I have never really been a fan of studying history. I have either never had a teacher that made the subject interesting, or I have only had teachers that were interesting to hear lectures from, but then ruined the subject for me when they would test us on information I found useless: on the _____ day of _____ in the year of _____ some man named _______ did this. Despite my past history with the subject of history, the subject of research that most impacted my life was in the field of history.
By decent, I am Russian, Austrian, and Polish. In eighth grade, I had to find that out for an immigration project. That project required us to find out which countries our ancestors emigrated from, what decade they did, and what was the reasoning behind their immigration to the United States. As my research showed, my great-great-great grandparents all left their home countries due to the Pogroms. What does this have to do with anything? Quite frankly, up until the summer before my senior year of high school, I would have told you that that fact was irrelevant: that it had no major importance or meaning in my life.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I travelled to Europe. While I was there, I not only did the usual tourist things like going to see the Eiffel Tour or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I also did some of my own research on the history of the Jewish people in those countries. I studied the movement of Jews across Europe as they would settle in one place, only to be kicked out in a couple hundred years once a ruler was in place that was anti-Semitic. I toured Ann Frank’s house, and was able to view first-hand what it was like for those families hiding in the attic of that house. I visited a Nazi concentration camp. Before having all this information on the history of the people of my religion, I honestly didn’t care whether I came from a Jewish background. Before learning everything I did, Judaism was simply the thing that made me miss school three days a year, made me not eat for an entire day, and was the reason that I got to eat Brisket at Thanksgiving.
Through my research, I can now not only tell you about all the historical scenarios that led up to the Holocaust, the economy of Spain, how prisoners were transported from work and concentration camps and then on to the more famous death camps, or about the different rulers of Italy’s views on the Jewish people, but I also have a personal connection to the information I gained. Though my research might not have changed my views on higher powers or the more religious side of Judaism, I now understand why I still tell people that I’m Jewish. There’s a culture that I forgot about, and with all the persecution that that culture has faced over the years, I learned why it’s so important to keep it.