My grandmother, Esther, emigrated from Riga, Latvia as a small child. Her mother had passed away and half the children were sent to the United States and the other half to Israel. She was raised in New York by her grandmother who did not speak English. My grandmother did the translating for her “bubbie” at a young age. It was not a surprise when she studied to be an English teacher at age 60 so that she could travel the world.
It was with her in mind that I volunteered to run a jewelry making class for the Russian Jewish Cultural Center. I was surrounded by 12-14 women, most of whom spoke very limited English, who were so excited to hear about my grandmother’s story and how we were honoring her memory (and journey) by making jewelry. I was fortunate enough to have a translator who also happened to be a granddaughter who was able to make jewelry with her grandmother as I did. One participant came up to tell me she is also from Riga, Latvia. Another was making jewelry to take to her granddaughters in Israel and offered a hug on her way out. The whole experience left me with a deep sense of connection to these women as well as gratitude that they have such a place to come and be part of a community with each other.