Pop Up Stories


What is a Pop-Up Story?

It’s a story that you tell in three paragraphs at most. It captures a specific event, person or life
experience that you want to share with your grandchildren and family. You want to share it
because it did one or more of the following:


  • It contributed to, what Marshall Duke calls, your “intergenerational self.” Things that
    happened to family members before you can happen to you as well. Because you know of
    their experiences, you have the confidence and resilience to face what comes your way.
  • It taught you something about the way to live your life—how to behave or act.
  • It captures a family member so well that others can begin to know who they are.
  • The story may be lost if you don’t share it.
  • It will inspire others in your family to tell their version of the story or other stories.

Why Should Grandparents Tell Our Family Stories?

As grandparents, we hold at least 100 years of family stories in our heads. We learned about
WWI and the Spanish Flu Epidemic directly from our parents or grandparents. Some of us lived
through the depression years or WWII, and all of us know someone in our family who did. Many
grew up as the children of holocaust survivors or never had grandparents because they perished
in the Shoah. We experienced the birth of Israel, the first manned space flight, and the cold war
and lived through the tumultuous sixties with non-violent and violent protest and a series of
assassinations that rocked our confidence in the notion of shared bedrock national values. Our
stories span a century or more of human experience and they shape who we are and who we
aspire to be.

Why Now?

Living during a world-wide pandemic is frightening and challenging. Separated from
loved ones who may not be continents apart but sometimes a few blocks away feels unnatural
and cruel. The fear that we may never again see those we most cherish is no longer existential.
This crisis calls upon us to confront our fragility and mortality at the same time that we feel
compelled do all that we can to preserve life and move forward. Judaism insists that we embrace
this tension in our texts and stories and in so many of our rituals. God willing, and with the help
of our fellow citizens, we will make all of the right choices in order to save as many lives as
Meanwhile, let’s use some of this time to think about our family stories and begin to tell them.
They are among the greatest gifts we can give to our families.

Let the pop-up stories begin!

How to Submit Your Pop-Up Story

Click here to submit your Pop-Up Story.

With Us Under the Huppah

My maternal grandmother, Lena Krostar Gorbach, was the only grandparent I knew. She was born around 1880 in the Pale of Settlement to parents who had an arranged marriage, as was customary for Jews at that time.  Her parents soon divorced; her mother came to…

Gram and Groucho

When I was age eight my maternal grandfather Max, passed away. My grandmother Bessie, known as “Gram”, moved into our two-bedroom apartment in a Bronx city housing authority building. She and my grandfather, immigrants from Romania and Russia, came to America in the early 1900’s seeking…

Family Is a Safety Net

When I was a child I had a plan in place “should anything happen to my mom and dad.” It was simple; I’d just go live with my Aunt Betty, my mom’s sister. Clueless as to what plans my folks might have made in that…

When the World Is Too Much with Us

My father-in-law, called “GaGa” by his grandchildren, was a well-to-do man by any measure but refused to eat potatoes for his entire adult life—not even a french fry could cross his lips. To him, potatoes tasted like poverty because, during his childhood, potatoes were often…

Uncle Myron, the Orioles and a Hot Dog

When my Uncle Myron, known to most as Rabbi Myron M. Fenster, was to visit Baltimore for the annual gathering of the Rabbinical Assembly asked for a favor, I couldn’t say no.  He wanted to go to an Orioles game at Camden Yards.  What was…

No Son of Mine Is Going to Grow Up in a Place Like This

My maternal great uncle Earl was conceived by my grandmother during the Spanish Flu epidemic when my grandmother became sick with the flu. Like many other infants carried to term under those conditions, Earl was born with significant developmental disabilities. Unlike many others, however, my maternal…

Won Ton Soup, Egg Rolls, Spare Ribs…..Wait!!!

Sunday night dinner at a Chinese restaurant; spare-ribs, wonton soup, chicken chow mein, fortune cookies, and orange slices.  In the 1950s and 60s, it was a hallowed tradition shared among Jewish families across North America.  And so, one Sunday evening, my grandparents, three sisters, and…