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What We Hold: Youth Voices on Roots and What Matters Most

Mar 25, 2018–Mar 25, 2019

The teen years are instrumental in the creation of self. But what shapes us? What family stories become our core stories? What pieces of ourselves are formed and reformed from our heritage? In What We Hold: Youth Voices on Roots and What Matters Most, over seventy teens, ranging in age from 14 to 18, created individual audio segments reflecting on family journeys, music, food, traditions, language, and moments of choice, that have made an imprint on their identities. Each recording acts as a thread connecting generations.

about the exhibition

What We Hold is the fifth, and largest, in a series of Contemporary Jewish Museum installations highlighting youth voices. For this project, teens considered what pieces of themselves reflect influences from their cultural inheritance and family life. The youth were then asked to interview a family member or loved one and go further in their reflection. What resulted are these compelling recordings offering a snapshot of what they uncovered, a rare window into youth perspectives today, and a place for youth to shine and share their voice.

Featuring Voices From:

  • Contra Costa Midrasha
  • Jewish Community High School of the Bay
  • National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago
  • Oakland School for the Arts
  • The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Teen Art Connect program

All of the recordings can be found on

select recordings

What does it mean to be Jewish? Do you have to go to every Shabbat service? What if you don't go at all? These are the questions that have been floating around in my head. I just wish there was a 'Being Jewish for Dummies' to answer these questions.

—Sam, 15, Judaism and You,  Contra Costa Midrasha

contra costa midrasha

These recordings were created by freshman at Contra Costa Midrasha (CCM), a pluralistic Jewish supplemental educational, mentorship and leadership program serving Contra Costa County for teens in grades 8-12. The students reflected on significant elders and/or moments in their lives and the impact of those narratives on their personal identities. With thanks to Julie Rubenstein and Devra Aarons. For more information, visit

As I said my final goodbyes, I looked over to my dad, who was crying just as if he'd spent the entire summer at camp. My dad, a long time camper of the same camp, was feeling nostalgic about his camp experience and how he felt on the last day of camp, as he knew the exact same feeling from when he was younger.

—Talia, 16, The Importance of Camp, Jewish Community High School of the Bay

Jewish Community High School of the Bay

These recordings were created by juniors at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, a pluralistic Jewish High School serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area. The students reflected on the characteristics of their Jewish identities that have been transmitted to them by family members then recorded these stories to capture those memories. With thanks to Dr. Jonathan Ayres, Barbar Roether, Michael Mirelman, Evan Wolkenstein, and Robin Gluck.

When I was younger, my mom would blast her Spanish music when she cleaned our home, and on the car rides to school, which she still does even now. When I was 10, my mom would put her Spanish music on full-blast. And my smaller Mexican self would try to sing, or more like scream, the fast Spanish.

—Merie, 16, The Inherit, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago

National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago

These recordings were created by youth audio storytellers of Yollocalli Arts Reach, the youth initiative of the National Musem of Mexican Art in Chicago. Yollocalli offers youth ages 13-24, free visual arts and digital media programs and events. Yollocalli's audio storytelling and radio program provides an outlet for bilingual and bicultural youth to share their own voice and represent their community through reporting and storytelling. With thanks to Vanessa A. Sanchez, Yollocalli Arts Reach Director. For more information, visit

 I have inherited my Grandmother's face… When my Grandfather looks at me, he cries. When my Father looks at me, he smiles. In a family where water is drowned and waiting too long, being too good at farewells, you must learn to not let go, even if the rope leaves burns. That is a lesson I embody. My family has taught it over and over again. My hands are covered in rope burns everywhere.

—Justine, 14, My Grandmother’s Face, Oakland School of the Arts

Oakland School for the Arts

These recordings were created by teen writers in the School of Literary Arts at the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) during the fall semester 2017 course, "Oral Histories: On Mythologizing & Creating Dangerously." During the semester-long class, OSA students read, discussed, and wrote in response to narratives based in origin myths and oral histories, culminating in interviews with community members. Then, students responded to their interview(s) in a creative piece, mythologizing their own personal and familial histories. With gratitude to Melissa Sipin, OSA Faculty. For more on the School of Literary Arts at OSA, visit:

Perhaps the only thing that I understand more now is that when my grandfather speaks of the Arab-Israeli War, he isn’t speaking in retrospect. He is still living in that space and in that time.

—Jesse, 17, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About the War, Teen Art Connect program, The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Teen Art Connect Program at The CJM

These recordings were created by Teen Art Connect program at The Contemporary Jewish Museum. Teen Art Connect brings together high school students from diverse backgrounds to explore, connect, and imagine in a creative museum setting. Through reflections on music, food, journeys and more, these young voices share core stories that ground and unite them with past generations. With gratitude to PJ Gubatina Policarpio, Youth Programs Manager and Elizabeth Mak, multimedia producer.

featured artists

Contra Costa Midrasha

Elizabeth Paul
Asher Berlin
Sam Benabou
Eliana Goldstein
Ellen Bussey
Max Benabou

National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago

Aidan Delgado
Ariel Ramirez
Baltacesar Salinas
Camila Ruiz
Cecilia Ruiz
Daniel Diaz
Lizette Nunez
Merie Meraz
Sebastian Ramirez
Xyra Herrara

Oakland School for the Arts

Emma Hardison
Ariella Brodie–Weisberg
Emiliano Estrada
Justine Courtenay-Huang
Cassandra Ponce-Ventura
Nyla Gill
Rafael Cediel
Ezekiel Gerwein
Anna Illes
Sarah Kiyoko Inouye
Jade Chevalier
Neajah “Donnie” Brown

Teen Art Connect Program—The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Una Lynch
David Escobar
Ella Rosenblatt
Kayla Buki
Larry Huynh
Jesse Noil

Jewish Community High School of the Bay

Maya G
Maya M
Maya R

With thanks to the guidance of the educators

Devra Aarons, Dr. Jonathan Ayres, Robin Gluck, Elizabeth Mak, Michael Mirelman, PJ Gubatina Policarpio, Barbara Roether, Vanessa Sanchez, Melissa Sipin, and Evan Wolkenstein


Teen Programs are made possible by major support from the Koret Foundation, The Covenant Foundation, and U.S. Bank Foundation, and are part of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative with support provided by the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund and the Jim Joseph Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Ira A. Roschelle M.D. Family Foundation.

Image Credit

2017 Teen Art Connect Interns at The Contemporary Jewish Museum. Photo by PJ Gubatina Policarpio.