Kiddush Cups Set

Eight children and their two parents huddled together by a ramshakle wood-burning stove on frigid nights in Lagow, Poland. Their tiny two-room home and dependence on crop farming for survival was a far cry from the world we live in today. But every Friday night, Mama Gittel would take out the shiny Kiddish Cup set to welcome in the Sabbath Queen. It was one thing the children could rely upon each and every week. That little silver set was the one constant in a world of rapid change.
Though the set was very plain and simple, the family must have known it was special. For it was the one nonessential item that was wrapped up and stuffed into my grandmother's small bag that arctic night in 1939 when she boarded a boat to Panama. As the fourth of the eight children to leave, she was the last one out.
For nearly three decades, as assimilation felt compulsory for my grandparents, the set remained wrapped up and stored away. The tiny cups hadn't experienced the coolness of the Shabbos wine, nor heard the kedusha of the Friday night blessing in far too long. Two generations void of Shabbos observance had allowed the silver set to fall by the wayside.
Though one of many grandaughters, as a young adult I was the only one to return to my Jewish roots. When I began to keep Shabbos, and then my grandmother passed away shortly after, I was the obvious choice to inherit the set. I longed to once again breathe life into the special cups. Though notably tarnished, I was determined to use the set on my own Shabbos table every week. Using an object for a Mitzvah which was given by a person who has passed away is a big merit. It is said this elevates their soul in heaven. My grandmother must be soaring high.
I want my children to feel the connection to the grandmother that escaped Jewish oppression and came to this country to give her family a better life. Most importantly, despite her hurried departure, she was blessed with the insight to grab something that held spiritual signifigance then, and still does to this day. Though the two families who used the set every Shabbos are world's apart, we are connected not only by blood, but by a tradition so strong, not even Hitler could keep us apart from it.

--Clifton, NJ



Could I have waited any longer to submit this entry? Here it is, December 31, 2007, at 5:12 PM. Part of the reason why it took me so long to get this together has to do with my great-grandfather's legacy.

Isadore Singer, my maternal grandfather's father, was a cavalryman in the Russian army under Czar Nicholas II. His prestigious position was very unusual; in fact, he was the only Jewish soldier in the cavalry. Due to persecution against his family and community, Isadore decided to make a run for America. Around the year 1902, when he was about 21 years old, Isadore escaped to America. He deserted the army in the middle of the night, said good-bye forever to his only brother Benjamin, and took only one object with him: his menorah. It took him weeks to get to Germany, and from then on to the United States through Ellis Island.

Isadore Singer came to this country so that I could be free, even though he never knew me. He risked his life for an idea, a place where Jews could live without persecution. Not that my grandparents didn't have to put up with discrimination, and not that I didn't encounter the occasional rude and ignorant comment growing up; but every time I think about pogroms or the Holocaust, I thank G-d my great-grandfather was brave enough to risk all. I grew up lighting his menorah every Chanukah, and so the holiday came to mean more than religious freedom from the ancient King Antiochus, but also tangible religious freedom for my family and myself.

His legacy: four sons, three of whom went to college, of which he was enormously proud. (He hung their diplomas on the outside of his front door so all the neighbors could see.) His oldest son, Benjamin, my grandfather, passed away more than ten years ago, but his youngest son, my great-uncle Meyer, is still my pen pal from New York. We just got together this summer at my brother's wedding.

I know that I am also part of Isadore Singer's legacy. And so it is that I sit here at my computer more than 100 years after he came to the United States, typing this entry, a 'typical' harried American with a gazillion things to do. That's why he came here. So I could be me.

Thank you for reading this.

--Sacramento, CA