Akiva Students Part of Current Life Stories Project

Published Thursday, October 29, 2020

On October 28, 16 older adults will be presented with a book that tells the story of their life.

The Life Stories project is based on a life review process, which is a creative way to improve health and quality of life for older adults to establish a sense of belonging to the Jewish community through storytelling.

Previously, 11 individuals, all over the age of 70, received the books as a personal memory to keep from the project.

This time, five Akiva Academy students participated in the project.

“The purpose of adding students was to teach the history of Youngstown’s Jewish community from a first-person point of view and promote intergenerational connection,” said Jillian Maynard, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and intern from Youngstown State University.

The students helped with tasks such as transcribing interviews, conducting research, and composing questions to ask participants. They met for three or four sessions and went through the participants’ life experiences, from childhood through today. Maynard wrote the books.

Students involved were Ivy Rawl, Violet Rawl, Selah Sargent, Cameron Silverman, and Addison Silverman. Selah Sargent worked with Bobbi Grinstein, co-founder of the English Learning Center at Rodef Sholom. Grinstein said it was fun to remember the stories as she told them to Sargent and Maynard. Grinstein has a lot to share.

“We’ve done a lot,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot. We have raised two children who are very successful, and our grandchildren are successful, all of them. And our great grandchildren I know will be successful.” Sargent, age 12, found the project interesting and recommends other students get involved in projects of this type. “I think a lot of people would enjoy it,” she said. Cameron and Addison Silverman had an extra incentive to listen closely because they worked with a relative, Lenore Ackerman. “Cameron and Addison helped write some of Lenore’s stories and learned more about their own family history and ancestry through their participation with the project,” Maynard said. “I think it was a wonderful experience,” Ackerman said. “It brought back memories, most of them pleasant. I look back now on my 82 years, and I say I had a pretty good life. I was pretty lucky. So that’s what it’s done for me.” Both Addison and Cameron, age 12, said it was a good experience. They learned things about Ackerman they didn’t know and also learned about their great-grandparents. “I never knew that she lived in so many places,” Addison said.

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