Tradition, Tradition! Your Family Traditions Matter More Than You May Realize

We are now in the Jewish High Holy Days, which always puts me in a reflective mood. Last week we observed Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, and we turn this week to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. For me, holiday memories always conjure up family traditions. I can hear Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” singing “Tradition, Tradition!” in my brain right now. Each family develops its own traditions, and those traditions are vitally important in passing down a family legacy from generation to generation.

In our Family Legacy Planning series, I’ve been quoting Mitzi Perdue, author of Making Your Family Business Endure Across the Generations. In recent emails, I highlighted Perdue’s assertion that the number one reason her family (Sheraton Hotels and Perdue Farms Chicken) endures is regular family travel, crediting her ancestors with setting aside funds in a trust to pay for annual family trips. She also stresses the emphasis on stewardship, training kids from early on to care for the family business and pass it down stronger to the next generation.

Perdue also stresses the importance of adopting a system of Family Governance, asserting unequivocally that “successful families are intentional about family governance.” The governing system addresses how to resolve quarrels (inevitable in every family). It also establishes a framework on how the family votes on major decisions. In our June 29 and July 6 emails, we addressed the particulars of family governance.

Perdue’s next reason for family continuity really speaks to my heart, especially this time of year: Preserving Family Traditions. According to Perdue, “the more traditions, the more glue.” Traditions are the “lifeblood of a family’s identity.” Mitzi’s family even created a “What it Means to Be Us” book. Each family member writes a page in that book, answering that question with words and pictures. The book preserves important traditions and stories for future heirs. It’s also a meaningful way to onboard in-laws, helping them understand the soul of the family they’re joining.

I had an “a-ha!” moment this week reading a blog post by dear friend Karen Cortell Reisman, founder of Speak for Yourself. Karen tells the story of her late mother making 114 gefilte fish balls each year for the family’s Rosh Hashonah gathering, and teaching Karen the technique before she passed away. When Karen’s son read his mom’s blog, he contacted her and said, “I’ll make gefilte fish with you anytime!” That’s what I’m talking about in creating and passing down a family legacy. Those fish balls mean a lot more to preserving the Cortell family heritage than you might think.

Every family has its own version of a gefilte fish tradition. Renowned family governance author Bruce Feiler tells of a grandfather tossing yarmulkes (skull caps) like Frisbees onto the boys’ heads at their weekly Shabbat dinners. The Blum traditions seem to also center around holiday observance, whether it be lighting Chanukah menorahs the kids made decade ago or the taste and smell of holiday recipes handed down from my grandparents to my own grandchildren now. Through those traditions, I feel a connection to my roots, and my goal is to preserve that connection for years to come, “L’dor Vador—From Generation to Generation.”

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin and Laurie Blum sounding the shofar (ram’s horn) to welcome the Jewish year 5782. Here’s to preserving every family’s meaningful traditions!