Shorashim, or Roots, is an annual research project for all 10th graders across Israel.

For Yemin Orde’s at-risk youth, the Roots project is especially significant as it offers an opportunity to ask “Who Am I?”, to investigate and learn new details about family history, as well as a chance to take pride in their cultural heritage and appreciate their ancestors.

Who Am I? The Roots programs helps youth understand their ancestry and journey.

During the school year, youth build a family tree, document their family history, interview family members, collect family memorabilia, and discover a great deal of information about themselves and their families. The immigrant experience is studied with a greater understanding of their own journey.

At the end of the project, youth present artistic works that reflect what they have learned over the course of the year. Each work of art shows how that particular student relates to their unique story and experience, showing what family means to them and how they interpret these feelings into exhibition.

The Roots curriculum also encompasses classes in high school that focus on Judaism and Israel, such as History, Literature and the Oral Law, to help further enrich these 10th graders understanding of the project.

Digging Deeply into Your Roots

The project has three distinct sections:
Understanding One’s Roots – youth explore their family trees and history that helps deepen their connection to who they are. It is a focus on the Village Way component of “anchors in the past.”
Developing Depth – youth use various sources of information and carry out research work to understand their personal, family and cultural identity.
Reflection – youth reflect on the entire process, from planning, researching to knowing where they come from. They reflect on their role in the chain of generations who have been and who will be in relation to their families and now as being a part of Israeli society.

The projects are completed in small teams and overseen by staff and national service volunteers. The groups are kept small to help develop supportive close relationships where the youth feel comfortable opening up and expressing their thoughts.

Having Roots in Two Homelands

The question that comes up most often is that of having two homelands. The youth are asked to think about this, where do they feel most at home and how they feel about having made Aliyah. These questions help steer group discussion that leads to dealing with difficult emotions and feelings. The staff are then able to help each individual work with and understand what they are learning about themselves, the difficulties they face and what it means to be an immigrant living here.

Photos of Roots projects created by 10th graders.

Below are translations of Roots projects as created by Yemin Orde’s 10th grade youth.

Birch tree and date tree: I created a tree with two halves – one is that of the date tree which has spikes and like Israel is a little hard sometimes, but the dates are sweet which is like the good things about Israel. In Israel, there are a lot of options and every person has the chance to do something good. The other half of the tree is a birch tree, a tree that can survive the rough Siberian winter. And in my town in Samara, next to my home, there were tons of birch trees.

Star with thread that represents certain attributes in the students life.
• Red is for love, heart, family
• White is for learning, opening one’s mind, and making one smarter
• Green is for friends, laughter, happiness
• Light blue is the color of the sky and for dreaming
• Black is for sport and making me stronger
• Pink is for the color of love
• Brown is for all the things in life I don’t really like
• Yellow is for the color of those activities that make me shine, glow, a true star that will help me reach my goals in life
• The thread and nails represent the special and beautiful things in my life. From my perspective it’s beautiful that I create something of my own.

Two Figurines: I created ceramic figurines, one is Jewish from the 19th century and represents the orthodox great-great-grandfather on my father’s side who lived in Belarus in a small Jewish town. The other ceramic figure represents my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side who was a Cossack from the Ukraine and in the military. The instruments they are holding represent their cultures – the violin and bandura. In this way, I show the two sides of my family and proud to say this is who I am.

The way to the top: I chose to draw “to the top of the mountain.” Behind me is the view of the mountain and the sea like at Yemin Orde. There are two ways to go, two paths to choose. The way of the Village that is the way to friends, love, family, success in my studies, and a better future. I am happy I chose this path, and not the second option which is that of violence, drugs, and alcohol. My hope is to reach the top of the mountain successfully.

Bunna Ceramic Kettle (for the Ethiopian Bunna Coffee Ceremony): I made a ceramic kettle for the Bunna ceremony because it represents the time when all the family is together as well as the Ethiopian culture and holding respect for the family. These are all important to me. I love that when new people arrive to the ceremony we start serving the three cups all over again.

Puzzle of Self: In the puzzle I have both flags because they are all the parts of me, and while the flags are colored, I am black and white to represent that fact that without these two I would not be who I am today.

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