Since the founding of the Workmen’s Circle in the early days of the 20th century, succeeding generations of our members and supporters have found meaning, connection, and joy in their rich cultural heritage – Yiddish language, social justice activism, literature, music, food, and arts – emanating from our historic home in Eastern Europe. However, for most Jews born in the twentieth century, our Eastern European heritage has been primarily viewed through the terrible lens of the Holocaust, a tragedy that has all but obliterated the memory of the lives our ancestors lived for upward of a thousand years before. This great disconnect has served to separate us from our own Ashkenazic heritage and family histories and has led to an increasing divide between many Americans and their Jewish identity.
We believe that now is the time to create and renew critical connections to our Eastern European cultural past for American Jews, especially for our youth. By rebuilding our connections to our rich, storied and progressive roots, we know we will be building stronger members for our future and the future of the American Jewish community. In furtherance of this goal, I am thrilled to report that we are co-sponsoring the Helix Project this summer which will bring a group of university students literally into the historical center of life in Eastern Europe.
I am leaving today to join this remarkable trip, traveling for the next two weeks through the historic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, once known as Lite. Our trip will begin in Minsk and take us around Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania, with many stops throughout. We will find ourselves visiting and exploring the traces of our culture through art and artifacts that will connect us to centuries of Jewish life. I am very excited to be on this transformational journey on behalf of the Workmen’s Circle, and even more excited to have the chance to share it with you through regular dispatches over the course of the next two weeks. You can find my blog on our newly redesigned website, www.circle.org and on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/workmenscircle.
Ann Toback, Executive Director