Eastern Parkway, Utica Avenue, President Street - these names seemed strangely familiar. Driving through Crown Heights several weeks ago, my memory jarred, I wove together fragments of stories heard from my father about his mother’s arrival in America.

The year was 1928. My grandmother’s ship docked in Hoboken, New Jersey. She had come alone from a small town in Poland, leaving behind elderly parents and a younger brother serving in the Polish army. She was a tall, sturdily built woman, whose physical strength masked her profound loneliness. Thirty-one and still unmarried, she had experienced years of disappointment, searching for a suitable mate. She hoped that in America her fate would change. Among her meager belongings were two pairs of oversized silver candlesticks - family heirlooms, her most precious possessions.

My grandmother was met at the dock by a close relative who brought her to his home in the Bronx. This was where she had intended to live. Within hours, the family sat down to a bountiful dinner, consisting of meat and other delicacies. Still overwhelmed by her new surroundings, my grandmother looked around at the food spread out on the table. Pointing to a dish of butter amongst the meat items, in violation of the Torah commandment forbidding milk and meat together, she hesitantly asked her relative’s wife, “What is this?” Attempting to reassure her, the woman answered in Yiddish, “It is butter… Forget about Europe, my dear. This is America.”

That night, my grandmother slept fitfully, distressed and uncertain about what to do. Could she live in a home where Jewish laws were disregarded? How could she compromise the values with which she had been raised? She longed for her parents, whose wholehearted devotion to Torah had shaped her life. Years before, her father had come alone to America with the intention of settling and eventually bringing the family there. Deeply pained upon witnessing the widespread desecration of Shabbat, he decided to return to Europe permanently. She envisioned her mother.

Hours before my grandmother’s departure, her mother had carefully packed the oversized silver candlesticks, entrusting them to her. She knew that she must hold on to the beautiful Torah traditions against all odds despite the necessity of immigrating to a place fraught with challenge.

Early the next morning, my grandmother reached a decision. She took a slip of paper with an address written on it: 286 Utica Avenue. She rode on a rattling train from the Bronx to Brooklyn, clutching the slip of paper, apprehensive yet determined. Finally, she arrived at the home of an aunt and uncle, immigrants for many years. Could it be that their lifestyle had not been affected by their American surroundings? Here, my grandmother recognized the signs for which she had been searching. A large wooden mezuzah was affixed to the front doorpost. The familiar aroma of freshly baked challah wafted from the modest kitchen. “Please join us for Shabbat,” her aunt offered.

My grandmother eventually became a permanent member of her aunt’s household. After three years, a potential match was suggested to her. A learned Russian immigrant, known for his upstanding character. My grandmother agreed to meet him. Their first meeting took place on a Friday night. The man was as enthralled with the oversized silver candlesticks glowing in that Crown Heights home that Shabbat as he was with his future wife. My grandparents were married shortly after their first meeting.

My grandmother lived until the age of ninety-three. Today, her oversized silver candlesticks stand on the top shelf of my parents’ dining room bookcase. I will treasure them for the rest of my life. My grandmother’s heirlooms. Her most precious possessions.