Blog Post

Looking back and leaping forward

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This is the traditional time of the year when folks look back before they leap forward. An “old” year is drawing to a close as I write this, the time left measured in a few days. The media is recounting memories of the past—The Year in Pictures: 2009, Ten Unsolved Mysteries in the War on Terror, A Year Full of Challenge—while at the same time prognosticating the future—Fearless Forecast 2010: More Media Turbulence, Another Lean Year Awaits, Faces to Watch 2010.

As I prepare the first piece for this blog, I am struck with how similar this process is to the writing of a work of nonfiction, in particular of history, and in still greater particular, the history of a specific place, time and people. Or maybe it’s more particular to this book. Maybe it’s the way this writer bridges past with present and future, implicit in the title and subtitle The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled People in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. For if a people survive, they have a chance at a future beyond the present. And as I was preparing the book, searching in archives, writing first and second drafts, I was surrounded by the living proof that the people of whom I wrote did indeed survive the past, as we who are reading, hearing, talking about the events of 2009 have been brought to this living present and are peering beyond.

Elsewhere on this site, I tell of three events of the past that launched my studies of the Sephardic Jews: a childhood memory, stories told me in confidence and the evidence in Iberia of their presence and impact in the past. I tell how the grandiose idea of writing a book was birthed by the dearth of available reading material. But it was the presence of Sephardic descendants themselves as colleagues and friends that gave those studies meaning and evidenced that their history goes beyond survival into a very vibrant present that keeps becoming the future before we can look around. Their stories of family and community life move from the past into present and are retold to the children who are the future.

As one’s personal time is always moving and relative, some of you will be reading this after the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2009, in fact, probably most of you, as we’re still preparing the site as I write this, although pretty close to launch time. I had taken for granted the presence of a blog as pro forma. Then I began to have second thoughts. What if I can’t think of something special to write as frequently as blogs seem to demand? Will I become as possessed as I am sometimes with email or Facebook, having to go online more frequently to see if there are comments? Is there an obligation to respond to comments? Or is there, conversely, an obligation to allow reader expression without the blogger, like that ubiquitous magazine or newspaper editor, always having the last word? What if there are periods where I prefer to play with my grandchildren or avoid the computer or veg out?

It’s a whole new world out there and I’m leaping in, as the ten-year-old I was once leaped into the cold New Hampshire lake as the first step in learning to swim. I did it both in terror and in the promise of a greater good. Here goes…

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3 Comments

  1. Jutta Schamp
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    What a gorgeous website, Dolly, and a thoughtful blog entry. Congrats!

  2. MariaV
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Yes, keep blogging. Answer when you feel you must. Good to interact with audience.
    Yes, you must enjoy and play with the grandchildren. From them all energy and inspiration will come. Enjoy querida amiga. Your time here and now. MariaV

  3. Posted January 7, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Great Homepage with lots of useful information. Thank you Dolly!

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