The following guest blog post was submitted by Nataly Blumberg, a huge fan of Explore Jewish India and an enthusiastic lover of hand-blocked tablecloths with matching napkins.
Passover is around the corner, and even though you might celebrate with an intimate group this year, it is still important to make it special. When we ask ourselves, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” adding that extra something to make it a memorable and positive experience will help us find the silver lining in all that is happening around us.
This year I decided to go on the hunt for an inspiring table-scape. Growing up, my mother always made a beautiful table, but until recently I didn’t even know that a table-scape was a thing! Basically, my interpretation is that you set your table according to a theme. I recently read a blog post that caught my interest on Apeloig Collection that talked about setting their table based on a picture of Moses in his basket on the Nile River. So creative!
After a bit of searching around on Instagram and Pinterest, I decided that the perfect holiday table would include pieces that had special meaning, especially those that were handed down from people we love who are not with us anymore. Once I started to open up closets and drawers, I realized how many beautiful items were being stored waiting for an occasion, or were unused because they were too delicate. Also, all of that browsing online made me realize that embracing color makes a table setting so much more interesting than a boring white tablecloth!
Starting with the basics, I’ll be adding something new and colorful this year: a stunning tablecloth and napkin set from Explore Jewish India! I cannot get enough of the vibrant colors, thick cotton fabric, and beautiful hand-blocked patterns, all the while knowing that I’ve helped support several small businesses. And, for a person who loves to set a nice table on Shabbat and holidays, not having to iron is a major motivator. My only problem is that there are too many pretty patterns to choose from!
Photo caption: Almost ready for Shabbat! All that’s left is the challah and candlesticks!
I realize now that that I should stop saving the “good” china and glassware. My grandmother once told me to wear all the jewelry I wanted and not to wait. She said, “Just wear it and enjoy it, because eventually it will get lost or stolen. Don’t let it go unused and unloved.” I’ve started to take this advice to heart. I adore the way the floral pattern on my husband’s grandmother’s silverware seems right at home with the tablecloth. To polish the silver, I found this handy way to clean it in five seconds and a tiny bit of effort using hot water, baking powder, and foil.
I decided to finally take out my late mother-in-law’s delicate gray smoke Scandinavian glasses. Since it’s just the four of us for Shabbat dinner and likely for the Passover Seder, now seems as good a time as ever. Though they are too delicate for the dishwasher, the glasses are so beautiful! Using them is a meaningful way to bring her memory to our table. Their color works well with the green and blue of the tablecloth. To add even more pizzazz, try this fun and easy trick to create napkin rings that I learned from a friend of mine who is a party planner. Take a piece of twine and fold it in half. Make a loop with a knot at the top and pull the ends through. Finally, slip in your napkin and you have a lovely napkin ring!
Photo: My late mother-in-law’s “fancy” glasses for a special Shabbat dinner. Maybe some inspiration for Passover!
; few years ago, we inherited candlesticks from my husband’s grandmother. Recently, we learned that these were a gift for her confirmation. She was born in Marshall, Texas and at the time girls didn’t have a bat mitzvah--they had a confirmation. Her monogram, “BR,” is engraved in a stunning pattern. We've been using these the past few Shabbatot, and it’s been a great way to enhance our table.
Photo: My husband’s grandmother’s monogrammed Shabbat candlesticks from her confirmation in Marshall, Texas.
Next to the wedding china that we decided to use after two decades is my grandfather’s kiddush cup. He was born in Poland and spent much of his adult life in South America, so I have no idea where the kiddush cup really originated! I used the silver polishing trick and it’s even more beautiful than I remember. Since he died before I was born, the kiddush cup is a way to talk to my children about the importance of Jewish rituals from generation to generation.
Photo: My grandfather's kiddush cup
In the coming weeks, I’ll be going through even more family treasures to use as part of our celebrations. For me, what makes this year’s Passover preparation different from all other years is the realization that life is short, and that special items are not only special because of their monetary value but because of the people who owned them before me. I am going to take the opportunity to speak with my children about different Jewish cultures from India to Texas, and the importance of using the “good” stuff to make every Shabbat and holiday more meaningful.
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Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad.