Don’t Break the Chain is the first publication of what the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia hopes will become a Family History series.
The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia has released the first book in what it hopes will become a Family History series. Don’t Break the Chain: The Nemetz Family Journey from Svatatroiske to Vancouver was published in collaboration with the Ben and Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation, and was researched by Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson.
Barnett described her family as founders and workers behind the scenes of the Vancouver Jewish community.
“One of my mother’s sisters helped build Congregation Schara Tzedeck, the Louis Brier Home and funeral chapels, while another sister founded Jewish Family Services and visited the poor, people in prisons and mental hospitals. My mother ran charity events for Jewish Vancouver from the age of 18 and her brother started Camp Hatikvah,” she said. “They brought a lot of strength to the community. The next generation, which was mine and included 23 of us, has made significant contributions to Jewish Vancouver, too.”
There was plenty of raw material to draw from for the book, given the fact that Barnett’s six brothers had created memoirs and Dayson had begun creating family trees 25 years ago. The project became challenging when she opted to include charts and photographs of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I established contact with members of the family I never knew, siblings who’d had arguments and people estranged from the family, and it took a very soft approach, getting them to respond with photographs,” she explained. “I wasn’t looking to mend fences or interfere in anyone’s life, I just wanted to write a book!”
Ultimately, with the assistance of graphic designer Barbi Braude and Facebook, she was able to source all the photographs required to complete the book.
Michael Schwartz, director of community engagement at the JMABC, said the Nemetz family journey would resonate among many other Jewish families in Vancouver.
“The story of leaving Europe, getting here and eventually bringing their family to Canada has parallels for many in our community and is a fascinating tale,” he said. “The Nemetz family has a very interesting history and many siblings of the early generation have accomplished great things and had an important impact on the community as a whole.”
The museum is hoping to partner with other families who are interested in creating similar books. Barnett described the creation of the book as a joint venture. “My brother and I contributed the money to the museum and archives, which then allowed us to use their name, resources, and to co-publish this,” she said. “I’d like to see the Wosk, Groberman and Waterman families – all large, extended families with deep roots in Vancouver – do a book like this.”
The launch of Don’t Break the Chain is being celebrated at a hosted brunch at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on April 2, 11 a.m. If you are interested in attending, call the museum 604-257-5199.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.