These are my great great great grandfather Benjamin Wides’s tefillin. Before he came to America he was a rabbi in Lithuania in the period when it was being ruled by Russia. He was brought here by several of his four sons who were already in NYC and had moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn and settled in Englewood, NJ. His sons were: Isaac (my great great grandpa), Morris, Sam and David Wides. The family came from a shtetel (small village) outside of Vilna (now "Vilnius," the capital of Lithuania/ Vilna, which, at the time, was the center of Jewish culture and learning in Eastern Europe. My grandpa inherited Benjamin’s “rabbi hat” and wore it to my parent’s wedding.
      My favorite story about Benjamin reflects the customs and superstitions the immigrants brought with them to New York. The traditional belief was that when a Jew died his or her soul had to crawl underground from wherever they had died all the way to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem because it was only from the Mount that one's soul could rise to Heaven. Therefore,Benjamin, like other Jewish immigrants in NYC, especially from Eastern Europe, hung on his belt a small bag of dirt that he had been "guaranteed" by the seller was filled with soil from the Mount of Olives. The theory was that, when he died, if the undertaker tossed the little bag of dirt into his coffin, his soul would be able to rise directly to Heaven, and would not have to first crawl under the earth's crust to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Place(s): Lithuania,Russian Empire
Year: 1910

– Sasha Chajet Wides

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more