My name is Maeve Silver and I am a volunteer for The Together Plan (TTP). I’ve been with the charity for just over two years now which I can’t believe! Where has the time gone?! I’ve learnt so much on my journey with TTP and I’m very proud of how this experience has changed me and my perspective on history and on identity.
I began by coming into the office in Bushey every Thursday for a few hours, helping Debra Brunner, TTP’s CEO with odd jobs. I was so excited when she asked me to create a booklet, with Abi Brunner, about some of the history of Jewish Belarus for those who were going to be travelling on the Trailblazing trip back in 2019. I also worked on Zoymen 2020, TTP’s virtual conference, and am part of the Zoymen 2021 team! We are all very much looking forward to the October event which will bring even more people together. So many more stories will be told. The Together Plan’s Youth for Youth movement (17-30-year-olds) has developed tremendously throughout the past year, even more so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People took to Zoom and we’ve been able to work internationally with our members which has been brilliant. I’ve also become part of the Archive Services team, which is a phenomenal service that TTP offers in order to reunite people with their Belarusian Jewish heritage.
My work with The Together Plan has really, in a sense, rescued me and has filled a void in my life that I don’t really talk much about. I joined at a time where I didn’t entirely know where I was going or what I was doing. I was in the middle of my ‘three gap years’ and I was waiting for something thrilling to happen. I wasn’t yet ready to go to university at this point. I was waiting for a plan and for a bit of certainty.
I had heard of The Together Plan through my aunt’s friend, and I travelled to Bushey to meet Debra for the first time. I think about that day a lot and I was both shocked and enlightened when she sat me down and told me about Jewish Belarus, its history and the immense work that was waiting to be done. I was already buzzing and I was delighted when she asked me to join and be a part of the charity. Something about Belarus really resonated with me, and at that moment in time, I didn’t understand what it was.
TTP came into my life at a time where I was really struggling with my identity. At that time, I was waiting for some results from a DNA site as I had decided that it was finally time to learn about my paternal ancestry. I don’t know my father as he is an anonymous sperm donor, but I do know that my dad is a very good, decent and generous man. It’s because of him that over twenty children are living now! He gave my mum what she always wanted… And I have spent the last two years getting to know two of my half-siblings!
I’ve struggled to come to terms with the reality of never having him in my life and that I wouldn’t entirely know who half of me was. My DNA test revealed that I’m part-Irish which was a pleasant surprise! It was great to put together the pieces of the puzzle that were there, inside me, the entire time. Also revealed were my Jewish roots and there they were on paper!… The Goronofskys, the Lurias, the Mininskys, the Dyches, the Silversteins, the Galvins and the Mednitskys, who came to the East End of London to escape persecution from Lithuania, Latvia and Poland… all members of my family.
Why am I writing all of this? What’s it got to do with Jewish Belarus? I’ll get to that! I want to tell you about what happened to me on the 22nd March this year that changed my perspective even more…