by Sandra Yoffee (Sarasota, FL)
My visits with my grandparents were always treasured times, especially when it included the Sabbath.
This was a day joyfully observed each week since my Grandmother, Bubbe, and Grandfather, Zedeh, were devout Orthodox Jews.
On Friday evening before sunset, Zedeh would change from his shabby work clothes into his steel-grey wool suit and snowy white shirt accented with a muted maroon tie. In his weathered black shoes, he then walked to the nearby synagogue to welcome the Sabbath with prayers.
Bubbe, who remained at home, would light the Sabbath candles and put the finishing touches on her day-long task of preparing the Sabbath meal.
“Come here, my child, and watch as I welcome the Sabbath by lighting the candles,” she said.
I watched as she circled her wrinkled hands around the flames of the candles. With her hands placed over her closed eyes, she sang the blessings for lighting the candles. The beautiful candelabra, etched in silver, resembled a small tree with branches that held six candles. When all the candles were lit, the room was bathed in the glow of their flames.
When Zedeh returned from shul, we sat down at the dining room table to enjoy a delicious Sabbath meal.
After the blessing over the wine and challah, we would feast on steaming chicken soup with feathery light kneidlach, succulent roast chicken, and luscious kugel.
After dinner Bubbe and I sat in the darkened living room on the brown mohair sofa with only the shimmering light of the Sabbath candles.
She told me stories from the old country, and, while the Yiddish flowed, I listened until my eyelids grew heavy and I fell asleep.
On Sabbath morning, we dressed in our finest clothes and walked to their synagogue, B’nai Moshe, on Fifth Street in South Philadelphia.
The synagogue was a beautiful building with many stained glass windows that, through their pictures, told the history of our Jewish heritage.
Bubbe took me upstairs to the balcony where we sat with all the women. She introduced me to her friends and told them I was her “shaynah aynecal,” her beautiful granddaughter.
With the sound of the women’s whispered prayers in my ears, I leaned over the railing and watched my Zedeh pray in the sanctuary below.
The men, covered with prayer-shawls, swayed front to back as they prayed.
The melodies of their prayers still linger in my memory.
Whenever I go to synagogue today–if I listen quietly–I can hear echoes of those prayers.
The simplicity of their lives, intertwined with their religious practices, forever remains a beautiful part of my memory of them.
Thus my grandparents instilled in me my pride and joy of being Jewish.
Sandra Yoffee was born in Philadelphia, PA, and moved with her husband, A.G., in 2002 to Sarasota, FL, where she is a member of “The Six Pearls,” a writing group dedicated to memoir-writing.