Exploring History at Home Part II
JMM Volunteers Share Stories
Storytelling is something that we value at JMM. Even when we are apart, stories can help connect us as a community.
Last month, JMM volunteers welcomed us into their homes to share the stories behind some of their most meaningful objects. We read stories about objects that were rediscovered, objects that are rarely seen today, objects that can fit in the palm of your hand, and an object that you can fit inside! You can read the previous post here.
Our volunteers continue to be superb storytellers and I am happy to share some more of their contributions with you. I hope that these short stories encourage you to think about the meaningful people and things in your life, explore your history, and share your own story.
~ Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator
To read more posts from Paige, click here!
The attached photo and pasted below is a ritual hand washing pitcher and basin. It was dedicated to Chizuk Amuno Congregation by Jonas Friedenwald. The Hebrew date shown as 5648 converts to Gregorian date 1887-1888.
The artifacts were discovered when going through my Uncle Efrem Potts’s house with his daughters after he recently died. I am not certain, but my guess is that Efrem saved them from his father’s (my grandfather), Isaac Potts’s house in the early 60’s. Isaac predeceased his second wife, Julia Friedenwald Strauss who was Jonas Friedewald’s great granddaughter.
My mother explained what she knew about its trajectory throughout The Holocaust. This majestic candelabra traveled with my mother’s aunt and uncle from Poland during the years of WWII. No one in the family knows exactly how they were able to keep it from being confiscated nor which in places it found itself during those tragic years. It’s a mystery. I always light it for Shabbat together with my second historic set.
Her story was remarkable. She experienced several harrowing close calls with the Nazis during the 1940’s when she hid out in Belgium. Her most frightening encounter occurred when she secretly went out to buy a few vegetables and fruits and a Nazi approached her. Within just a few feet, he asked her name in German. My grandmother knew that if she opened her mouth her Yiddish accent would betray her. Within a few seconds she signaled that she was a deaf mute and in that moment of quick thinking she saved her life. A few years later my grandmother worked as a cook in a yeshiva in England and saved her money to buy this set of candlesticks which I also light every Friday night.
This “little pot” – enamelware – is at least as old as I am. My parents acquired it in 1948 or so in the Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Wels, Austria. This is the place they each traveled to after the end of World War II, met each other and married, had me, and left in 1952 to come to America and settle in Baltimore. The story I always heard about the pot was that my mother used it in Wels to make my baby food. In Baltimore as a young child, I remember the little pot was filled with chicken schmaltz. It hasn’t been put to use in many years and whenever I clean out and reorganize the kitchen cabinet, I find that I cannot part with it and always find a place for it.
This charm bracelet is one if the few keepsakes I have from my mother’s childhood. As a Holocaust survivor, very few of her belongings survived with her. She received it in 1935 when she was 13 years old, living in Hannover, Germany. Six years later, at the age of 19, she and her mother were rounded up by the SS and spent the next four years in a series of ghettos and concentration camps. Her mother perished in Stutthof Concentration Camp, a few months before liberation. My mother returned to Hannover after the war and retrieved a few special items she had left in the care of a Gentile neighbor. This bracelet was one of them.