The Things We Carried

The Heirlooms That Tell Our Stories

By Devra Ferst

Published May 20, 2014, issue of May 23, 2014.

When we asked readers for the stories of their family heirlooms, we were overwhelmed with poignant and moving entries. Family heirlooms provide a physical and literal connection to our past, but Jewish ones do even more: They provide us with an emotional and even a spiritual connection to our community — going back generations.

We were inspired by the story of a 91-year-old woman who has held tight to the spoon she was given in Auschwitz. And by a woman who traced her family’s Jewish roots back 22 generations to pre-Inquisition Spain after inheriting a hamsa. And we laughed as we read about an ashtray “stolen” from a bar mitzvah.

Click on the icons on the left to read the full story of each heirloom

Each of these stories gives us a glimpse into the private life of a Jewish family and the untold stories of what it means for us to be Jewish.

We hope they resonate with you as much as they did with us.

Additional research by Anna Goldenberg and Anne Cohen. Photos are courtesy of the owners of the heirlooms.

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