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September 26, 2003 - Image 100

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-26

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from page 99

their grandmother. Some day, each of
their 10 great-grandchildren also
received a shofar.
The Seligson collection of nearly 50
shofrot is spread out as far as Israel,
where Mendel and Carol Seligson's
son and his family live. -At least 30 of
the shofrot still remain in Esther
Seligson's home.
Carol Seligson also has a shofar
given to her by her late father-in-law.
"Everyone else had one and I said I
wanted one, too," she said. "Mine is a
very pretty one. I got to pick it out."
A teacher at Beth Achim Religious
School at Adat Shalom Synagogue in
Farmington Hills, Seligson gives her
students the privilege of blowing the
treasured shofar.
"I bring the shofar to class, with
alcohol for cleaning it, and everyone
who wants gets a chance to blow it,"
she said. "It is very difficult to blow.
Only a few get a sound out of it."

Where Did They Come From?

Anyone who knew Marvin Seligson
knew about his collection.
Not only was he the man with all
the shofrot, but Mendel Seligson said,
"My dad also bought tons of them for
While many of the shofrot in the
collection were purchased by Marvin

Seligson, others were gifts given to
him through the years — and no two
are alike. "They come in all shapes,
sizes and stories," Esther Seligson said.
"There is one that was blown in
Auschwitz," Esther Seligson said of a
shofar given to her late husband by
Holocaust survivor Manny Mittelman
of Southfield. "He knew he would
appreciate it and he wanted him to
have it."
"He also had a couple that were
used at Young Israel when it was in
Detroit," Mendel Seligson said. "And
when B'nai Zion moved from Detroit
to Oak Park, somebody there thought
the shofar used there should go to my
While at one point or another
Marvin Seligson used all the shofrot in
the collection, some were for home
use only. "Like the one that was given
to him by an old synagogue, and he
discovered it had a hole in it and was-
n't kosher for use in shul," Esther
Seligson said.
In addition to the shofrot he was
gifted, Marvin Seligson also received a
case to carry them in. "A friend's
daughter made him a black velvet
embroidered bag with a drawstring .
closing," Esther Seligson said. "He
used it to carry his shofar to shul and

More Than A Collector

Top, left: The late Marvin Seligson
shown blowing shofar

Left: Anshel Seligson, 10 months, of
Royal Oak practices blowing one of his
late great-grandfather's shofrot.


Contrary to what the layperson may
think, "Every shofar is different, with
different sounds," said Mendel Seligson.
'No two are exactly alike."
Chaskel Borenstein of liorenstein's
Books and Music in Oak Park said:
"Our shofi-ot fall into two groupings:
the general type, -which is usually 8-12
inches long and the real long ones, the
Yeminite types that curve a couple of
times over and are used by Sephardic
While most shofrot are made from a
ram's horn, some are made from the
horns of the eland, a kosher animal of
the antelope family. While classical

shoftot are straightened at the end to
make the horn longer, many shofar
companies now cut them shorter to
make the mouthpiece larger, allowing
easier use. "Generally, the larger the
mouthpiece, the easier it is to blow the
shofar," Borenstein said.
Even the way they blow varies.
"Because each one is different, the tech-
nique for blowing the shofar is different
from wind instruments," he said. "It's
not like the trumpet with its rounded
mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is usually
more oval and elongated."
Because animal horns are actually the
outer layer of material around the bones

Even with his decades-long passion for
acquiring shofrot, his wife said, "He
was not just a collector. He was
absolutely perfect, exemplary at blow-
ing the shofar. He really was the best."
Carol Seligson remembers the

that grow from the head, no two horns
are alike, varying in color, length and
The older an animal gets, the larger
the horns grow. With time, they tend to
become twisted into a curve or even a
spiral. Those that are too twisted cannot
be made into a shofar because the end
needs to be straight enough to be heated
and stretched until a hole can be drilled
into the tip for a mouthpiece. If the
mouthpiece is too small it is difficult to
get a nice sound and is sometimes
uncomfortable on the lips.
In addition to the traditional natural
or polished shofrot, artist creations are

sounds of her father-in-law's shofar.
"He taught everyone how to blow
them," she said. "My husband once
heard him blow three at the same
time. He could blow 'Taps' on the
Durihg the Hebrew month of Elul
when the shofar is blown every day,
Marvin Seligson blew the shofar either
at home or in synagogue or wherever
he happened to be.
"Once when we went to New York
for a bar mitzvah during Elul, he took
a shofar with us and blew it there,"
Esther Seligson said. "I think he
always had a shofar with him."
Each year before Rosh Hashanah,
she said her husband spent a month
reviewing the laws of the shofar and
practicing a little on a shofar. "But he
didn't need much — blowing the sho-
far was his thing to do."
Carol Seligson has a clear memory
of the great pride and sentiment she
felt when hearing her father-in-law
blow shofar.
"I never heard anyone blow shofar
like him in my life," she said. "You
have lost if you haven't heard his
notes. On Rosh Hashanah, the sound
of his shofar would wake you up to do
teshuvah (repentance). And he always
made it look like it was nothing to
blow it."
One year, Marvin Seligson blew
shofar in one service at B'nai Israel-
Beth Yehudah, while Mendel Seligson
did the same in another. "I was in my
husband's shul and I could still hear
my father-in-law's shofar blowing,"
Carol Seligson said. "I remember get-
ting chills from hearing it. I was so
moved. The sound was so special." ❑

now available with coatings, of clay, gold
and silver, with embossed emblems,
such as the Star of David.
For those with a penchant for the
wearable shofar, tie clips and pendants
with small model shofrot attached now
are sold. IVIany Judaica stores and Web
sites also carry acrylic and wooden sho-
far stands and velvet-lined shofar bags.
White some new shofrot may be treat-
ed to eliminate the unpleasant animal
scent that often accompanies them,
those that are not may be cleaned by
running one part vinegar to two parts
water through the shofar, and letting it
dry. ❑

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