By Sharon Konkin Siegel, Director of Life Long Learning and Adult Programming
My paternal grandparents, Sol and Dora Konkin, escaped the frigid New Jersey winter by renting a room in Hotel Sheldon, a modest hotel in sunny, warm Miami Beach. These hotels that used to be filled with the smells of brisket and boiled chicken and sounds of Yiddish–speaking elderly kibitzing on the porch now comprise the very trendy and expensive art deco hotel strip of Miami Beach.
Every year our family would receive, by US snail mail, a brown paper wrapped box filled with Grandma Dora’s homemade hamentashen to enjoy for Purim. Always filled with prune, even after my brother and I repeatedly told her we didn’t like prune, we devoured them anyway because they were part of our holiday tradition.
Weekly light housekeeping was part of the seasonal rental service at Hotel Sheldon and each week the maid placed several thin bars of hard white soap wrapped in white waxy paper in my grandparent’s bathroom. Being from the Depression Era, my Grandma Dora was never one to let anything go to waste. One winter she accumulated a pile of soap bars and packed them along with the hamentashen. That year we received the prune hamentashen with an added flavor….soap!! The hamentashen were quickly thrown out but the memory of this Purim lives on.
Why am I recounting this story? In my professional life as a Program Director at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, I am excited to soon convene an interdepartmental group of Jewish communal colleagues to create a Jewish Grandparenting Center Without Walls at our JCC...a very exciting new initiative for us! We are developing opportunities for Jewish grandparents to make soulful connections with their grandchildren in hopes of fostering Jewish continuity. In all the research and reading on this subject there is one constant….the importance of showing the old family photos and telling the stories of your family. Giving a grandchild a sense of who they are and where they came from is one of the greatest gifts a grandparent can ever give to their grandchildren. Probably more important than a 529 college savings plan.
In my personal life I am the proud Grandmother of Professor Loki, my son’s beautiful one-year-old tabby cat. And G-d willing, one day, I’ll be blessed with human grandchildren to share the story of Grandma Dora’s specially flavored hamentashen. But capturing this story can’t wait because two generations before me are already gone. So right now, this story is memorialized for my adult children and their cousins. May it live on through the generations and may Grandma Dora’s memory be a blessing.