Pictures and stories of significant objects in the lives of the Seattle women, from a piece of artwork created in Auschwitz to the blades used to make traditional gefilte fish.
Meta’s life was entwined with the pioneering and mixed ethnic communities of the city’s early days. In 1939, she married Harry Buttnick, whose family had founded the OK Hotel in Pioneer Square about 1910. They operated the hotel, and later hired employees, often from Seattle’s Japanese American community. The manager of the OK Hotel gave the newlyweds this set of lacquer ware made in Japan.
Carolyn’s extended, blended, growing family is lovingly captured in an embroidered series of counted cross-stitch family trees. The first of these, exhibited here, was made by her next-door-neighbor Elly Smith in 1982 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Helen Berkman Blumenthal, Carolyn’s mother. “Elly was my inspiration for the family tree samplers, I’ve created an addendum every five years as the family has grown.”
Donation boxes like these have been a part of Jewish households around the world for many decades. This pair belonged to Sara’s mother, the contributions of coins placed in each box supported a specific charity. The Diskin Orphan Home was founded in Palestine in 1881 to care for Russian children fleeing persecution, and it still exists.
“There is a Sephardic custom where women serve sweets to visitors. They put the sweets in a serving bowl-a kucharéra-which is a round, highly decorative silver bowl that has the spaces for the spoons and forks. When someone would come to visit they would take out a tray of the sweets and they would put in the silverware and the glasses of water and serve to the people. And each guest would take a spoonful of the preserve and then a glass of water, and they would express a blessing for the bride or groom or someone that had just had a baby.
A Kiddush cup or wine goblet is used on Shabbat. On Friday evening at the beginning of the Shabbat meal it is filled with wine. The word kiddush actually refers to the blessing that is recited over the wine before the meal begins. After Kiddush has been made, everyone present shares the wine. The goblet may be used again at the Havdallah ceremony at the end of the Shabbat.
The lighting of candles plays an important role in Jewish life. Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited before sunset. This ritual officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. And for Passover, once the house and the participants are ceremonially clean, the Passover Seder can begin. The woman of the house says a blessing and lights the Passover candles.
Magda Schaloum is a Holocaust survivor. This framed piece includes a comb holder made by Magda Schaloum in 1945, during her imprisonment in Augsburg, a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp. She fashioned it from the rubber insulation of electric wire and thread pulled from her camp blanket. This holder protected the comb she had been given by a French inmate who had received it in a gift package. Mrs. Schaloum picked the flowers, now framed in their dried state, during a return visit to Dachau.
In 1903, when Alice Siegal’s grandmother came to the United States, she brought with her this knife and spoon. So these sturdy, simple tools have worked reliably for more than a century in the kitchens of Jewish women in Russia and America. Alice no longer uses the spoon, but the round-bladed chopping knife is still invaluable in the preparation of gefilte fish for the dinner portion of her family's Passover Seder.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Artifacts." (Viewed on February 12, 2016) <http://jwa.org/communitystories/seattle/artifacts>.