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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Most children don't ask ...

In general, children look forwards, not backwards: to the future, not the past.

This is a good thing generally speaking. An exception to this is based on the fact that one’s parents and other elders in the family are younger when you are younger. Often their memories are better when they are in their prime than when they have aged.

At a school reunion, the current headmaster at my old school, Highgate in North London, once addressed a group of us ‘old boys, who were in our 50s. One of the things he said, and it is the only one that I remember, was that we who were assembled to listen to him had reached the age when the ‘nostalgia gene’ kicks in.

Some of us who have reached the age where this gene begins to express itself have already lost older close family members, or those who remain, are beginning to lose their memories. My mother died over 30 years ago, but fortunately for me a number of my uncles and aunts, as well as my father, have thrived without loss of memory. So, when my ‘nostalgia gene’ kicked in, in my 50s, and I became interested in knowing more about the past of my family, they were able to help me gather information. This allowed me to realise in which directions to further direct my researches.

If only I could turn back the clock and speak to my mother or my grandmother or my father’s step-father, whom I knew until I was in my teens, how much more I would have learnt. But, being young, I was looking forwards rather than backwards. And, several unrepeatable opportunities were lost.
My advice to anyone, who wants to learn about their family’s past, is to start young. If a relative says something that recalls the past, jot it down – you never know when you will become seriously interested, and will then value what you have noted.

I decided to set down a summary of what I had researched over the years so that if those who follow me ask about my family’s history when I can no longer recall it, it will be set down in writing. I decided that rather than confine myself to my own family’s history, some of which was based on what my elders have told me, I would try to write something that covered this, but with a more general appeal.

The result is my latest book “Exodus To Africa”, which I hope will interest people who like me have a Jewish South African heritage. Naturally, I hope that this book will also appeal to a more general audience.



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