Editor’s Wrapup:: Mapping Memory
One of the central lessons of Pass-over is that we define ourselves—our values and our individual and collective identities—by looking to the past. The Exo- dus from Egypt, with its travails and triumphs, is the principal Jewish reference point, but we also orient ourselves in large and small ways by finding other points of common history.
The surge of interest in genealogy is one manifestation of our quest for identity. First it was family trees based on information from grandparents or documents that took us, in most cases, back a century or two. Now we can look more deeply into the past with the help of DNA testing, which seems to rival our computers in the rapid growth of its sophistication. Andrée Aelion Brooks looks at the latest studies of the Jewish genetic map in “The DNA Bread Crumb Trail,” which begins on page 12.
It’s not just the distant past that has a hold on the Jewish consciousness. Like the Exodus, the Holocaust is a touchstone for all Jews, and as the number of living witnesses declines, Jewish communities and artists have been increasingly motivated to set memory, quite literally, in stone. In this issue, we present just a few images from the growing map of memory—monuments from Boston to Berlin to Jerusalem—with an accompanying essay by Professor James E. Young, a specialist in Holocaust art and architecture (page 36).
One of the prototypical businesses of the diaspora was jewelry, a portable profession for a people often uprooted. Israel was supposed to revolutionize Jewish labor, but it has also offered a new stage on which to reshape the past. The most recent example of this is in jewelry, where the need for portability has given way to artistry. Barbara Sofer looks at the growing success on the world scene of Israeli jewelry designers (page 18). Like their forebears who set forth from Egypt, they are free to create, but also to find beauty in the echoes of the Jewish experience.