Yesterday we went to Framestyles, a delightful frame shop in South Minneapolis to drop off the bronze cast of a mezuzah that originally was affixed to the door at the courtyard in Czestochowa, Poland, home of David and Rochma Hoffer nee Szacher and their children, Batia, Israel and Sarah. Maybe David and Rochma’s parents too, we don’t know. Israel was Ruth’s father who survived Hasag and Buchenwald. We started to tell the tale of the mezuzah in earlier posts, but the story goes on as it usually does.
It all started with a surprise from Tomasz. Tomasz Jankowski that is – a Belarus-based tour guide, genealogist and friend who we hired to conduct some genealogical research on the Hoffer family tree in Czestochowa. After sifting through the archives, Tomasz noticed some tax records and located the home address of David Hoffer, Ruth’s grandfather.
Tomasz, without us asking him to, went to the address and photographed the imprint of a mezuzah on the Hoffer doorpost.
After we received this amazing photograph, we framed it, hung it on our wall and went on with our lives.
Then in the summer of 2013, we attended the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland and I was dragged kicking and screaming into a “Let’s make something Jewish” workshop. Yes, two young Poles brought in a ton of art supplies and our task was, once broken into groups, to make a challah cover, a kiddush cup, a menorah – you get the idea. Not exactly my cup of tea. But Ruthie was having fun so I graciously sat on the sidelines, grumbling occasionally, and watched the class of mostly non-Jews doing their Jewish overnight camp thing.
At the close of the class Ruth and I approached the two instructors and engaged them in a brief conversation. “Where are you from? “Any Jewish blood flowing in your veins? What do you do when you aren’t teaching non-Jews how to make kiddish cups out of coffee stirrers?” “Oh, yes, my father was Jewish, says Helena, and I am converting.” “We also have a company called Mi Polin, she says.” “What does Mi Polin do,” we ask. “Oh, we make wooden art mezuzot and sometimes Jewish people who have identified a mezuzah at an ancestral home ask us to go there and make a bronze cast for them.” “Holy, jumping turtlewax,” I said. “We have one in Czestochowa, will you go there, how much will it cost, how soon can you do it, and isn’t it a small world????……”
I surmise that you can feel how excited we were. It turned out to really not be a difficult process. We sent the photograph and the address to Alexander and Helena.
Ruth wrote something for the Mi Polin Facebook page. We decided what should go on the sides of the mezuzah. And then Mi Polin did their thing.
A few weeks later a rather heavy (for its size) package arrived from Poland. It was the mezuzah, perfectly executed, and impressively beautiful. All who have seen it, felt it, held it, have been touched. It is an honoring of family history to have this object that once marked the entrance to Ruth’s ancestral home. Now it will go into a beautiful Plexiglas frame, along with some dedicatory words, to be hung on a wall where soon the fifth (or perhaps 6th) subsequent generation can admire it.