To this day, I don’t know how the brown paper wrapped package arrived at my friend Aviva’s house. I looked at the British stamps, tore off the wrapping and dug through wads of tissue paper to find a single brass candlestick. I stood it on the table, stared at the candlestick’s three arched feet and carefully carved body. There were no markings on the bottom. Mystified, I turned to the card which bore wedding congratulations from Lisette, an old family friend from before my parents had taken on Jewish observance. She’d known me since I was a little girl.
In my polite but puzzled thank-you note I asked if there was a “story” behind this single candlestick. There was.
Lisette stemmed from a titled Austrian family but married Ben, a Jew from Poland. In 1939, five days before Rosh Hashanah, the Nazis invaded his hometown of Radom on Shabbat. A short time later they set fire to the city’s shul. Somehow Ben’s mother gained access to the shul, carrying out one candlestick. It had been one of a pair, lit every erev Shabbat by the shul’s shammash. Its mate, like Europe’s Jews, perished in the conflagration.
Radom's main shul. In its place a monument now stands
This was my gift. Lisette had entrusted me with a mute survivor.
Some Fridays as I light my candles I feel the weight of responsibility this small candlestick carries with it. Or I think of Ben and his mother, and the shammash of Radom. Other times I marvel at the soul connection that can transcend time and space, between bodies that have never met.