Deborah Katchko-Gray
Pioneer woman cantor, artist and Bubbie.

Why All These Kiddush Cups?

A collection of kiddush cups
A collection of kiddush cups

Preparing for a holiday brings up a wealth of memories. My mother lived a modest life, at least compared to the middle-class moms around us. Vacations, Florida trips, beauty parlor, manicures, cleaning ladies, social dinners out were nonexistent in our home growing up. My parents barely made a living from a tiny liquor store and my dad’s part-time cantorial pulpits.  I never felt deprived, but I could see the differences and I could feel the frustration my mom had at times. My father was in another world and was satisfied with very little. He had a deeper spiritual demeanor and came alive on the pulpit where he sang “ like a prophet, as his famous father Cantor Adolph Katchko once said.

My mother came alive preparing for the holidays and making music. She was an incredible pianist, accompanist and organist with natural talent, and a perfect pitch ear. Her delight in preparing for holiday meals was evident and she felt very strongly that everyone at the seder table should have their own sterling silver kiddush cup. It was a regal way to dress the table, and even with very little extras, she managed to collect a bunch of sterling silver kiddush cups so we could be royalty around the seder table.

I have these kiddush cups and a few of my own that I’ve collected over the years. I made sure I brough one home from Poland when traveling with the Cantors Assembly for the “100 Voices-  The Journey Home” trip. I wanted to bring a kiddush cup that had survived the Holocaust and bring it to a warm and loving Jewish home for the holidays where it could be treated like royalty.  I found one that had the Hebrew word Pesach (Passover) on it. Perfect for the seder!

Imagine having a kiddush cup only for the seder!

It was exactly what my mother would have loved.

Another interesting kiddush cup is one I had created from an Israeli artist. She was able to do a folksy cartoon version of my husband and I on the kiddish cup in ceramic! If anyone remembers the name of this artist, I would be grateful! I gave it to my husband at our oufruf and he uses it every Shabbat and holiday.

When I was cantor in Cong. Beth El in Norwalk (1981-1991) I had a wonderful Adult Bat Mitzvah class, and at “ graduation” they gave me a gorgeous engraved kiddush cup I use every Shabbat and holiday.

As we pour our four cups of wine at the seder, look around and remember the stories pouring out of the kiddish cups on your table.

It always makes me remember my wonderful mother and her desire to feel special and uplifted with a table full of silver kiddush cups.

May your cups be full of love and kindness, memories and hope.

About the Author
Fourth generation cantor, second woman to serve a traditional synagogue and founder of the Women Cantors' Network. Deborah studied with Elie Wiesel z"l and continues to be inspired by his teachings. First recipient of the Debbie Friedman Miriam Award. A cantor in Ridgefield, CT since 1999, cellist, tallit Swedish weaving embroiderer, mother of 6, grandmother of five. Wife and friend.
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