Each of us has a favorite object, filled with memories, that appears annually on our family seder table. Maybe it’s the hand-sewn matzah cover brought from Russia or the hand-colored one you made in Sunday School. On the Barkin family’s table, this unique egg-shaped saltwater bowl caught everyone’s eye.
Cantor Jacob Barkin, his wife Mildred and their children Robert and Penny celebrated Passover in Washington for more than a decade. During their seders, the saltwater held in this three-legged ceramic bowl reminded the Barkins of their ancestors’ sweat and tears as slaves in Egypt, and its egg shape represented rebirth, an idea synonymous with the Spring holiday. The open book depicted represents a Haggadah, which tells the Exodus story. The Hebrew on it is the beginning of the Four Questions, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”
Cantor Barkin served Adas Israel Congregation from 1946 to 1958. He was well-known outside the Jewish community, performing both religious and secular music worldwide. In the late 1950s, Barkin received an offer to join the Metropolitan Opera, but turned it down so he could continue working as a cantor. His son, Robert, donated this saltwater bowl to the archival collections of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
Among the Passover materials in the Society’s archives are Passover guides distributed by Posin’s kosher bakery and deli, audio recordings of Charles and Edith Pascal’s seders from 1968 to 2005, Mollee Kruger’s script for a 1960s Passover play done for local television’s The Jewish Community Hour and these family seder photographs. If you have photographs of seders to share with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, call (202) 789-0900 or email email@example.com.
Above: The Green, Perlmutter, Sobel, Perchick, Wolfe, Levitt, Bordow, Paul, Kramer and Wolf families at Solomon’s, a kosher restaurant on Kennedy Street, NW, 1950. JHSGW Collections, gift of Lilian K. Wolfe