Exploring Art, l’dor vador

Adventures with the Federation Fellows

Earlier this month, the current Fed Fellows cohort had the opportunity to participate in a private tour of the From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Though the artists featured came from a wide range of backgrounds – some Jewish, some not – they were bound by their haunting “postmemories” resulting from the powerful personal and cultural trauma inherited from previous generations.

Dr. Marianne Hirsch, whose work on postmemory inspired the exhibit, defines postmemory as “the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviors among which they grew up…these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right.” It is the idea that we are able to inherit memories from previous generations, and that these inherited memories often influence our current relationships and opinions.

The artists’ postmemories are manifested in profound pieces of art of various media forms, including video, sound, and photography, amongst others. Our guide, Sherry Goodman, appropriately began the tour with a piece by Christian Boltanski, which manifested his burdensome postmemories from his father’s experience in the Holocaust. We continued to other exhibit pieces revealing postmemories from other tragedies in world history, including the Armenian Genocide and the violence resulting from the Vietnam War.

Our guide encouraged the group to share their interpretations of each exhibit piece and, remarkably, each member of the group had a different understanding. Throughout the tour, we fed off of each other’s creativity, discovering that each idea was introspective and correct in its own way. The vast array of experiences of the Fed Fellows cohort shone light on parts of the exhibit that I would not have gathered through just my own lens.

The notion that rituals and philosophies are passed down l’dor vador – from generation to generation – permeates Jewish culture. We often talk about this notion by referencing the stories, heirlooms, and images imparted upon us by previous generations. But, as proven by the exhibit, memory, often serving as an intimate and personal narrative of an experience or feeling, can be subconsciously transferred from generation to generation and can have more of an impact on a person’s outlook than one might believe.

A Bay Area native, Daphna Torbati currently works as a public finance investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley in San Francisco. Outside of the office, Daphna embraces her role as a self-proclaimed political news junkie, and enjoys cooking and spending time with her family and friends.

Federation Fellows is a two-year leadership building program that develops the next generations of leaders for the Jewish community. Learn More

Categories: Leadership


April 20, 2017


Daphna Torbati