South Orange Boy Travels to Israel as Finalist in ‘My Family Story’

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Fishback family in Tel Aviv: Jed, Breena, Jordan, and Jillian; Jordan’s grandmother, Doris Spector. (credit TSTI)

Fishback family in Tel Aviv: Jed, Breena, Jordan, and Jillian; Jordan’s grandmother, Doris Spector. (credit TSTI)


The following is from Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel.

Every year, the fourth-grade students at the Linda and Rudy Slucker Religious School at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) in South Orange participate in “My Family Story.” Through the program’s year-long curriculum, students and families around the world tell their Jewish stories and create family history projects.

Two students from the Reform synagogue—Jordan Fishback and Carly Platt—had their projects submitted to the program’s Manuel Hirsch Grosskopf International Competition. Jordan’s “The Five Families of Jordan Fishback” was selected as a top-40 finalist – the second time a TSTI student’s project was among the international finalists.

“This wonderful program enables students to learn about their Jewish heritage and those of their classmates in a very experiential way,” said Religious School Director Mindy Schreff. “Through conducting family interviews, gathering pictures of their ancestors and family heirlooms, and sharing their personal stories with the class, the students really connect with their backgrounds and get a glimpse into the diversity that makes up modern Jewish life in America.” TSTI held a special presentation in March, where families exhibited and explained their projects to students, faculty and others. The two exhibits that were sent to the competition in Israel were chosen on that day.

My Family Story is the cornerstone project of The International School for the Studies of Jewish Peoplehood within Beit Hatfutsot (The Museum of the Jewish People), located in Tel Aviv, Israel. This year, 20,000 students worldwide participated in the program, and a total of 200 competition entries were submitted for judging. The award ceremony was live streamed from Tel Aviv on June 14, and Jordan and his family were in attendance.

When asked how he came up with the idea for his presentation, the 10-year-old from South Orange said, “I had already been thinking about finding a way to relate my project to the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). I realized that with five grandparents, I could do five stories about different sides of my family. That became ‘The Five Families of Jordan Fishback’.”

In Israel, the finalists were split into four groups by geography (North America and Australia, South America and Spain, Europe and the former Soviet Union, and Israel) and enjoyed games and other activities together. During the award ceremony, three winners were announced out of each group (12 total) and the others earned “honorable mention.” Jordan received a certificate noting his accomplishment.

Finalists were also given a free airline ticket to attend the ceremony, and the Fishback family jumped at the chance to go along. “We never expected Jordan’s project to lead to this,” said his mother, Breena Fishback, who joined Jordan on the trip along with his father Jed, sister Jillian, and his grandmother, Doris Spector. “It presented us with a wonderful opportunity to travel to Israel and enjoy seeing some of the country as a family.”

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, located at 432 Scotland Road in South Orange, is a vibrant Reform congregation that offers Early Childhood Education, Religious School, teen programs, lifelong learning for adults, and a full complement of religious services and cultural programs each month. TSTI serves member families from Maplewood, the Oranges, Livingston, Millburn, Short Hills and surrounding areas. For more information, visit

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