My Granddaughter on her Cultural Inheritance

Cultural Inheritance Video

My Granddaughter on her Cultural Inheritance

Cultural Inheritance Video

A new short film, “Cultural Inheritance: Stories of Grandchildren of Soviet Jewish Immigrants” was screened during a theatrical event, “The Apple Does Not Fall: Journeys of a Russian-Jewish Family” in August at Piven Theater, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston. The event also featured two plays, written by a Russian-Jewish emigre, Bena Shklyanoy and Kevin Olson of FirstHand Theatrical.

Watch Cultural Inheritance movie here:

The plays, “And Then What?” and “How Many Bushels Am I Worth?” had a ten-day run from August 16 to the 26th. These stories are eyewitness accounts of an ordinary Russian-Jewish family and their life experiences from the pre-Bolshevik and Soviet eras to the 1970’s immigration to the US. The film, Cultural Inheritance was created by Shklyanoy’s granddaughter, Abigail Matz.

This film connects the dots from her grandma’s life in the USSR and the tough decision to emigrate, to Abbie’s burgeoning career as a Chicago based IT Consultant on assignment in New York City. “They were so brave,” said Abbie, about her grandparent’s decision to emigrate in the 1970’s. “They didn’t know where they were going or what to expect. They made the sacrifice for us, who weren’t even born yet.”

In the movie Abbie, her friend Becky and their grandmas talk about keeping the traditions from “the old country” and how that heritage manifests in their lives today. The generations easily slip between Russian and English as they talk of food, family and sacrifice. “I hope that my project can inspire other Jews to take a deeper look into their family history in order to truly understand where they came from,” said Abbie.

Abbie’s Birthright trip last summer to Israel piqued her interest in understanding where she came from. “I’m so grateful that my grandmother traced our family history and created her website,,” said Abbie. “I am so touched to be working on a project that will be promoting the play my grandmother wrote about our family’s immigration story.”

Abbie Matz was born and raised in Highland Park, IL. She is a first-generation American citizen; her parents immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine (it was the Soviet Union at that time). They are both software engineers and it was natural for her to pursue a similar path. She graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Informatics as well as 3 minors: Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and General Business.

Abbie drew strength from her family’s story when faced with an internship opportunity in Ohio, a few years before she graduated. “I was so afraid to go to another state where I didn’t know a single person. My family left their homes and moved to an entirely different country, not knowing what to expect, or if they would ever see family again. I realized that if the right opportunity is sitting in front of you, you have to be brave and take it.”

Abbie did just that when she joined Ernst & Young as a Technical Advisory Consultant in September of 2017, in the Financial Services Office. She travels back and forth between New York and Chicago for her current assignment. “This is what we dreamed of,” said Bena, of her granddaughter’s success. “I’m beyond proud.”

This film is a JUF Russian Jewish Division’s Tikkun Fellowship project by Abigail Matz, funded by Genesis Philanthropy Group, a private foundation committed to supporting and launching projects, programming, and institutions that are focused on ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage, and values are preserved in Russian-speaking Jewish communities across the globe.

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