A most precious task: Polishing the silver
By Arlene Roth
Often people are astounded when I tell them that I volunteer to polish the silver at Holy Blossom. “You do what?” This task is considered a chore by many; however, for me polishing the silver is both an honour and privilege, and has deepened my connection to our synagogue.
Initially, I tentatively handled our holy pieces (klei kodesh): the yads, breastplates, crowns (keter), candelabras, candlesticks, kiddush cups, havdalah holder and spice box. Being up close and personal with our holy objects took getting used to. Not only because they adorn our cherished Torahs and are instrumental in helping us step away from our daily routine and bring us to a place of divine presence and reflection during Shabbat and festivals, but they are beautiful works of art created by extraordinarily skilled silversmiths. A few are close to a hundred years old. The older pieces are highly decorative. Some are adorned with a pair of lions, silver beading, a tier of bells and tablets which actually open. The more modern pieces are simpler in design, but graceful and adorned with gems.
All our silver pieces have been donated by devoted congregants who wanted to enhance our spiritual home. One such piece is the large decorative candelabra which we use during the High Holy Days. Under its base are the names of 12 women, likely from Sisterhood, who generously gifted this piece in loving memory of Pearl Enkin. They are Lilian Wolman, Vicki Toker, Kit Foster, Rae Allen, Mildred Loebel, Mary Spellman, Rae Taube, Hortense Geldsaler, Toba Birn, Marguerite Halsall, Etta Gerstein and Matty Bald. You may recognize a few of these family names, and, in fact, some of you are related to these women. A second remarkable piece of Judaica is the magnificent Hanukiah in the glass display case in the hallway leading to the Mishkan. It was donated by Sigmund Samuel in memory of his dear wife Leah May Samuel. The inscription reads that Leah was “born at Tamut, Australia 1869 and died in Toronto 1951. And to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the founding of this Congregation by my parents.” The last item that has an inscription is a beautiful, large kiddish cup which was donated in loving memory of Lionel Roher R.C.A.F. June 28, 1941.
Recently, I noticed a display case of small silver objects beside the entrance to Jacob’s Tower on the third floor. It is filled with items for Havdalah from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This collection was lovingly donated by Florence Hertzman in memory of her grandson Jacob. I look forward to polishing them in the near future.
As I am now at Holy Blossom during the week, I have had many opportunities to meet the clergy, administrative and facilities staff who work behind the scenes to help make our synagogue the special place it is. While polishing the silver in the kitchen off the Mishkan, I relish a break from work to chat with those who come in for a coffee, snack or ice cubes for their water bottles. The team is welcoming and hard-working, and are appreciative of my efforts.
One final note I’d like to make is something Rabbi Splansky said to me when I first started volunteering. It was late afternoon, and she asked what I was doing at Temple. When I told her, she smiled and said that I was doing what centuries of congregants had done in their quiet way, helping to bring joy and beauty to their congregations. Rabbi Splansky’s comment touched my heart, and for a moment, time was still yet encompassed all of those with whom I shared this precious task.