(The following was originally published on Mass Creative.)
Your Personal Connection
We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity had an impact on your life and your view of the community?
Creativity is a kind of risk-taking. It is driven by a unique conviction of truth, and a passionate desire to express that truth through actions or words. It is, above all, a reflection of the aspiration to be free, to connect with others, to question accepted norms, and to live life on your own terms. It may be expressed through arts or culture, and it may be expressed simply in the way you live your life.
I grew up surrounded by a family that was imbued with this kind of spirit. Storytelling as a way of not just recounting life experiences but as a way to find meaning in them was – and is – a central part of my family life. This spirit has always has been a core element of my personality and soul.
My father’s father, Solomon, was born in Ukraine in 1905. When he was 14, much of his family was murdered because they were Jews. He escaped, and made his way across Europe, looking for passage to America. He ended up in Cuba, alone and penniless. He lived on the beach for a time, and ate mangoes that grew nearby. He worked odd jobs, and eventually was able to move to Venezuela, where he started a business. Over time, he saved enough money to reach his goal – making sure his sons were educated in the U.S. And so, when my father was, in turn, 14 years old, my grandfather sent my dad to live with relatives in New York.