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The Searching for My Roots

Project (Shorashim - ‫)שורשים‬

By Daniel Horowitz -

The Project

“Searching for My Roots” (Shorashim ‫)שורשים‬1 is been taught at the Moral y Luces Herzl-
Bialik School in Caracas, Venezuela since its creation in 1978 as a three-month activity part of the
Hebrew History course. From 1994-2005, it was directed by the teacher Daniel Horowitz who made
tremendous improvements adding additional content, using new methodology and widening its
scope to an two years course with international outreach. The material currently in use was gathered
and edited by Horowitz based on the guide Pikudey 2000 (2000 ‫ )פּקדי‬edited by the Melitz
Foundation of Israel.
The project combines Social Studies, Math, Grammar, Music, Dance, Hebrew, Spanish, English
and Computer Science, which are used to develop integrated mini-projects such as: Time Lines, The
Family Tree, statistical studies using student origin data through double entry tables with graphics
and the use of the Internet to do family investigations and for exchanging information with other
schools in the Jewish Agency project “Building a Jewish Virtual World” (Bonim Olam Yeudi
‫)בונים עולם יהודי‬2.
As a final project activity, all students, parents and grandparents, along with other family members
come together at a delightful party where the children show what they have learned through plays,
songs and a display of their research. At this event we announce the winners of the annual Family
Tree Competition which the school sponsors and where student efforts, dedication and creativity are
honored. Those winning works are entered in the international competition My Family History
(Sipur Mishpajti ‫) סיפו משפחתי‬3, organized annually by the Douglas Goldman Center of the
Museum of the Diaspora (Beth Hatefutzoth)4 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The school has participated
annually since 1996; winning nine first, second or third place prizes.

General Objective

The project’s goal is to motivate all students to identify personally with their religion, community
and origins by investigating their family and communities’ past over the last century using dynamic,
interesting technologies and student activities such as: interviewing family members and elders,
creation of a family tree, gathering of information (origins, countries, communities, flags, language,
food, customs, geography, economy, people, etc.), study and analysis of family photographs,
documents, heirlooms and anecdotes for the preparation of a final work summarizing and showing
all accumulated information.
What We Want Students to Learn

 Basic Jewish and human values, tolerance, sensitivity, etc.

 Strengthen the Jewish identity of the participant by acquainting each with his or her Jewish
heredity and culture: Zionism, holidays, Israel, Jewish personalities, cultural expressions, songs
and dances
 Help each participant to recognize himself or herself as an important member of the local
community, strengthening ties with the Jewish community in which s/he lives and develops, as
well as the global Jewish community.
 Social Studies, Math (Statistics), Geography, History, Religion, Literature, computers (Word,
Excel, PowerPoint, Internet, Graphics, Scanner)
 Involve the family in their child’s Jewish education and, at the same time, enrich the religious
awareness of everyone involved in the project.
 Document and preserve the family’s Jewish history.
 Help develop essential abilities to investigate, analyze and synthesize using technological tools,
allowing the preservation of all gathered information and its subsequent usage to arrive at well-
based conclusions.
 Learn cooperatively, sharing and comparing their work products, dialogue, partnership.
 Foreign language skills (English, Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish, Ladino, Jaketia)
 Work on interrogatory sentences, preparation of questionnaires and using them to interview
family members
 Deepen the relationship among students, family and school, enriching models of community
 Motivate family members to participate through the materials they contribute, favoring the
 Study and analyze technological changes and most important events of the 20-21st centuries.
 Develop a final project bringing together the compiled material, family experiences and origins
of the family history.
 Develop a project campaign and plan closing party for the presentation of plays, songs and a
display of individual projects.


During my time as instructor of a compulsory school subject, I often found more barriers erected by
the parents than by the students themselves. One of the first things we must fight against is these
paradigms that will not allow the child to explore new things and establish slightly more difficult
goals than regular ones.
 The child can’t do such an investigation / work
 We have nothing: no pictures, no documents and no objects.
 Our family lost everything in WWII
 We don’t have relatives to ask or they are in other countries
 Our relatives don’t want to tell
Children love to ask and inquire for information. They are naturally curious, but if it’s a compulsory
subject or we want our children to become involved in genealogy we MUST understand some basic
1. The child’s world is restricted to what he can handle, from inside to outside:
HIS world  Parents  Family  Country  The Whole World.
2. The child only understands HIS time. Events are understood according to his experience.
Anything else is all mixed up.
3. Therefore, we need to teach from in to out, from small to big, from the child’s world to the real
world, from now (today) to then (the past).
4. The child only cares about what HE or SHE cares about. We need to make it HIS or HER

How We Do That?  Interesting Subjects and Activities

• Welcome! What is "Searching for My Roots”? Who participates? How will the material be
preserved? What do I want from the project?
• Who I am?, What do I know of myself?, When my parents were my age?, The timeline
• The Family Tree & Family Tree Maker® software
• Formation of Jewish last names and coats of arms
• This is your life: My album, how it must be done
• How to improve interviews, necessary tools and their use.
• Creating questionnaires and conducting interviews (housing, dress, education, religion and
customs, culture, occupations, Zionism, Aliyah and migration)
• Where my family come from: world and country maps, history and personalities
• One song, many languages
• Movies: Fiddler on the Roof, Feivel, Dear Kitty - the Anne Frank Diary, The Ships of Hope
(Coenigstein y Karibia) How Jews came to Venezuela.
• A game: "What do you know about..."
• Events, parties and foods
• This is my secret, known phrases, proverbs and sayings
• How do we learn from photographs? A look into the family album.
• A document coming from the past
• Stones also speak
• The turns of an object: Old objects, new objects
• A little piece of history - technological changes of the 20th-21st centuries and important events in
our Jewish history
• Promoting the project “Searching For My Roots”
• How to implement an advertising campaign
• Party! Party!
Tools & Activities

All planned activities MUST BE HANDS ON, interesting, new and promote collaborative work
with classmates by sharing information.

 Show and Tell (objects, photos, postcards, pictures, papers, documents)

 Develop questions to use in the interviews
 Take photos of relatives and self using still and video cameras
 Construct a Time Line
 Make his or her own Family Tree
 Maps, coins, currency and stamps
 Research in books, encyclopedias and Internet
 Use computers to investigate and publish work (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Family
Tree Maker, Internet)
 Express themselves thru scale models, drawings, theater representations, songs, exhibition, etc.

The Final Work

We need to make clear to children and families from the start that:
√ Big and heavy ≠ Good
√ NEVER is final  Continues growing forever
√ NOT without the child  it’s a family project  NOT the child alone
√ Nice, Complete, Original …. BUT AS YOU (family) WANT
The Searching for My Roots Project
Building a Jewish Virtual World
My Family History
Beth Hatefutzoth Museum