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How Should Legacies Affect Us?

An experience with grandmother gives insight into my role as a Jewish teen.

Over my winter vacation, I was looking forward to taking a break from my stressful junior year by sleeping late and catching up on a couple of tv shows. I also traveled to Maryland to visit my grandmother, as I rarely have the opportunity to do so. One day, disguised as a shopping trip, my grandmother took me to the United Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Moments after pulling into the parking lot, the security guard gave us a big welcome, as did everyone else who we met. When we walked into one suite of offices, one woman even went so far as to stand up and announce in an embarrassingly loud voice, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a celebrity in our midst.” It was clear to me that my grandmother had left a legacy there. 

The author’s grandmother’s plaque in the United Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Photo courtesy of Sarah Horvath.

As I wheeled my grandmother around, she greeted people with excitement. Yet, she had a clear destination in mind. We stopped in front of a room, with a plaque on the door that was dedicated in her honor. She proudly showed me what she called “her library.” For her, it was a testament to her work in the community and the contributions she made to Jewish education. At some point during my grandmother’s glory-walk, someone turned to my mother and said, “One day you will be doing the same thing, but with your own legacy.” The first thought that went through my head was, Oh Lord, I don’t want to do this to my children. But then I thought, wow, that would be tremendous if each of us—three generations of Jewish women left our own legacy. 

I was inspired by my grandmother’s contribution to the Jewish community and left wondering what my own legacy would be. Judaism is a religion and culture built on traditions and the influences of those that came before us. It also means that each of us builds upon the work of others. This is both empowering and intimidating. As my family lit our menorahs that night, I couldn’t help but think of the message of Chanukah—about Jewish survival and the importance of standing up for your beliefs and my hopes of leaving my own legacy. 

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Sarah Horvath is a junior at Abraham Joshua Heschel High School in Manhattan. She is an Editorial Board Member of Fresh Ink for Teens.

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