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Favorite Heirlooms: a 100-year old glass goblet

If I were a children’s author, I would write a story about how our family heirloom – a glass goblet etched with shofars, that my paternal Bubbe bought in about 1915 in Reading, Massachusetts – wound up in Long Branch, New Jersey more than a hundred years later.

heirlooms - goblet

Courtesy of Maxine Greenwald

The tale would begin about 1905 when my Bubbe Sarah, born in Visuka Litovsk, Belarus, and Zeyde Max, from Birzh (Birzai), Lithuania, immigrated to the United States and settled in Reading where he became a shoemaker, and Sarah ran the household. Eventually they had four children.

heirlooms - goblet

Clockwise: Zeyde Max, Bubbe Sarah, Annie and George, circa 1910 Courtesy of Maxine Greenwald

When the shop began to earn a little money, the family acquired a small house, and Sarah found and bought goblets for Rosh Hashanah. Our keepsake began its journey as one of twelve goblets, but my father, George, being a very energetic and rambunctious little boy accidentally banged into the china closet in which they were kept, breaking all but one!

In 1918, the Spanish flu ravaged the world, and Sarah tragically buried both her husband and her oldest child, Annie, in the same week. Later, when I was born, I was named after both of them: Maxine Ann. Because my Bubbe had a brother in Wallington, New Jersey, she moved there with her three surviving children, carefully taking the unique goblet with her.

The years passed by, and, in 1960, when we celebrated my father’s 50th birthday, she presented him with the goblet and a sweet, funny note describing how its mates were lost, and the symbolism surrounding the one that remained.

About ten years later, my father presented me with the goblet, and since then my husband Harry and I have used it to make kiddush on Rosh Hashanah, each time recounting its family history. For almost 50 years, the cup lived with us in Clifton, New Jersey and then continued its journey when we retired to Long Branch, New Jersey seven years ago.

This heirloom has come to represent the link of our generations. It was used by my Bubbe and Zeyde, my Mom and Dad, and Harry and me, and hopefully will be passed down to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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