Martha Mazo: The spirit behind My Family Story
One of the most far-reaching and longstanding programs at Beit Hatfutsot, My Family Story, was the brainchild of Señora Martha Mazo, an immigrant from Argentina who admits that she never imagined that her dream, incredibly, would, become reality. A psychologist by training, as well as a mother of three daughters and grandmother of seven, Martha is one of the great treasures at Beit Hatfutsot, a warm, petite bundle of energy who treats participants in her program – as well as everyone who she encounters – with enormous love and care. Elana Sztokman interviewed Martha during one of her busiest weeks of the year: the week of the My Family Story awards ceremony that took place on June 14:
When did you start working at Beit Hatfutsot?
I made Aliyah from Argentina in 1987 and almost immediately started working here. Even before I made Aliyah I knew that this was the place I wanted to work. I visited Beit Hatfutsot the year it opened, and then again in 1986, and I just knew, this is where I want to be. So when I arrived in Israel, I called up as soon as I could and asked for a job. At the time they were considering opening a group for Spanish speakers, so they were happy to hear from me. I eventually got a job doing tours with Spanish speakers, and I have been here ever since.
Where did the idea for My Family Story come from?
Because of my background as a teacher and a psychologist, I started working with groups. But soon I found myself in the genealogy department as well, which I really enjoyed. When I was working in genealogy, I was thinking about education. I wanted to figure out a way to get schools involved. So in 1994, I built relationships with two schools in Israel, and that’s how we started. Today there are 110 schools involved, but we started small. Sometimes I look at what the program has become and I can’t believe it myself. Even in my wildest dreams I don’t think I could have imagined how many students are doing this. In some places, the program has become a very important part of school life, and it becomes a huge enterprise for the entire community. Often the entire family gets involved in the project. This year, for example, an entire family is flying in to Israel for the award ceremony, just because they want to be part of it.
What have been some of your most inspiring moments?
Oh, there have been so many! I have inspiration every day just seeing how many people love working on this project, to see how important it has become to Beit Hatfutsot, to really see my dream come true. That doesn’t happen to everyone. In the past two years especially, with the new staff of the International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies, there are some really talented and dedicated people who help turn my ideas into reality. That is really wonderful to watch.
One of my greatest moments was actually when I met the Sergio and Kuky Grosskopf. I was asked to give them a tour of the museum in Spanish, and we got talking and I told them about My Family Story. At the time, we were not sure where the funding for the program was going to come from, and if we would be able to continue. Mr. Grosskopf said, “How much do you need?” and he sent me a check the next day! He has since committed to supporting the program every year. That was just incredible. To meet someone like that, who is able and caring enough to provide that kind of support. That was a very inspiring moment.
What have been some of your greatest challenges?
My greatest challenge is letting go and enabling others to take ownership of the vision. At a certain point, when I realized I could not keep doing things myself, I understood that if you love something, you have to let it fly. There are some wonderfully talented people around me, and I know that the program is in good hands. As you can see – the program is flying!