This is deeply personal. But what I have experienced should resonate with the entire Jewish community—the one we know and the one to come. In the whirlwind that seizes me and all who are communally aware, I have reached a new and stunning personal location, wedged between the searing past and the uncertain future.
My story begins before I was born, when my grandmother Fanya seized her slender teen-aged daughter—my mother-to-be— Edyka, and pushed her out of the small vent at the top of a suffocating boxcar rumbling inexorably from Bialystok, Poland toward the Treblinka deathcamp. Together, they made the split-second decision that at least one person should escape. My mother became a “jumper.” That day, she jumped into a hostile and dangerous Polish forest, was shot by local forces, and then buried in a hastily-arranged mass grave in the snow. Buried, yet one nearly lifeless limb protruded.
Teen-aged Herschel, an audacious forest fighter, came upon the area. Spying Edyka’s leg moving. He pulled her out of the pile. For two years, under cloak of night and by raw courage, they lived in the woods as brave partisans. They survived. After the war, believing millions of Jews had been killed, they decided to continue living as Jews, precisely because so many tried to kill our people. After two years in a displaced persons camp, they found their US home in Chicago. Their courage and determination allowed me to be born.
Growing up, I eagerly inhaled my Jewish heritage and love of Israel. With imbued purpose, I devoted my life to unmasking and addressing the hidden players and hidden hands behind the darkest evils and injustices. I adopted the identity of a Second Generation author long before the larger Second Generation movement developed its own national identity.