In thinking of arranging a Family Reunion it occurred to me that I might plan a party to which no one would come; or maybe it would be a war where all involved would be on the losing side. Yet, not to plan a Reunion would be to forego the completion of the circle which started when my uncle, Max Garber, first organized the original family tree, graphically drawn by my brother Sumner and cousin Bernie Copans, all of blessed memory. I first met Joel Levy in Johannesburg when he was 8 years old. He was committed even at that young age to discovering everything about the Gavendo family. Three decades later we co-ordinated our family efforts.
FAMILY REPORT OF THE REUNION IN ISRAEL
Kiryat Anavim, Jerusalem
May 1-4, 1997
Having pursued the family information over the ensuing 40 years, having seen it to fulfillment (though as a dynamic of family life it will never really be completed), having experienced our trip of three years ago to the places of our origin in Lithuania. could I really stop now?
So, with my neck stuck out, with my reputation as a professional meeting planner at stake, with the co-operation and expert advice of our daughter and her husband, Linda and Menachem Sagiv in Israel, we proceeded. With great optimism we reserved 25 rooms for three days, seven rooms for an additional day. I reasoned that if we realized 40 participants we'd be successful. But would the support be there to fulfill our plans to bring Bluma Katz and Josif Gavendo from Lithuania and to cover the myriad of costs related to staging a meeting, to support the updating of the family genealogy information (the Blue Book), to arrange proper memorials to those of the family who fell in the Holocaust, to plant a Jewish National Fund (JNF) Garden? Would anyone's imaginations, other than our own, be captured? Would others share our sentiments that this would be a last-chance opportunity to explore our roots, to hear our family story at first hand, to realize all of this in the surroundings of Jerusalem?
In a recent article in The Book Peddler, the author writes about her activities in helping people learn of their roots saying, "Sometime it is only a narrow interest in their family names. But on an intellectual level it is much wider and deeper. For the intellectual things which happened....generations ago are part of their intellectual heritage, of their intellectual identity. You cannot live knowing only what happened to you." Our past is part of what we are today, and our children's future is being built on today's present.
And what was to be the goal of a Reunion, what did we hope to accomplish? Was there not some way that we could acknowledge our forebears...especially those who lost their lives in the Holocaust? Are they to go unremembered by those more-fortunate family members? Was not their sacrifice the foundation on which our lives were built... the foundation of the very existence of the State of Israel? Would not the coming together itself of distant family members be a fitting tribute to their memories?
Did anyone share our sense of history, that the story of our family, now dispersed in 18 countries, in every continent of the world, was, in fact, the story of the Jewish people? Did anyone share our sense of excitement in learning how we got our family name, of discovering siblings and other relatives of our great grandparents, of learning of the connections with others who share our family name who came from the same shtetlach?
Obviously, everyone's interest is not piqued by every question. Choose which applies to you. But in the aggregate, the answers to the questions posed were, "Yes, Yes, a resounding Yes!!!
When we departed for Israel we had more than met our minimums. More than 50 people were coming from 10 different countries. All who were coming from the Diaspora were related. Our minimum budget requirements had been met, thanks to broad support and a most generous contribution from our Colombian Gilinski cousins. Their contribution alone guaranteed Bluma's and Josif's participation. We had payment in hand sufficient to plant 150 trees in the Gilinsky/Gavendo Garden. Once in Israel and adding in the participation of those residents there, the final registration was 92. Gilinsky's and Gavendo's both known to us and unknown to us, were calling...can they come? While a few of the registrants had to cancel at the last minute, their spaces were filled by others including grandchildren and great grandchildren, once the elders saw what was taking place.