While I was watching what was being done with the artifacts, I noticed that the most precious things of all, the unaltered stones from the temple mount, were just being tossed outside to be discarded. But what value they held, they were the stones that G-d had promised us. My forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had walked on. That King David had fought for, that King Solomon had built the temple on, and King Harod had expanded the temple on, that Jews over the centuries had cried over. They are the stones that my forefathers had for generations, been praying to be able to see and to ascend on. They were the most precious things in the of the excavation, but they had been put out as ordinary rocks. We asked the head of the excavation, if we would be able to take a few, and she agreed. They are proudly displayed in a glass bowl, to remind me of G-d's promise, our history, our future and unexpected endings.
--New Hempstead, NY
The candlesticks became Rose’s most precious and valuable possession. She faced terribly hard times, but never parted with them, although there were many instances when the money they would have brought would have been very welcome.
While in her twenties, Rose was left a widow with four young children, and no family to rely on for help. She worked hard, doing anything she could to feed her family. Her sons began working when they were not yet ten years old. Yet in spite of the poverty they faced, the candlesticks were on the table every Friday night, as a symbol of love and hope. Even though this family never had many material possessions, they were close-knit and happy, and my mother related many stories depicting the happiness and laughter that permeated her childhood.
The depression passed, the children grew up, and the financial situation eased. However, lack of poverty did not bring happiness. In the midst of WWII, Rose’s youngest son was on his way home for Rosh Hashana, having obtained a ten day pass for the holiday. With a train ticket in his pocket, he was offered a place on an army transport plane, which would get him home several days earlier. The plane arrived at its first destination without a problem, yet after take-off for the second leg of its trip, got only sixty feet in the air when it exploded, killing all on board. Rose lost so much that day; not only her son, but her faith, and her will to live. When Rose contracted stomach cancer a few years later, her death came quickly.
My mother had married just a few months before Rose’s death, and the candlesticks were now in her home. Although the deaths of her brother and mother nearly destroyed her faith, they were lit every week, not as a sign of religious observance, but as a way to connect her to her past, to those she loved and missed so much. I grew up knowing that one day the candlesticks would be mine, part of my history and legacy.
Although I grew up in a traditional, but not religious, Jewish home, I returned to Orthodoxy while in my teens. When I got my first apartment, I asked for the candlesticks, knowing that I would always light them, on time, to welcome the Sabbath, as they were intended to be used. My mother would not even consider it, insisting that no one would ever get those candlesticks while she was alive. When I married, I again asked for the candlesticks, the reason being that I did not want to get them only because my mother died. Instead, I wanted to have them when she could see me use and enjoy them, but she once again refused.
Life, however, takes some unexpected turns. My mother, a victim of Alzheimer’s, moved into a nursing home. For the first few months, she asked repeatedly about the candlesticks, often calling in the middle of the night, unable to rest until she was sure they were safe. When her mental status deteriorated to the point that she forgot about them, I knew that I had lost her forever. When she died, I had the image of the candlesticks engraved on her headstone, the one way that she would forever be close to them.
I am finally in possession of the beloved heirlooms, but have never been able to bring myself to light them, even after her death, and they remain locked in a safe.
Perhaps anticipating the ongoing disagreement regarding the candlesticks, a much loved cousin gave me a pair of my own when I turned sixteen. It is these candlesticks that I light weekly now. My youngest daughter is named for this cousin, and we only recently realized the connection. Her name, Meira, means “a shining light”.
We are now planning Meira’s Bat Mitzvah, and she has chosen to learn about the mitzvah of Hadlikat HaNerot, lighting the candles. At her celebration, I am going to give her the candlesticks that were given to me by my cousin, the wonderful woman for whom she is named. Then I will resume lighting the candlesticks that have been passed down from generation to generation in my family, and will do so not with sadness, because I have lost my mother, but with joy, because my youngest daughter will now be recognized as an adult, by HaShem and Klal Yisrael.
I remember watching my Turkish-born grandmother, Nona, who journeyed with our family to America and lived with us during her twilight years, preparing all the ingredients to make the tasty borekas. With nothing more than a fork, knife, bowl, a smooth glass cup (used to cut and roll the dough), and her strong, skillful hands, Nona would swiftly prepare the dough, then mix chopped beef OR feta or kashkaval (a robust Greek yellow cheese), or even merenjena (eggplant) with eggs, scallions, and a dash of pepper into a bowl. Then, one by one, she would flatten the small rounds of dough, fill and form the half-moon shaped borekas. Depending on the filling, Nona sealed the edges of the dough differently to identify its contents – cheese edged with fork marks, meat finished with the edge tightly twisted. Finally, once the borekas were arranged on the baking sheet, Nona would dip her fingers into the egg wash and carefully “brush” the top of each boreka. A half-hour later, with the house filled with the familiar scent of freshly baked pastries, my sisters and I would congregate in the kitchen, eagerly waiting for Nona to serve us fresh, hot borekas.
What makes these unique and delicious Sephardic pastelles so meaningful and so part of our family’s Jewish identity is, unlike the foods of Eastern European Jews, the Sephardi incorporated ingredients available in the Mediterranean region – feta cheese or eggplant. More importantly, my Nona, and now my mother, aunts, and my sisters and I, all prepare borekas for Shabbat meals, Jewish holiday gatherings, and as a special treat for company – a way in which our family shares our rich Sephardi tradition with guests.
Borekas were and are still such an important family food, that we bring them on trips, picnics, school and work lunches. We have even sent them through the mail to our children in college! As our latest family’s generation is further removed from the original Zaragoza family, all of my living relatives continue to bake with our youngest family members passing on the tradition of making delicious borekas – using the same ingredients and skillful hands!
“Heavens yes!” I replied to my aunt, calling from Seattle.
Why me? flitted through my head, but I knew the answer. My aunt’s one child was no longer Jewish. I was the “religious fanatic” of the family. That meant that we lit Shabbat candles, recited Kiddush, and sent our son, the only child old enough for school, to Hillel Academy. My aunt didn’t know – and maybe we didn’t either, yet – that we were on our way to keeping kosher.
The 19th century Sabbath lamp proved to be almost identical to one my husband and I had admired in the Milwaukee Public Museum. Its tapered, fluted vessel held enough oil to light a room far into the night. Originally the oil had flowed into arms that radiated horizontally to form an eight-pointed star. Hooked to the center point was a drip catcher. By the time I received it, a thick electrical cord almost obscured the square-linked chain on which it hung, and round light bulbs had replaced the wicks.
When my mother saw the lamp hanging in our Milwaukee living room, she recognized it instantly despite the updated plastic wiring and thin, flame-like bulbs.
“When I was a child, this used to hang in an alcove off the living room,” she told me. “Before dinner on Fridays, Dad would saunter over and click on the light.”
Knowing that Friday had been just another night for her privileged, Reform family, I was intrigued. I asked my grandmother, then in her lively, opinionated nineties, to verify Mom’s little-girl recollection. “No such thing!” She remembered the lamp, but the Friday-night detail had escaped either her notice or her memory.
My grandfather, whom I knew only as a photograph on my grandmother’s dresser, must have been a forward-thinking man to electrify this lamp in the early 1900s. Yet, judging by my mother’s account, he had clung to a piece of the tradition that had motivated his family to carry the lamp across the ocean in the mid-1800s from Bavaria to the far western shores of the new world.
This family heirloom became important to my family’s growing Sabbath observance. As each child grew tall enough to reach the switch, turning it on before Shabbat became his or her special job.
Now, each week I click on the Shabbat lamp before holding a match to my white candles. Past merges with present as I circle the flames with my hands to draw their light and serenity into my soul. I say the blessing, then pray silently for the people I love.
Four decades after I first unwrapped it, the Sabbath lamp glows long after my candles have burned out. Someday, it will light a child or grandchild’s home, a symbol of this recovered tradition that will, I hope, continue to my grandchildren’s grandchildren and beyond.
--Rochester, New York
I had no possessions, not even a blanket or a pillow. I remembered that my parents gave some items that they were able to hide from the Nazis to our former Ukrainian maid for safekeeping.
Literally taking my life in my hands again, I set out on foot to the village where she lived. There were rumors that survivors who tried to retrieve their possessions often did not get what was rightfully theirs and were brutally killed, but that did not stop me.
When I entered her cottage, she crossed herself and murmured a prayer. Did she think I was a ghost or was she happy I survived? I explained that I only came to get some bedding and that I did not want anything else. I did not know what my parents left with her.
She started to take out silverware, knickknacks, and my parent’s precious Kiddush cups. I immediately recognized the familiar pieces. My throat closed, I could not utter a word. Memories flooded my mind of my mom lovingly polishing my father’s Kiddush cup, her cup and the cup used for Elijah the prophet on Passover. I cried bitterly, touching each piece, as, in my mind I saw clearly my father lifting the cup and saying the blessing over the wine.
The cups and the tray are all I have left from a home rich in Jewish tradition – my parent’s legacy. Although our maid was willing to give me other things, I took only these items and some bedding since I did not know where I would go or how I would live.
From that day on, the cups were with me through all the hardships that came. The journey was not easy to leave Europe and build a new life out of the ashes. I was married for 44 years to a loving man who also believed in tradition. Together we raised a wonderful family.
The Kiddush cups graced our table on holidays and special occasions. Recently my grandson got married and he and his lovely bride drank wine from my father’s cup under the “Chuppa”.
I hope my daughter and son, and their children after them, will cherish the Kiddush cups as tribute to their grandparents and great-grandparents.
--Upper Montclair, NJ
This silver Kiddush cup belonged to my great great great great great grandfather. No, those are not typos. My 5th great grandfather Joseph Strauss was born in 1750 and died in 1827 in Schollkrippen Germany. We don't know at what point he received the cup and we don't know how he acquired it, although it may have been made for the family as we had silversmiths amongst our kin. What we do know is that it has been passed down from son to son again and again for seven generations. The silver on this simple yet elegant cup has been worn down from usage over the years. These days, The Cup only comes out for brit milah and for Pesach. But it is a living thing in our family and needs to be used, even if only sparingly, to keep it healthy and well.
The first known instance of its use was for the bris of my great grandfather, Louis Strauss in Schollkrippen. It was used for the bris of my grandfather and of my great uncle in Schollkrippen. But in April of 1938, the conditions in Germany forced my Opa out of his small town and The Cup was one of the few pieces he was allowed (and encouraged by his parents) to take with him to his new home in the United States. He
married and continued the tradition by using it at the brit milahs of his two sons. It was used at the bris of my brother and again more recently at the brit milahs of my two sons, the younger of whom was born in July of 2007 and is named for my Opa and his brother. I know that the grandfathers of my family would be thrilled to know that their Cup has seen the family through so many simchas. May the tradition and The Cup continue for many generations to come.
Not only am I happy that this woman “rescued it” from the trash, but that through fate, or more likely, “Divine Intervention”, I was able to buy it, as I appreciate its rarity and importance. On a personal note, my maternal grandmother was born and raised in the town of Oswiecim, which is in Poland. If this town sounds familiar, it’s because that is where the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz was created. My grandmother, Nechama Fleisher, survived five years (!), of slave labor at various camps in Poland and what is the present day Czech Republic. For me to own this rare piece of Jewish woodcarving from Poland, the birthplace of my grandmother, and my other relatives who did not survive the Holocaust, means the world to me.
-Long Beach, NY
P.S.’s Aunt Ruth (of blessed memory) received the candlesticks from her mother before leaving Russia as a teenager just after the turn of the century. Ruth never married and on the occasion of P.S.'s 25th wedding anniversary, Ruth gave the candlesticks to her. Subsequently, P.S. has given them to her oldest daughter P.G. S.S, our daughter, seen in the center will one day receive them from P.G.
These candlesticks often adorn our table for Shabbat and holidays, which we typically share with .....[extended family.]
Also shown is a wine cup from P.G's Grandfather , the challah cutting board, which we purchased in Aruba on our honeymoon and a ... Siddur, which we use to recite the blessings.
In my family, there are precious few "religious heirlooms". In fact, other than this menorah, I can only think of my Grandmother's small, white, swan-shaped porcelain honey dishes used by my mother each Rosh Hashanah.This menorah is not much to look at. Although it is pure silver, it is small, a bit slanted to one side and it's missing the shamesh.
But to our family, it's the most beautiful menorah around.My mother still remembers that cold winter day when my Grampa brought the menorah home. He was wearing his trademark silk and wool scarf which was easily one and a half times as long as he was tall. He entered the home, menorah in hand. No wrapping paper, no cushioning, heck, no bag. Just the menorah in his shivering hand.This menorah came with silver caps so that you could put the oil right into the cup, place the wick in the oil and thread it through the silver cap. However, by the time Grampa got home that windy evening, a few of the caps had blown away. And, so, the caps were never used. I'm not sure what happened to the shamesh but I wouldn't be surprised if that blew away too!Grampa Aaron was something special. He was about as close as I ever got to "the old country". He had a heavy accent and his English was liberally spiced with Yiddish. He wore long underwear (longe gotkes) all year round including in the summer. He would cross major thoroughfares with absolute disregard for traffic signals and vehicular presence. Holding both armsstraight out to his sides as a stop sign was sufficient. When frightened he would say "Oy, I almost became a hearts attack." He couldn't understand why ice cream had pits (chocolate chips to me and you) and he, quite simply, did not hear too well. In the summer, Grampa Aaron would sit outside our bungalow in a brown chaise chair, taking in the country air and smiling. He quickly became popular with the colony kids who knew that a quick hello and a smile would yield chocolates, sucking candies and a few quarters for the pinball machine.
I'm not quite sure what it is about this menorah that makes it so special. Perhaps it's because, like Grampa, though it may be small, old and a bit hunched to one side and though it may be missing a few pieces, beneath it all, it's pure. And I guess it's because this menorah is one of the few remaining links of my family's Jewish past.
--Great Neck, New York
- Houston Tx
They are not beautiful or shiny like other candlesticks you may have seen. As a matter of fact, they wobble a bit from side to side – uneven in their old age. And as I look at my grandmother’s brass candlesticks, I know with all certainty that they are priceless.
Dorothy Malkin was love. She was pride. She was confidence and humor. She was intelligence and dignity. She was Dove soap and Clinque face cream. Broiled salmon and steamed broccoli. Story teller. Advocate. Secret-keeper. Junk food dealer. Dream believer.
When I got married, she gave me her grandmother’s candlesticks. I am not sure if my grandmother lit candles each Friday night, or whether her mother did. It is possible these tall and solid pieces were not used regularly for decades. Before the wedding she told me that they were to be my gift. She shared that she had intended to leave them to me when she left the world but a friend suggested she give them to me then and there…so that she could watch me enjoy them. And in my home, the candlesticks have been put to use each Friday night.
She was there for all of my dance performances and school plays, my graduations and applications. Banged up bicycles and backflips. Bellyaches and boyfriends. She was there to walk down the aisle and to share in the joys of my new marriage. She was there to witness the birth of our miraculous firstborn. To rock and sing to him, feed him cheerios and laugh at his energy.
And then, she was gone. Taking with her all of the light, joy, and miraculous ability to make each and every person in her path feel entirely perfect and wonderful and special. And she was not here when our second beautiful son was born. She was not here for the purchase of our first home where the candlesticks proudly stand. She was not here when I started a business inspired by hers. She was not here for the birth of our precious baby girl Dorothy, named after her, just months ago.
But each Friday night, I light. I light the candles she gave me and I pray a special prayer for each child. And I know that one day our little Dorothy will light candles in these very special candlesticks. I pray that through my genes and Hashem’s miraculous wonders … each of our children, and their children and theirs and on forever…will have as much of my grandmother in them as is possible - that candles in these candlesticks will continue to shine bright on Friday nights far into the future.
They may not look worth their weight in brass but they are priceless to me.
passports, a name change document, European travel authorization letters, handwritten Hungarian recipes on paper so frail it crumbles at the touch, and a Hungarian Passover Hagada. It truly represented a time capsule of her memoirs.
What I find to be so extraordinary about how she kept her most valuable possessions is that she didn’t know how valuable they were during her life. Everything in this suitcase is her history. Points of time filled with joy and sometimes even heartbreak will be passed down to future generations so we will never forget. We can never forget where we came from and how important it is to remember.
--Sandy Springs, GA
--Sandy Springs, GA
The attached photo is of my grandmother’s mezuzah. It’s a piece of Judaica which has a very special meaning to me. Miriam Goldstein was only 17 when she fled her native town of Lodz, Poland. The year was 1916 and the Russians had conquered part of Poland. One of the few possessions she carried to the United States with her was this mezuzah. It was on her door until her death in 1967.
My aunt inherited the mezuzah, but it did not find a place on her door. She had fallen in love with a Catholic and, like so many Jews, converted. It has been kept in a box in her house for 40 years. It might have remained unused except for a fortunate series of events.
Although I grew up in a Conservative Jewish household, I fell away from my religion for about 35 years. A couple of years ago I returned to my heritage. My parents were overjoyed and mentioned it to my aunt. When she found out I was shopping for a mezuzah to put on my door she remembered the one she had and sent it to me. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to return it to its proper place on a door. I was even more thrilled when my rabbi, hearing the story of the mezuzah, honored me by blessing it and assisted me in putting it up.
Now, every day when I return home from work or shopping, I see it there on my doorframe and am reminded of my grandmother and her miraculous journey to America.
--Gulf Breeze, FL
Always a newcomer among its attendants of many decades of faithful support, hundreds came for a service but never to return. We became a congregation unique, enjoying each other in the group of shul goers, even though we may have lacked as individuals. We came alive in the group.
But despite all our efforts, we came to an impasse. The synagogue could not afford to continue. Battles ensued for five years as to the dissolution. We asked to become a Jewish center, a Jewish club, a much smaller shul. Nothing was viable, and we became fewer.
So we disperse the assets, kept the grave site, and guard the shul’s relics. We were not a rich shul and it shows in these remaining religious heirlooms. They need a new home to enrich Jewish life.. And not shown are a dozen of the most beautiful stained glass windows, one for each tribe, still in the building that once was our synagogue, now reliving as a Greek Community Center.
--Long Island City, NY
The banging on the door with accompanying shouts of “FIRE! FIRE!” came at 4:30 in the morning this past October 5. Frantically reaching for bathrobes and slippers, Midge and I– still half asleep– clasped hands and lunged for the front door.
Rose Hollow Drive was jam-packed with police cars and their flashing, rotating lights. There were several fire fighting vehicles, extending ladders with firemen rushing to position their equipment. Streams of water from many fire hoses were directed to the fire. From the roof of our building, billowing clouds of black smoke were being highlighted by the 15-foot flames reaching to the sky. The entire scene was illuminated by batteries of floodlights, car headlights, workers rushing in all directions with powerful flashlights.
The heat from the flames was so intense that streams fo water were being directed to the adjacent building to prevent spreading of the fire even as the occupants were directed to leave their building.
Standing in the curb across from our home with my arm around Midge’s shoulder the bewilderment began turning to comprehension as this terrible event continued to develop. It was then that I realized that my other arm was clasping a picture frame that evidently I had removed from a wall as we rushed out of danger.
This was a specially constructed frame for a long honored possession of the Greenberg family, the traditional Passover matzah cover. The warmth that rose within me, as I became aware of this, was almost as hot as the flames. I could feel my parents’ (of blessed memory) arms on me as I remembered the contents.
Romania is where this object was created. The year, 1903, is included in the beautifully stitched Passover matzah cover my mother created as a part of her wedding dowry. This key accessory is a basic must for every Passover Seder table setting where the holiday is observed and celebrated.
In reds and pinks, flowers highlight the garland design connected with different shades of green for the leaves. Contained in the center, the stitching spells out the traditional closing phrase in Hebrew, Next Year in Jerusalem. The closing prayer in every Passover Seder throughout the world.
This treasured family keepsake is on view throughout the year, and we remove it from its frame for the Passover celebration. It has been used in the Greenberg family each year since its creation. The other colors in the fabric are undoubtedly from accidents and spills from ceremonial wines, red horseradish and even chicken soup that occurred during the 90 years it has been in use.
If one were to plan an emergency escape from a burning building– which wouldn’t be such a bad idea– jewelry, clothing, books, bank records would undoubtedly be included in a priority list. Yet, unplanned, here, I stood, protecting the Greenberg matzah cover. A human interest tale that will become part of the history of the very special object. Surely there is substance for a sermon in this story.
Like most students he had very little money to spare since everything was spent on books and life’s necessities, but one day, when walking past a tiny shop, he spied a beautiful silver Habdalah spice box. The little tower with the flag on top beckoned to him, so he convinced the owner of the shop that he would bring a few extra coins each week to pay for it, because the little spice box had captured his heart.
Karl Richter met his wife Ruth in 1933, they were married in 1935, and he accepted a pulpit in Stettin, Germany.
Every Saturday night the Habdalah spices would sweeten the air as they acknowledged the departure of the Sabbath Queen, and they would live ordinary lives until the following Shabbat. From 1933 to 1939 my parents heard the threats against the Jewish people, but did not believe them. The world heard the threats but did not listen.
On January 1938, my father packed his books and his precious spice box to accept the position in the main synagogue, as one of the two remaining communal rabbis in Mannheim, an industrial city on the Rhine River. A young man, ordained only three years before, he found himself entrusted with grave responsibilities.
In 1938 the hostile government raised anti-Semitism to its central article of faith and all hope was shattered. Now, the young rabbi and his wife had a 2-year old toddler, and their world had gone mad. The smell of the sweet spices of the Habdalah box gave little comfort because Shabbat prayers for peace seemed futile.
On the 10th of November, 1983 the great destruction began. Kristallnacht announced total war against the Jewish people.
Although it was difficult to emigrate, many people helped the Richters to escape to the United States in 1939. They brought few belongings with them, but the precious spice box was spared.
As a small child, I can remember opening the door of the box, putting in the cloves, and imagining the departing Sabbath Queen sprinkling prayers of peace in her path.
On November 9, 1988 my father spoke at a commemoration of Kristallnacht at the Kaufman Concert Hall of New York’s 92nd Street Y. A mini-van then transported my parents to the airport for the flight to Mannheim where my father, now in his mid-80s spoke at the dedication of the new synagogue.
Karl Richter, the last surviving graduate of the Seminary in Breslau, died September 25, 2005. I now have the precious spice box that he purchased those many years ago, and I remember the words he said upon his return to Mannheim in 1988:
“May the flame of hatred be extinguished forever. May we be blessed with the flame of hope, the flame of love and the flame of reconciliation.”
He and the family escaped in 1937 to Paris, France with his family and the candelabra. In France he thought he would be safe to raise his family.
Once Hitler invaded France he was again forced to flee and left at night in a railcar to go to the south of France with his family and the cadelabra. After the war he remained in France and his daughter (my mother Marie Bienstock) and my father (Jack) came to the USA , Paterson N.J. to start with me and my brother.
The candelabra remained in France until my grandparents were able to come to the states in 1954.
One photo shows this magnificent piece, the other photo shows my grandparents in France in 1952 celebrating Hanukah with my photo of me in front of the candlabra.The photo shows that they were missing us in the USA.
My parents are both well into their 80's the candelabra has been given to me and sits in the livingroom of my house. It is an heirloom and my daughter Danielle will inherit next. We have put a laminated papeer inside the candelabra so futue generations will know the story of the traveling cendelabra.
I am a convert to Judaism- 3 in Jewish years. But … I have Jewish blood coursing through my veins. My great-grandfather came to
Grandpa Jake had emigrated to America in 1909. Chanshe had refused to take the ocean voyage that would have required her to travel on Shabbat. She and her family stayed in Europe, in a Galician shtetl called Jagielnica. Chanshe, her husband Yitzchak, and their children Tuviya, Feiga, Leah, and Rachel perished in the Holocaust. The one photograph that we have of them, with Grandpa's poignant Yiddish inscription that they died for the Holy Name, is a family treasure.
Grandpa gave me Chanshe's tapestry in the 1970s. In 1984, I founded and became President of an international, all-volunteer organization for the benefit of Jews in the Caucasus and Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. We have been blessed to rescue thousands of Jews from these mostly Muslim republics. As the sign above my desk says, kol yisrael aravim zeh b'zeh --- all Jews are responsible for one another. Chanshe's tapestry, which hangs in my office, inspires me daily --- an insistent reminder that we must do whatever is necessary to ensure the survival of our people.
--Delray Beach, FL
--Delray Beach, FL