all of the teen participants were. She had read or heard things about young people that have caused her concern in the recent past, but this opportunity to get to know these amazing teens has given her hope for the future.

All were grateful to have had the chance to participate in this program. Thank you to Rabbi Ruven Barkan, Principal of Tucson Hebrew High, for his partnership. With his help, we hope to bring the program to Handmaker again this coming Fall. We also want to thank Peter Marcus, from Allegra Printing, for donating the printing of the book, and to Noah Cohen, from the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, for his time in laying out the book, and to Angela Salmon for creating and editing the beautiful video that was shown at the community reception. Anyone interested in participating in this program next year or purchasing a copy of the book can contact Nanci Levy at