~ Ruchie Gross
Tomorrow is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. May we never forget the atrocities committed towards the 11 million Nazi victims during the Holocaust, end present genocides, and prevent them from occurring in the future. If we do not, who will?
A lot of families from our neighborhood have been disappearing recently, and no one will tell me why. After the Rabinowitzes left without taking any of their things with them and a new family moved in, I asked Mama. She shushed me and told me not to ask again. But after the Rabinowitzes came the Birnbaums, and after the Birnbaums came the Abrams, and I began losing track after that. When I ask why everyone is leaving, they say that I’m a little girl and won’t understand it. I think eight years old is very mature, and I think I could understand anything they could tell me.
One day I decide enough is enough and ask my oma about it. My oma tells me everything, stories about how silly mama was when she was a girl like me and how her life was so much different than mine.
“Oma?” I ask when my grandmother is sitting in her chair in the living room. I snuggle into her lap. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, Katharina.”
“Why are so many families leaving the neighborhood without their things? And why are new families moving into their houses and using their stuff?” I ask.
Oma sighs. “Has Mama or Papa explained this to you?” I shake my head. “Do you really want me to?” I nod. “Okay, Kathy. But you have to promise you won’t tell Mama or Papa I told you this.” I nod eagerly, glad to get an answer to my question. “Have you noticed the yellow stars some people have been wearing?”
“The Jews,” I said. “We learned about them in school.”
“What did you learn about them?”
“That they’re not as good as us, and Hitler is working to make sure that they’re separated from us.”
She sighed. “Will you believe me if I tell you that’s not true?”
I think about it for a little bit. My oma knows everything. “Yes.”
“Good. Because it’s not. Jews are just as good as any other human out there. But Hitler doesn’t think so, and he’s been trying to send them away from us. That’s where all the families have gone.”
“So it’s only Jewish families?”
“I didn’t know I knew any Jews.”
Oma laughs. “You certainly do know many Jews. Your little friend Esther down the block is Jewish. So is Sara across the street.”
“Wait…is Hitler going to make them leave too?” I’m suddenly outraged. How could Hitler do something as silly as that? Esther and Sara are just as good as I am. We play together all the time. Why should they be sent away? Where are they going, anyway?
“He might. I don’t know, Kathy. Don’t dwell on it.”
“But we have to save them!” I exclaim, crawling off of Oma’s lap and looking her in the eyes. “We can’t let them get sent away! I’m friends with Esther and Sara!”
“I know, Kathy. But we can’t do anything about it. When you say your prayers at night, have Esther and Sara in mind. But don’t tell anyone that you are, okay? And don’t tell anyone that I told you all this. It’s our secret, okay?” Oma smiles at me and puts an aged finger to her lips. I smile back and put my finger on my lips too.
“Okay,” I say. “But I still think we should make sure Hitler doesn’t send Esther and Sara away.”
~ Talia Weisberg
It started with a knot.
And over time a rope was formed
Strengthened by my toil,
Thickened by my hope.
And the grip got tighter.
And just when i thought i finally had you,
the blade hit the rope.
And you were lost.
~ Chaya Mushka Barchaim
I can feel the fear pulsing through my veins, blocking out everything around me. I walk down the long, unembellished hall, which is dimly lit with fiery torches at every bend. I can’t help but wonder if it was purposely built this way to terrorize me. As I slowly edge towards the doors, I keep telling myself it’s going to be fine…but what if it’s not? I can feel my stomach twisting as I turn the last corner and come to a complete stop.
The set of black double doors are now in front of me. I grip my hands tightly into fists. With my head bent down and my eyes tightly shut, I nod, giving permission to the large, muscular guards to open the doors. The long crimson carpet is the only thing that separates me and his gold throne, which is set with gems that dazzle in all different hues and shades. The finest in all of Persia. The room is held up by long pillars of white marble; within them are thin spider webs of gold. Red velvet drapes from pillar to pillar. Between the pillars hang paintings of past kings, framed with exquisite gold. Yet I don’t have time to admire the magnificent room and the fine details of the décor for more than a split second. It’s my life, and my family’s lives, that are at stake.
Along with my deep, nervous breaths, the click clack of my heels is the only sound that can be heard. As I slowly continue down the long red carpet, I pray a silent prayer. Never in my life have I felt so hungry, tired, and alone. With each step I can practically feel my stomach turning inside out with fear and hunger, a physical response to three days of fasting. I take each breath in deeply, my heart racing.
Oh G-d, please don’t forget the miracles your performed with Daniel in the lion’s den, or for Chananiah, Michael, and Azariah when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. I’m a small Jewish child who just defied the most powerful king in the world. I’m just a frail girl, with no parents, no childhood to look back and relive, no children, and no real husband. But for Your sake, I gave up everything I could have had. Please, G-d – don’t abandon me.
Each second lasts an eternity as I open my tightly closed eyes and await his decision. I stare at the floor, noticing every tiny spot and every intricate detail of the red carpet, not daring to raise my head. I can feel his eyes, those red and fiery torches, pierce me to the depths of my soul. I shake uncontrollably; I know my fate already. I’m done, as are my people.
And as I raise my eyes, without daring to lift my head from its downward position, I finally make eye contact with him. I plead to him with my tear-glazed eyes to grant me life. And as I lower my eyes again and start to sob uncontrollably, I can’t handle the suspense anymore. I look up.
And I see him, Achashverosh, king of 127 provinces, the ruler of the strongest nation of all the world, looking at me as if I did nothing wrong. His golden scepter is reaching towards me, growing bigger and bigger, until it finally taps my shoulder.
At that second, I hear his booming voice echoing through the hall, asking me what I wanted that I was willing to endanger my life for. I know that my desire was the same as Hashem’s. Achashverosh did not spare my life; Hashem was my true savior.
So confidently I answer back, knowing that G-d won’t forsake me any further.
~ Sarah Shutyak
just a woman
You rush by
to the beat of
Ushering you to
just a woman
faint and distant
her words echo
as you scurry on to
weathered but strong
a striking song
a melody of history
you could hear
if you cared enough to just
~ Talya Horenstein