Dear Chevrei, As our treasured space sharing relationship with CJDS draws to a close over the next few weeks, you may notice some small changes throughout Emanuel. One of my administrative goals for 2018 is to better store the miscellaneous Judaic items scattered throughout the building. On that note, I wanted to take some time to share a story about a couple of ritual items that have played an important role in my life.
In 1914 my great-grandfather, Joe Burdman, sent a postcard from Iowa to invite my future great-grandmother Esther to come over from Russia and marry him. My mother still has the correspondence- Yiddish words written in minute Hebrew script- that he sent (addressed to Esther's parents, of course - heaven forbid he write directly to his sweetheart!). My great-grandmother, my Hebrew namesake, crossed an ocean and traveled overland from New York City to the Midwest to begin a new life with Joe. She carried a small amount of luggage with her on this arduous journey, including simple bronze Shabbat candlesticks. After Esther and Joe passed away in the 1960s, my mother, Nancy, adopted this family artifact. Every Friday night when I was growing up we'd light candles in the front hall of my childhood home. Mom often told me stories of celebrating Jewish holidays at Joe and Esther's house in the small town of Kirksville, Missouri. The Burdmans were the only Jewish family in town, and they imported a rabbinical student from St. Louis every year to observe major holidays.
Shabbat ritual items have always played a central part of observing Jewish traditions in the home, and when my mother recently began clearing out the last of my grandparents' things from storage, I jumped at the chance to adopt my own set of historic Burdman candlesticks. I realized sheepishly that I had gone the last 4.5 years in Edgewater without really lighting candles at home, and it seemed like a good opportunity to remedy the situation. The candlesticks in question are simple, crystal, somewhat square-shaped, and I vividly remember them sitting on the sideboard of my grandparents' home in Northbrook. When the box of things from my grandparents arrived, I discovered that the candlesticks had been accidentally removed.
A few weeks ago, I ended up going to an auction house in Rogers Park to rescue the crystal candlesticks from an uncertain future with strangers. As I delved through aisles of other beloved items, I was delighted to discover that the candlesticks were just as I remembered. The blue and white Shabbat candles my parents and I had purchased in Tsfat during my 1999 Bat Mitzvah trip to Israel still sat snugly in the cups, just as they had for the past twenty years. I plan to save those candles for some special future Shabbat.
We all wish CJDS well as the depart to their new building. As we work to reorganize storage space in the wake of CJDS' departure, I feel it's important to use this time as an opportunity to show kavod - respect - to these pieces of Emanuel's rich history. I plan on caring for our community items with the same deference and affection I feel for my great-grandmother's candlesticks.