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