Spice Box

Jewish ceremonial objects made of carved wood from pre-war Europe are extremely scarce. This spice tower is of the utmost rarity, as European spice towers that have survived the millennia were made in brass or silver. With a great deal of skill, the artist of this piece carved two separate pieces of wood, so that the entire top half can be lifted off, and spices inserted. This tower, with its delicately carved spires, is topped by a flag upon which has a Star of David. Each side of the tower also has a Star of David. This rare survival of Polish-Jewish woodcarving is intact only because it arrived at Ellis Island over 100 years ago. I purchased this tower from an elderly woman in 2003. She received it from her mother-in-law on her wedding day in 1952. Her mother-in-law had owned it since she was a young woman, it being a gift from her grandfather, who carved it while living in Poland, the land of his birth, and later brought it with him on his trip to America. This elderly woman was quite sad to part with it, as she first offered it to her children as an heirloom, but they did not want it, even stating “its junk, throw it away”. This lady told me that she thought it must have some value due to its age, so she kept it, until I made her acquaintance, and purchased it from her.

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