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Judith Fein

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Interview with "The Spoon from Minkowitz" Author Judith Fein on Emotional Genealogy and Healing: "What is Not Transformed is Transmitted"

Author and Emotional Genealogist, Judith Fein, talks about her new historical travel memoir, "The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands," and how connecting to ancestors can expedite self-healing.

Santa Fe, NM, January 28, 2014 --( “I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me calling out... 'Remember us. Don’t forget us.' Our story needs to be heard. Write our story. Write your story." -Judith Fein, "The Spoon from Minkowitz"

Judith Fein’s new historical travel memoir, "The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Journey to Ancestral Lands," details the quest she finally made with her husband, photojournalist Paul Ross, to find the "shtetl" of Minkowitz that Fein’s Jewish grandmother left behind in Russia/Ukraine. A consummate travel journalist, the “I-live-to-leave” Fein has swum with Beluga whales, consulted with a South African Zulu "sangoma," eaten Vietnamese porcupine, and spoken in French on Tunisian radio about Democracy during the 2011 Arab Spring. Although Fein's experiences were more than enough to fill her travel memoir, “Life Is a Trip: The Transformative Magic of Travel," one frontier remained elusive: the mystery of her ancestry.

Hitting the "Pause" button on her life of perpetual motion, Judith Fein agreed to an interview with journalist Marlan Warren (MW). Here is a transcript of that interview in which Fein (JF) discusses her new historical travel memoir, "The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands," and how connecting to ancestors expedited her own self-healing.

MW: What is "the spoon from Minkowitz" in the book's title? Why is it so important?

JF: My grandmother was from a Russian village called Minkowitz. That fact plus six others were all she would tell me about where she was from and why she left. When I met my husband Paul, we were immediately attracted. Then I met his parents and asked about their ancestral roots. I almost fell off my chair when Paul’s father told us his family came from... Minkowitz. When we were getting married, Paul's father offered us a soup spoon, saying it was the only thing they had left from Minkowitz. It made our ancestral connection so concrete. We made a place of honor for it under the "chupa" (Jewish wedding canopy) on a satin pillow.

MW: So this was an important "roots journey" for your husband as well?

JF: Actually just before we left, someone told us that Paul’s ancestors were not from Minkowitz after all. We were crestfallen, but decided to pretend what we originally believed was true. Then after the book came out, the most extraordinary thing happened: a reader sent me an email with the naturalization papers of Paul's grandfather that list his birthplace as Minkowitz. Proof that we come from the same dot on the map. It is hard to convey the emotions involved.

MW: Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "The Spoon from Minkowitz" is "as tense as a thriller and as tender as a love story." How would you describe it?

JF: A true-life detective story. I had to crack the mystery of who I am by cracking the mystery of my ancestral roots. Until the trip to Minkowitz, I lived a rootless life.

MW: Judith Fein, in both books, your method of travel always seems more intuitive than data-based. How would you explain it to someone who would like to take a similar 'roots journey'?

JF: Keep eyes and ears open. Follow wherever the arrows point, even if you don't know where they are leading or what you will find there. If you trust you will end up in the right place, you will somehow get there. My trip to Minkowitz led me to a new concept that I now believe affects us all: Emotional Genealogy.

MW: What is 'Emotional Genealogy'?

JF: Emotional Genealogy refers to the positive and negative emotional traits that were handed down within lineage. How can they not affect one's life? What is not transformed is transmitted. Other cultures call on the ancestors for guidance and help. It’s time to welcome this powerful awareness to our shores—with humor, heart, and information.

MW: What’s next for Judith Fein?

JF: Book signing events in various cities. One in Santa Fe called 'Bone Voyage' features my painted animal bones. I will also be hosting ancestor workshops. More info is at and

Title: "The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands"
Author: Judith Fein
Photos by Paul Ross
ISBN: 978-0-9884019-3-8
Pub. Date: Jan. 1, 2014
Paperback Pages: 256 Price: $18.95 All E-Book Formats: $9.95
Publicist Marlan Warren Contact: memoircity at gmail
Contact Information
Judith Fein
(323) 347-6762
Marlan Warren, Publicist

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