Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Custom of Shabbat Heirlooms

Today I had the privilege of appearing at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland. Using my book Lotty's Lace Tablecloth, we focused on the importance of family heirlooms -- how they connect us to our ancestors and our Jewish way of life. For starters, before reading the book I showed 4th grade students the lace doily for placing Sabbath candlesticks on, that my grandmother made as a wedding gift for my mother.

Afterwards, I asked the students to show their heirlooms and tell the tale behind them. Some wonderful stories emerged, including tales of bravery and service in the American army.

I was particularly taken by how many children brought in ritual objects related to Shabbat. It was amazing hearing about ancestors fleeing Russia (I assume pogroms) and making sure they had their precious candlesticks with them.  Some brought in the actual candlesticks, others brought photos.

A wood Havdalah spice box made in Israel during the early years of statehood was also proudly exhibited. Since I am always looking for unconventional heirlooms, I especially appreciated the Shabbat gefilte fish cleaver the girl below brought in -- and her reenactment of how her grandmother chopped the fish.

Talk about unconventional -- how about this Cantor's robe?!

Yes -- kids love heirlooms and learning the stories behind them. If you're a teacher, a Shabbat heirloom show & tell is an enriching program. If you're a parent, what better way to connect your children with their ancestors?! What's that -- you don't have a Shabbat related heirloom? It's never too late.  Start the tradition now.

Shabbat Shalom.

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