My husband’s grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. He was liberated from Buchenwald. After a few years of rehabilitating and recovering in Germany, he finally left for Canada in 1951. His dream was to go Israel, as it had always been since his youth, but family and circumstances brought him to North America. And, at the time, wherever you had family left that’s where you went.
But he didn’t leave Germany empty handed. Before he left, perhaps knowing he would never return, he purchased a tea set. A 1946 light blue, gold rimmed Rosenthal set, with a U.S Zone stamp. He carried this tea set across the ocean to Pier 21, eventually finding his way to Toronto where he built a new life. The tea set would be passed down and stored for nearly seventy years.
I’ve wondered many times what compelled him to buy a tea set, likely spend a hefty sum on it, just before leaving a continent stained with so much pain and devastation. A place where he lost his parents, nine of his siblings, and extended family. I imagine him picking it out, lifting the tea pot, feeling it’s lightweight vessel, inspecting the cups, asking about the differences, the variety. And finally choosing the perfect set, the periwinkle blue with the gold rim. I imagine him standing there all alone but hopeful that one day it would be served at a large family gathering, in memory and in honour of his loved ones. Hopeful that one day there would be room, in his lifetime and in generations to come, for love and laughter again, for triumph. That the pot would pour tea on a Friday night, or a Jewish holiday, and that, in doing so, it would signify the continuation of his people, their endurance and perseverance.
Seventy years later, I don’t know if he would have envisioned that his tea set would not only hear the echoes of laughter, it would not just be served on Shabbat meals and holidays, but that it would journey yet again across the ocean, this time, to arrive at our new home in Israel. And that every time we’d bring it out, we’d think of him, his deep love for Israel, his courage, and immense desire to go on in life. Sipping our tea in our homeland, we would share his story and reflect on how in a moment so dark he found the strength to rebuild, because he believed in the future of his people.