Rescued family treasures star in temporary museum

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The school's ad hoc "Jewish Museum of Loving Memories," part of the Bureau of Jewish Education's recent Feast of Jewish Learning, featured eight tables laden with keepsakes in the school's community hall.

About 50 people gathered to experience the museum in its afternoon of life. Most were schoolchildren aged 5 to 11, and a few were teachers. But several were parents and even grandparents who had loaned their precious items for the display.

The school's Jewish studies coordinator Marit Shmargad guided everyone through the highlights, while the children — some talking scarcely above a whisper — told about what they'd brought.

There was fourth-grader Rory Aptekar's copy of a ship's manifest documenting the Aptekars' journey to the United States. Rory also showed two silver candlesticks brought over from Russia. His ancestors had once buried them so the czar's soldiers wouldn't steal them.

Fifth-grader Gillian Silver talked about a clock her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Germany.

The purpose of the museum was to get parents talking to children about their ancestry, "passing down roots of their Jewish families so children can grow up knowing where they came from and where they're going to go," said the school's director, Sandy Wolf.

The afternoon, she said, was a great success. "Families really gave it a lot of thought. There were many, many interesting artifacts, and each child was particularly proud of what they brought in," Wolf added.

Third-grader Aviva Maine put up a display of her great-grandfather's ticket from Europe to America and his blue medical inspection form allowing him to come over.

Fourth-grader Alexandra Volynets contributed an old photo brought from the Ukraine. The young woman in the photo was one of Volynets' ancestors.

"She was a journalist. And she was a communist. They killed her," Volynets wrote under the photo.

Less dramatic was third-grader Mark Donig's contribution, a baseball glove signed by Jimmy Ray Hart, a third baseman with the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s. The glove had been passed down to Donig from his father.

Wolf herself also made a contribution — her grandmother's ketubah. Written in Yiddish, it proclaimed that Moishe Blank married Miriam Hirshfield in 1886. Wolf also brought along the Colman Mustard tin in which her grandmother kept the ketubah, and which she kept under her pillow.

"Nowadays we don't need to sleep with it under our pillows anymore," Wolf said. "We have lawyers."

The older students were also asked to come up with something they can pass on to future generations. Their selections ran the gamut.

Rory's bequest to future Aptekars was a ceramic pizza. Fifth-grader Jonathan Abramson's bequest, however, was the one most likely to find favor among his teachers.

"What I'm going to pass down is a nice Jewish education which my parents have given to me," Abramson wrote. "This is what I'm going to give my children."