20 September 2008

Pennsylvania: Family heirlooms and kids

When Rachel Glick, 14, heard about the planned Harrisburg Living Museum of Jewish Heritage, she decided to lend it an ordinary, yet priceless family heirloom: a soup spoon, according to a story in the Patriot News.

Glick is the third generation to use the only remaining piece of silverware from her paternal grandfather's family.

She said it seemed like a natural to be displayed Sunday in the Harrisburg Living Museum of Jewish Heritage. The one-day exhibit, a collection of Jewish artifacts on loan from the local Jewish community, was sponsored by the Rabbi David L. Silver Yeshiva Academy in the Jewish Community Center.

"I called my Bubbe [Yiddish word for grandmother] and asked her if I could borrow the spoon," said Rachel, 14 and an eighth-grade student at the academy. "She was happy to lend it to me. Everyone brought something given to them by a relative. It made me realize that a Jewish artifact can be very important in helping people remember a relative from a previous generation."

The 8 1/2-inch silver spoon belonged to Rachel's paternal grandfather, Eli Glick of Oshmiana, Poland in the 1930s.

"When my dad was 15 in the late 1930s, his family heard that the Nazis were coming," said Dr. Mark Glick, Eli Glick's son and Rachel Glick's father. "He, his parents and siblings wanted to escape. So they buried their silverware, silver candlesticks and jewelry in the backyard. His parents were killed, but the three teenagers walked several miles and lived in caves in the woods for the next 3 1/2 years. They came out at night and stole food to survive."

Meanwhile, Mark's mother, Sonia Lubetzka, then 14, was rounded up in the same village, taken to a cattle car, and then a concentration camp from 1939-1945. Her parents perished.

After the war, Eli and his two sisters returned to the family home, occupied by strangers who had taken all the family's possessions.

"The strangers told my dad and his sisters to leave," Mark Glick said. "When they went to the backyard to dig up the family things, the strangers said they already found that stuff. My one aunt begged for something and was given a soup spoon."

Mark's parents met in a Polish displaced persons camp in Poland, where they married and came to the US in 1951 - with the spoon.

"This spoon represents survival of a people and their faith," Glick said. "It's critical to learn about your heritage, who you are and what you will become. Rachel is very passionate about her heritage."

Rachel's grandmother, Sonia Lubetzka Glick, 87, said she uses the spoon every Sabbath "because it reminds me of my late husband."

Third-grader Madison Schwab,lent a copy of the manifest from the ship that brought her great-grandparents to the US from Russia in 1906 - the original name was Schwabsky.

David Schwab - Madison's father and grandson of David Schwab of Vilna, Lithuania, said the family came to the US to escape religious persecution.

"When they got to Ellis Island, they were asked questions like 'are you a polygamist?' Are you an anarchist? Are you deformed or crippled?" he said, pointing to the questions on the form.

Madison said she came to learn about history. The exhibit also featured antique candlesticks, scrolls, mortars and pestles, a yellow Star of David and pants worn in a concentration camp.

What a good idea for community programming!

Have Tracing the Tribe's readers heard of similar exhibits in their own communities?

If such an exhibit has not yet been organized, perhaps a local Jewish genealogical society, in conjunction with a local historical society, Jewish school, congregation or other community institution might collaborate to present one for people of all ages.

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