In a charming home in Sandy Springs, Sheryl and Ben Blatt live with treasured art and iconic furniture. Rare sewing machines of the 19th and 20th centuries are displayed in the expansive hall. The Blatts eat their meals at an oak arts and crafts table and set of chairs (also referred to as mission-style), part of their extensive museum-quality collection of the 19th-century handmade genre.
One-of-a-kind carved objects are displayed alongside family photos and other heirloom furniture. Amidst the exceptional décor, one is drawn to a display cabinet in the dining room. It is filled with engraved sterling silver Kiddush cups of many shapes and sizes, discovered over the years by Sheryl.
“I love flea markets,” she noted, “but I never expected to start a new collection because I noticed something unexpected on one of my visits!”
About 12 years ago, Sheryl Blatt was wandering through the huge Scott Antique Markets complex on Jonesboro Road. On a dealer’s table, which held mostly sterling silver flatware, she noticed a lone Kiddush cup. “How odd!” she thought, “What’s a Kiddush cup doing here?” She asked the vendor about it, and he claimed that it was a miniature trophy. Without bothering to correct the dealer’s incorrect attribution, Blatt decided to rescue that cup, and she bought it.
Continuing on, she was on the alert. At another booth, she spotted a second silver Kiddush cup, smaller than the first one, and again asked about it. This time she was told that it was a toothpick holder. Another rescue ensued.
“You know how it goes,” she joked. “I was hooked. After I found those Kiddush cups, I was now a collector!” Blatt presently has a collection of nearly 40 sterling silver Kiddush cups that once belonged to other people, engraved with names, initials, dates, symbols and organizational abbreviations.
Once her rescue radar became activated, Blatt also liberated other pieces of misidentified Judaica. On a trip to Highlands, N.C., she stepped into an antiques shop, where she noticed a pressed glass bowl-shaped container with two handles and clearly decorated with a Jewish star. She asked the owner about it, and he explained that it was a sugar bowl that unfortunately was missing its cover. There was no lip on which a lid would have rested, and the star decoration nailed it. Blatt knew that she had found an unusual washing cup, a vessel used to ritually rinse hands before eating meals in which bread would be eaten. “Of course, I bought it!” Blatt asserted.
Then on one of her trips to the Scott Antique Markets, Blatt was scouting for Kiddush cups as usual, when she was shocked to find a troubling framed vignette. On a background of black velvet, a large, gold-rimmed, bone china seder plate was glued, accompanied by a complete set of matching gold-rimmed cups. The decorations and lettering were pristine. The set had never been used. “I was determined to save it in its perfect condition! It took more than a month to remove the goop from the backs of the pieces, but I did it with my own hands!” She sighed at the memory, displaying her manicured fingernails.
Over the years, Blatt continued to spot Kiddush cups. “They’re not so hard to find,” she said, “but every time I find one, I wonder how an engraved personalized object, something I’d expect a family to hand down from generation to generation, could end up in a resale booth. It should be a treasured family heirloom.”
When asked if she has a favorite, Blatt answered, “Yes, it’s engraved, ‘Mother and Dad, March 1956.’ Can you believe that? No one held onto it?”
The Blatt family uses almost all of the Kiddush cups at their family seders. “There are favorites, and sometimes one of the grandchildren wants a special one. We randomly place the cups so that everybody gets a chance to celebrate Andrew Newman’s bar mitzvah at the Westchester Jewish Center in 1973 or M.S.H.’s bar mitzvah in 1964 at Temple Israel in Lawrence, N.J. We also like one from Adam Hardy Candy, which must have been a souvenir, and I wonder where and when Ronald Lee received his Kiddush cup. Every one of them has a story!”