Capturing Stories for Future Generations

The Jewish people have the two-fold reputation of being a history-centered people and of holding the longest and most tenacious of memories.  Starting with the Torah text, we are encouraged to remember many different things that are seen as relevant to the collective identity of the Jewish people.  And whenever we light a yahrzeit candle, we remember our immediate ancestors.

Imagine being able to learn about your ancestors and read your family tree whose roots go back for generations.  The popularity of genealogy and websites such as ancestry.com is evidence of people’s desire to learn about their past.  From where and from whom do we come?  The Jewish tradition of “remembering those who came before us” is strongly exemplified and embraced in the concept of L’dor V’dor.  While today it is difficult for many of us to discover those roots, future generations will have a much easier time of it, thanks to a company called GEN-2-GEN.  As part of the national organization, Katzman Monument Company, GEN-2-GEN utilizes cutting-edge technology to ensure that future generations will know about their roots.  The parent company, Katzman Monument Company, is a family-based monument and marker company whose roots date back to 1935.

In 1913, Jacob “Jack” Katzman immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe.  He served his newly-adopted country in World War I and then entered the Minneapolis Institute of Art to study fine arts.  After honing his skills as an apprentice in local monument companies, Jack established the Katzman Monument Company in 1935.  For nearly fifty years Jack was a leader in the monument and marker industry, designing each monument and marker by hand.  He was known for his unique and high quality lettering, symbols and designs, both religious and secular.  With no one to take over the business, Jack reluctantly closed the company’s doors in 1981.  Twenty-eight years later, his grandchildren rediscovered Jack’s one-of-a-kind lettering, artwork and style and brought the business back.  However, times had changed and they recognized that the industry needed some innovation — technological innovation.  From the growing popularity of “end of life” or “legacy” videos with personal messages often shown at funerals, the idea of an interactive memorial was born.  Katzman’s Interactive Memorial blends the historical practices of memorialization with the latest technologies in order to tell life stories.

Legacies are about more than just money – but about leaving behind the lessons we have learned and stories about our lives.  Utilizing the QR Code, families are able to design a living memorial that may be accessed by anyone with a smart phone – at graveside or anywhere in the world.

The Interactive Memorial QR Code is a weatherproofed two-dimensional sticker that is 1.5” x 1.5” and looks like a sort of barcode.  Conceptually, a QR code is a vehicle that enables a person with a smart phone or tablet that has a built-in QR code reader, to “take a picture” of the QR code and be transported to a link associated with the code, such as a website homepage or a video.

The QR Code allows visitors to scan the code and view information about the family member that has been uploaded on a secure personal Interactive Memorial website. The website is maintained through Katzman, and may include a biography, family tree, unlimited photographs, unlimited videos and comments by relatives and friends.  It becomes a living memorial for future generations, linking descendants to their ancestors.

Anyone with a smart phone or tablet can scan the code to view what has been uploaded onto the personal website.  Quite simply, you point your cellular telephone or tablet at the code and scan it wherein you will then be connected to your personal Interactive Memorial site.  The majority of smart phones possess a QR code reader.  If your cellular telephone or tablet does not possess a QR code reader, there are numerous free apps that read QR codes available that you may download onto your cellular telephone or tablet.  Only the holder of the username and password created by the customer can upload and edit the content and imagery maintained on the website and accessed via the Code.

Users of smart phones and tablets can connect to your personalized website by simply scanning the code affixed to the memorial; once scanned, a link is created, which can be emailed to anyone in the world for viewing.

Once you receive the barcode in the mail, you will (1) go to a website provided by Katzman to register your Interactive Memorial; (2) once at the site, follow the step-by-step instructions for adding a biography, a family tree, unlimited photographs and/or videos; and (3) attach the barcode to the memorial.  You can create and add a biography, a family tree, unlimited photographs and videos.  Katzman will also assist in uploading information onto the Interactive Memorial.

The code can be applied to a new or existing monument or marker, a mausoleum, cremation niche, urn, memorial bench, plaque or any other type of memorial.  It can be affixed to any type of surface, including those that are smooth, rough, flat or curved.  In the event a code is damaged or lost, Katzman will replace it at no cost and will even cover the shipping.

While GEN2GEN has been in operation for less than a year, the response has been overwhelming.  There is so much discussion around ethical wills, leaving something meaningful and lasting for the next and future generations in order to somehow maintain links between the generations.  This technology offers us the unique ability to do so in a remarkably innovative and enduring way.

For more information, see www.GEN-2GEN.COM or contact Ilan Wolf at ilanwolf.katzman@gmail.comm, or Basil Luck at basilluck.katzman@gmail.com.

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