My mother saved this charm necklace that belonged to my grandmother. The charm on the right is my grandma’s first initial. The middle charm is a chai, a Jewish symbol for life. Born to Jewish immigrant parents in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, my grandma was one of six children. Her mother emigrated from Hungary, and her father was from Romania. My grandmother’s family was poor, but the chai charm on her necklace is a testament to her outlook. She celebrated life despite the difficulties of being raised in a tenement. My grandma, in addition to her positivity, believed in outside forces that affected her life. The horseshoe charm on the left represents my grandma’s superstitions that she passed on to my mom. When I would sing along to the radio in the morning, my mom would say, “If you sing in the morning, you will cry at night.” My grandma bought the horseshoe charm for good luck, and even though I did not hear her warnings firsthand, her superstitions lived on through my mother.
My grandmother, who was Jewish, married an Italian Catholic, and neither family approved of the match. Even without the support of my grandpa’s side of the family, my grandma did not renounce her religion or customs. My grandma’s necklace reveals the aspects of her life that she continued to hold close to her.
– Monica Fining