The first day of Hannukah sounds like the perfect time to share a small bit of my family history. I remember the beautiful silver menorah pictured above from my great grandma Celia Barnett’s apartment. Fast forward several decades, and the menorah made its way to my parent’s home. Last winter this little treasure came home with me.
Thus began the great mystery.
When I removed all the tarnish, I discovered an engraving on the base. Luckily, I happen to know someone who speaks both Hebrew and Yiddish fluently. They were able to give me this translation:
From the board of directors
of Machzikei Talmud Torah of Boro Park
to Ahron Tzvi Barnett for his efforts for the good of the institution. 5684
That puts it circa 1924. Machzikei Talmud Torah of Boro Park was founded in Brooklyn in 1908 and closed in 1941. Their focus was the Jewish religious education of children. They were located at 1319 43rd st., Brooklyn, NY. There is an article that mentions him being a Gabbai at the school.
The menorah was manufactured by Victor Siedman Mfg.Co. Inc. (c. 1920-1934) of Brooklyn, NY. The same company that made the silver candlesticks given to Celia on her 25th wedding anniversary in 1926.
But who was Ahron Tzvi Barnett? According to the family tree, Celia Barnett (1881-1978) married Isaac “Ike” Barnett (1876-1958). But her father’s name was Harris Barnett (1856-1944). Yes, a Barnett married a Barnett. No there was no family connection. So was the menorah given to her father, Harris, or her father-in-law, Marx “Max” Barnett (1855-1933). Neither of those names matched Ahron Tzvi Barnett. A bit more sleuthing, and a lot of help from friends and family solved the mystery.
Tzvi is Hebrew for deer – Hirsh in Yiddish also mean deer
Hirsh – got Americanized to – Harris
The menorah belonged to my great great grandfather Harris Barnett.