22 October 2008

A quote relevant to genealogy

Natan Sharansky spoke at the June 2008 conference of the American Jewish Press Association in Washington, DC. Attendees received copies of his new book, "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy."

I just got around to reading this book (one of many brought back from my summer travels) and want to share with readers a quote on page 7. Although I am sure the author had a more political meaning in mind, I read it as illustrating the genealogy community and its individual researchers who work together to provide resources for all, in addition to their own personal family research:

Identity, in contrast, is fundamentally about the links to others. The individual understands himself or herself in terms of a community, not only as a singular independent person but also as an individual attached to others and interdependent with them. Here, identity means identification: solidarity with others with whom you identify. Identity in this sense is a kind of communal self.

This tie to community in the past, the present, and the future is what adds a further dimension to your own immediate activities. It requires that you not simply engage the world as a lone individual. What you do contributes to a larger picture: linking your live to the lives of contemporaries who are part of the same community or to past and future generations of that community.

History becomes as Burke described it: a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Being part of such a community gives you great strength to defend your values and vision: a strength that comes not only from inside yourself but also in your ties to others who share with you these ideals and who are working to advance them. What you gain is solidarity - the sense of what is common among the members of this mutually committed community, from which each person draws support and strength.

Ukraine-born, Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, was released and made aliyah, served as a member of the Israeli cabinet, in several posts. He received the Congressional Gold Medal and, in 2006, America's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


  1. Anonymous5:29 AM

    great quote!
    -Eric in Kfar Saba

  2. great quote!

    -Eric and Rebecca in Kfar Saba

  3. Anonymous6:58 AM

    Very powerful! This quote really explains why I am involved in genealogy. Glad to have someone so inciteful summarize it for me.

    Marlene in Rockville, MD