Elizabeth singing "In Everything I Do"("B'chol Ma'ssai") written by Karen Davis
and accompanied by her father.
and accompanied by her father.
I see genealogy as many things. Mostly I feel it's a gift, or—as my great-grandmother wrote in her journal—a treasure. So powerful are her words: "I stored up many treasures in my life on this earth," that I based the title of her memoir, Stored Treasures on them. Minne Crane, my great-grandmother, in those two words,"Stored" and "Treasures," captures the process of genealogy. Studying family history, is truly a treasure hunt. Each aspect of the work we do, tracing our lineage back in time, continually surprises us with hidden delights. Elizabeth, reminded me that sometimes, the treasures of genealogy are not hidden in the past, they are right here in the present.
Let me explain. Searching for roots is a personal journey—at least, that is what I believed when I embarked. For me, it was almost a selfish need to extinguish an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about where I come from. I have been described as many things, including: well centered, hardworking, persistant, self confident but never spiritual. I think of myself, as a woman who is very comfortable with who she is. Therefore, I often ponder why understanding my family's past has become so important to me? Who knows? Maybe it's a type of mid-life crisis? After all, I did hit forty when I became a genealogy geek. Researching my ancestry may not be an identity crisis, it clearly has deepened my sense of who I am.
Seated in a conference room at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, amongst the Kranowitz descendants, I listed in awe to Elizabeth sing. This prayer, turned song—which she sang first in Hebrew, then English—was an amazing conclusion to an incredible reunion. Listening to that song, I realized two very important things. The first, my great-grandmother, did not just send me on a voyage into the past when she challenged me to search for lost treasures. The wise grandmother that she was, she understood the value of family, and of the present. What she learned from the past, she utilized to constantly improve her life. The past and present are inseparable. The family reunion—particularly the song, "Everything I do"—reminded me of that small pearl of knowledge. The second, while advancing genealogical work is extremely important, sharing the legacy with the family and beyond, is the gift that keeps giving.
|William Crane with his wife Luba (Elizabeth's|
and son's Fred, Maurice and Robert (Elizabeth's
|William Crane in WWI army uniform|
Getting ready to leave for the front.
1917, Hartford CT
(This is a photo I recently discovered
in my aunt's attic).
Musical as we all are, the family hosted a sing along on Saturday night. Kendall pulled out his trombone and dazzled us with his skill. Elizabeth, sang along with the rest of the gang. When the crowds thinned, her dad encouraged her to share a song. She was a little intimidated to sing in Hebrew. Their family's had left traditional judaism generations back, but most of the rest of the family is Jewish. We encouraged her to sing anyways, and then she sang. This first performance was as haunting and beautiful as the encore she gave the following day—in front of a packed house—adjourning the reunion. To a stunned crowd, she unveiled her stored treasure.
The song is a very powerful prayer. The message, taken from Psalms 139: be true to everything you do, resonated with all of us who listened to her sing. Elizabeth, who knew little of her Jewish ancestry, was singing a prayer in Hebrew, to her newly discovered Jewish relatives. Amazingly, it's very much the message our common ancestors brought to America when they immigrated a hundred years ago. While most of the family is not religious, the traditions and prayers—so powerful for our ancestors—are very much respected. Elizabeth, part of the Non-Jewish minority in our family, brought to us a universal prayer. As we prepared to return home to our daily routines, she reminded us of the unexpected hidden treasures found all around us, not only in the past, but right here in the present.
Thank you Elizabeth for not letting me forget an important fact: genealogy makes us aware of the past, in order for us to live a better present and prepare for the future. Thanks for everything you do!
Do you have a stored treasure you would like to share? How has genealogy changed your life?